U-Pass voting begins Tuesday

The fate of the contentious Universal Transit Pass will be decided Friday for undergraduates at Ottawa U.

Students will begin voting in the referendum Tuesday through Thursday.

“We anticipate to have results by midday Friday,” said Julia McDonald, chief electoral officer at the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa.

Here’s the question: Are you in favour of contributing $180 per full-time student, per semester, with increases up to a maximum of 2.5% each year, for the continuation of a mandatory U-Pass program?

The mandatory pass currently costs $145 per semester and is included in student fees.

OC Transpo wants to raise the fee to $180.

“Students believe $145 is a fair price,” said Taiva Tegler from the Graduate Students’ Association.

“We’re the most expensive in the country.”

Key issues include service, access, and price.

On campus, there’s an active “no” campaign.

“There’s a lot of upset and frustrations with the service cuts and the raising price,” said Tegler, noting changes to routes 16 and 86 left many students angry.

“Students are really not happy with the program and I think that they wanted to make sure that that information was out there.”

If they vote yes, “then the program will likely continue,” said Tegler.

The new agreement, if voted in, will last until 2015.

If it’s nixed, the U-Pass, which Tegler calls “guaranteed revenue for the city,” won’t be available after April.

The cheapest alternative will be OC Transpo’s student monthly pass, at a cost of $75 each month — or $300 per semester — which is the same amount college students fork over.

Ottawa’s transit commission chairwoman Coun. Diane Deans recently told the Sun she’s worried about voter apathy and lack of awareness.

There are roughly 35,000 undergrads and 5,500 graduate students, and majority rules.

“A lot is weighted on this vote,” said Tegler.

Ottawa U’s graduate students will cast their ballots March 19 to 21.

At Carleton University, the referendum dates will be set in March and all students will vote some time that month.

Students are still upset over cuts to Route 117, said Chantle Beeso, vice president of student issues at the Carleton University Students’ Association, adding they’re also concerned about routes 4 and 111.

Carleton has about 25,000 undergrads and 3,500 grad students.

“Students, whether they love or hate their U-Pass, they want to have a say,” said Beeso.

“So I think that regardless, there will be a large turnout.”

Both women say the unions are maintaining a neutral stance.

@ottawasunkroche

http://www.ottawasun.com/2012/02/13/u-pass-voting-begins-tuesday

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