Students upset over mandatory transit pass
Some B.C. students are angry after being forced to pay for transit U-passes they don't want or need this school year. The "U" stands for universal, which means everyone pays for it whether they want it or not.
Adam MacGillivray is a student at Kwantlen University, apprenticing to be an electrician. He drives to school because the transit service in his South Surrey neighbourhood would take too long with all the transfers he'd have to make.
"It takes about 15 minutes to drive to a campus from my house versus the TransLink website which says it will take an unreasonable amount of time, over three hours," said Adam.
Adam was annoyed to discover that both he and his wife, who is also a student, would be forced to pay $40 each a month for a mandatory bus pass this school year.
"It sort of feels like it's a cash grab, and that TransLink is looking at the amount of students it has and it's a guaranteed source of income from every single one of them," he said.
The U-pass is offered to post secondary schools as a way to make transit more affordable for everyone. If the student union votes in favour of it, all students have to pay, whether they like it or not.
"In some respects, it's for the greater good. Everybody contributes so that the vast majority of people can get a significant benefit," said TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie.
And TransLink points out the U-pass is good 24 hours a day, and not just during school hours.
"We really encourage them to use it because there are lots of opportunities for people to take transit for other means other than to go back and forth to school… and it doesn't take a lot of trips to get your money's worth out of a $30 pass," said Hardie.
Students at Kwantlen University actually pay $40 a month because other goodies have been added to the mix like discounted gym passes.
"We can't possibly please 100 per cent of the people all the time," said Kwantlen's Joanne Saunders.
But Kwantlen officials point out that when it comes to the U-pass, there are some exemptions allowed.
"If you live in an area where you are more than 1500 meters from a transit stop that would qualify you for an exemption," said Saunders.
The exemption information has been posted on Kwantlen's website and Adam is planning to apply. He's pretty sure he won't be the only one.
"I hope that Kwantlen and TransLink see that a lot of other students probably haven't heard about this yet and wish to opt out as well," said Adam.
However, the rules state that no more than one per cent of students are allowed to take advantage of the exemption.
CTV News has heard from several unhappy post secondary students. One is an online student who doesn't even go to classes. Another is a B.C. mom who says she's being forced to spend nearly $500 on a U-pass over four semesters at Douglas college. When she asked TransLink if she could give the pass to one of her children, she was told that would be committing fraud.
TransLink says it has already lost millions to U-pass fraud. Now, Craigslist has agreed to monitor and prevent that. But when CTV News went online the other day, there was a U-pass for sale on Craigslist. TransLink says if you're caught selling one, you face a $173 fine. If you're caught buying and using someone else's U-pass you could be charged criminally with fraud.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Lynda Steele