U-Pass expansion taking off as Victoria resolves funding issues

The long-awaited province-wide U-Pass — the universal transit pass Premier Gordon Campbell promised post-secondary students in the run-up to the 2009 election —  is taking off.

Negotiations involving the Ministry of Transportation, post-secondary institutions and student societies were stalemated until earlier this week by the issue of who should pay for U-Pass fraud. Victoria broke that deadlock yesterday, finally opening the door to full implementation.

Emily Carr students have already voted 98 percent in favour of participation in the program, which will give them transit access system-wide for $30 a month. Douglas College and Vancouver Community College, both schools that could not get into the program before Campbell’s pledge, will vote soon.

Is it significant that the long-stalled talks, which have been under way for months, finally came to a conclusion just after Campbell’s resignation?

Perhaps.

Expanded transit service to U-Pass schools, part of the benefit students are expecting, is in the second tier of transit investments Translink is proposing this fall to its Mayor’s Council. But that group is deadlocked as well, telling Victoria that municipal taxpayers will not allow property tax to be used to fund the Evergreen Line.

If Campbell would open the door to a new funding source for lower mainland transit — many favour a share of the carbon tax — Translink’s much-needed services could resume expansion. Victoria has adamantly refused to offer relief, insisting the money come from property tax.

The deadline for a decision by the Mayor’s Council  is Dec. 9. At the moment, Translink’s chances of new funds appear dead on arrival.

Was the U-Pass breakthrough a sign of things to come? Let’s hope so.