Unfair fares: U-Pass discrimination affects 58,000 students

1. The problem: discrimination

Thanks to Translink’s U-Pass program, more than 81,000 Metro Vancouver at UBC, SFU and Langara enjoy low-cost monthly transit charges paid through a levy on their student fees. (Even these students, however, pay different amounts depending on their college or university.)

But about 58,000 others, denied access to U-Pass by Translink’s discriminatory policies, pay nearly three times as much. If all these students had a U-Pass at UBC rates, their collective transit costs would drop by $1.4 million a month, assuming only 50 percent used transit. ($50 saving multiplied by 58,000 and divided by .5 is about $1.45 million.)

UBC U-Pass $23.75
SFU U-Pass $26.09
Capilano U-Pass (not yet operating) $31.00
Langara U-Pass $38.00

All others: one-zone monthly pass plus $2.75 Fast Trax sticker annually: $75.00

(Includes Vancouver Community College, Emily Carr, Douglas College, BCIT, Kwantlen)

2. The solution: fair fares in a Universal Pass.

It’s time to end the discrimination created by Translink’s current U-Pass policies.

First, Translink must end its “revenue-neutral” requirement for U-Pass eligibility, a policy designed to shield Translink from most increased costs. Under the “revenue neutral” approach, Translink requires students to tax themselves for the monthly fee.

Translink assumes that fees paid by non-transit users – drivers, walkers and cyclists – will subsidize the cost of providing more service to the larger number of transit riders. But where large numbers of students already ride the bus, Translink must have more fees to protect itself from cost. The revenue neutral policy perversely punishes students who already ride the bus. It must go.

Secondly, Translink must commit not to increase fees for existing U-Pass users. They should not be forced to pay more to help other students achieve fairness.

Finally, a new Universal Pass must be phased in for all post-secondary students in Metro Vancouver with transition funding provided by the provincial government.