Students green light U-Pass

Ottawa’s university students voted to keep the Universal Transit Pass bundled into tuition fees.

The price will increase to $180 per semester in September — it’s currently $145 — and will go up 2.5% each year until 2015.

With student unions rallying against rising costs and service cuts, both schools held referenda this week.

The results came in from graduate students at the University of Ottawa on Friday afternoon, sealing the deal for that school.

Roughly 212 grad students, or 57% voted yes to the U-Pass, while 162 said no.

“We definitely expected the vote to be very close,” said Taiva Tegler from uOttawa’s Graduate Students’ Association.

Last month, the majority of uOttawa undergraduates opted to keep the U-Pass and voter turnout was around 15%: 3,723 undergraduates cast ballots in favour, and 1,576 voted against it.

Overall, transit commission chairwoman Diane Deans is pleased with the results.

“I think this is really good news for students on both campuses and for public transit in Ottawa,” said Deans.

“And they seem to clearly recognize that they’re getting a great financial deal on public transit. The choice was $180 versus $300, which would be their cost if they didn’t have their U-Pass.”

Unofficial results from all students at Carleton University came in on Thursday.

In comparison, their representation from undergrads was low.

Unofficially, 635 Carleton undergrads gave the green light to the U-Pass, while 200 gave it a thumbs down.

Eleven ballots were spoiled or rejected.

Carleton’s Graduate Students’ Association tallied 177 in favour and 105 against, with seven spoiled ballots.

Deans said OC Transpo built the price on the principle of revenue neutrality.

“If they voted no, or they voted yes, the revenue model is the same for the city,” said Deans.

Tegler maintains students are still upset with the cuts in service, along with the fee hike.

“The city really did place students in a difficult position, in terms of choice, with the elimination of the semester pass,” she said, adding it makes the U-Pass their only option.

Deans acknowledges cuts were made during the route optimization process, but said it’s only fair to recognize the city’s transit investments.

“We’ve purchased 75 new double-decker buses that will be starting delivery in September, we’ve made huge investments in doubling capacity on the O-Train line, which will happen, I believe it’s in 2014,” said Deans.

The U-Pass was introduced two years ago.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

U-PASS BY THE NUMBERS

Carleton University:

Estimated 25,000 undergrads & 3,500 grad students

Yes votes: 635 & 177

No votes: 200 & 105

University of Ottawa:

Estimated 35,000 undergrads & 5,500 graduate students

Yes votes: 3,723 & 212

No votes: 1,576 & 162

http://www.ottawasun.com/2012/03/25/students-green-light-u-pass

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