By Samantha Durnford, Staff Contributor
Dalhousie students will be receiving their U-Pass stickers this September for the same price as last year. On Aug. 17, Halifax Regional councillors decided against Metro Transit’s price increase for the bus pass many students count on.
In May, Metro Transit received flak from students when they announced a 15 per cent price hike for the U-Pass – from $116.50 to $134. City council initially approved the increase. The decision almost meant the end of U-Pass stickers for university students.
Metro Transit announced the increase after Dal’s Board of Governors met in April to approve student fees for the upcoming year. Since the board already approved the budget, it was too late for the university to accept the U-Pass increase.
A letter written to Mayor Peter Kelly from the student union presidents of Dal, Saint Mary’s University, the University of King’s College and Mount Saint Vincent University stated each university would be unable to make any changes for funding and distribution before September.
Dalhousie Student Union President Chris Saulnier said he and the DSU were strong lobbyers for the U-Pass – he and other members of the DSU contacted each of the councillors by phone.
“We have been advocating very strongly that the students continue to have a U-Pass,” Saulnier said.
He was confident an agreement could be reached between City Council, Metro Transit and the universities. If not it would likely have meant the end of the U-Pass program for the 2010/2011 year.
Many students were seriously concerned by this possibility. One of them was second-year Dal student Kaitlin Pettipas, who relies on Metro Transit on a daily basis.
“I rely on that pass to get me to and from school,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to have to drive my car to school everyday – it’s expensive and not environmentally friendly.”
Without the U-Pass included in tuition, Pettipas and other students who rely on Metro Transit would have had to buy monthly bus passes for $64 per month.
Sue Uteck, city councillor for District 13, suggested an amendment to the city budget. This suggestion was discussed at the city council meeting on Aug. 17, and council voted in favour of it. As a result, Metro Transit will hold off on the increase until the 2011/2012 school year. However, all universities with the U-Pass program will absorb a $500,000 increase next April when the 15 per cent price rise occurs. Since the change will not happen for another year, university student unions can hold a referendum against the increase.