Guelph Transit wants to scrap their U-Pass

Update, 2010-02-12: Guelph city council voted in December to retain the U-Pass program. Instead, reports the Guelph Tribune, students will be looking at a much more modest 33% increase in the price of their bus pass this year (around $20 per term) — assuming the increase is improved by a referendum. This proposal makes much more sense than the expensive opt-in pass that was originally proposed. Kudos to Guelph for recognizing the value of their U-Pass program.

The original post from December 7, 2009 follows.

TriTAG’s primary focus is transportation in Waterloo Region, but we are also interested in learning from other cities’ transportation issues.

Today I learned that Guelph Transit wants to scrap their popular universal bus pass program. The U-Pass is similar to the UW and Laurier bus pass programs. One of the first of its kind, it was introduced in 1994 and provides every University of Guelph student with unlimited transportation on Guelph Transit for $61.13 per term.

According to an article in The Cannon, students contribute a quarter of all Guelph Transit revenue — $2.2 million per year. Why, then, does Guelph Transit want to get rid of the U-Pass? Here is what Manager of Guelph Transit Michael Anders had to say:

Anders said he knew the change was “controversial” among students, and would result in an estimated 25 per cent drop in university student ridership. However, he said it was necessary because the current U of G rate is “way underpriced” and needs to be adjusted to reflect the costs of running transit.

Reading the article linked above, it seems that Guelph Transit hopes to raise $300,000 by scrapping the the U-Pass — at the cost of a quarter of the university’s transit ridership. Could there be a better way?

Given that students pay $61.13 per term and generate $2.2 million in revenue, it can be calculated that students account for around 36,000 pass-terms per year. At that figure, students could contribute an extra $300,000 to Guelph Transit if the price of the U-Pass were raised by $8.34 per term! I’m confident that an increase of under $10 per term would succeed easily if taken to referendum. And if the fee increase were not approved by students, Guelph Transit could still implement their current plan, which is to provide a more expensive optional student pass.

If the U-Pass were scrapped, student ridership would drop by 25%, and those students who continued to ride transit would pay many times what they pay now. Students would drive more, causing further congestion and parking headaches. Those who could not afford a car would be faced with the choice of an expensive bus pass or a loss of mobility. Guelph Transit would lose the guaranteed revenue provided by the U-Pass, replacing it with an uncertain revenue source that can’t be collected more than a month in advance.

It’s a pretty clear choice. I hope that Guelph councillors realize this and vote not to scrap the U-Pass.

3 thoughts on “Guelph Transit wants to scrap their U-Pass”

  1. You should ask non-student users of transit how they feel on this subject. I for one use Guelph Transit to get to from work at the University of Guelph. As a permanent citizen I have seen tax increases in the last two years explicitly to help fund Guelph Transit (totaling over 2% of my property taxes). My fare has also increased from $2.00 to 2.50 and is rumoured to be going up another 7% or 8%. These tax and fare increases are things I will need to live with forever as I don’t have plans to leave town as most students do after 3 or 4 years when they finish their program. The route I use to get from my house to the downtown transfer point has no problems with overcrowding or timeliness. The routes that I can use to get from the transfer point to the university (and back at the end of the day) are a different story. I have been left standing at the curb as all the buses drive by with the “sorry bus full” sign on 4-6 times per semester for the last 2 to 3 years. Delays caused by extended stops while people board and try to get off the congested aisles of overcrowded buses cause late arrivals downtown and missed transfers (which means a 20 minute delay), making the service very unreliable to someone trying to keep a schedule. There’s no reason U of G students shouldn’t pay as much for a pass as high school students do now. At that price you wouldn’t be able to have a universal pass which may cause a drop in riders but loosing a quarter of UG riders would still result in more revenue coming in than they now collect – and buses wouldn’t be so full that people would be left standing at a stop waiting 20 minutes for the next bus (and hoping they didn’t all drive by again). Students get on the bus and ride a few stops and get off, why not it – doesn’t cost them anymore. Except it causes overcrowding and people like me that don’t board at the University Center don’t get picked up because the bus is full. If they had to pay a realistic fare, they would either walk the small distance or they would be paying a fare that can be used to sustain and enhance the system.

  2. Thanks for your comment. Overcrowding is a problem here in Waterloo as well, partly because of student ridership, so I understand your frustration. But I would suggest that the solution to overcrowding is service improvements, not restricting ridership by making transit more expensive.

    Also, it’s important to note that students as a group are paying less per term, but the U-Pass is not a subsidy for students. The pass is cheap because students take fewer trips than other pass holders. In fact, 7000 students every term don’t even pick up their bus pass sticker, and many of the students who do use the pass use it only infrequently. So, in theory, U-Pass holders pay the same amount per trip as other riders. If U-Pass holders are currently paying less than other users, the solution is to raise the price of the pass so they are no longer subsidized.

  3. So Bob since you have to use the transit system and student’s riding it affects you the pass should be scrapped? Since when do high school students have to shell 6 thousand dollars out of their pocket? There is plenty of reason a U of G student shouldn’t pay the same as a high school student, there costs are about 6000 times larger. It still costs students to ride from one stop to the next since we pay per semester. The rate is reduced because we are paying so much already for school.

    When high school students pay 6 thousand dollars to go to school then they can have equal rates for bus passes.

    We already make Guelph transit 2.2 million a year I would be interested to know what high school and other riders contribute.
    Your view is extremely one sided. As a result of a personal inconvenience tens of thousands of students should have to find another way to get to campus? I know I can’t afford an extra 300 dollars a semester to do it and due to having flat feet I am unable to walk to distance required without massive joint pain and tendinitis in my knees. You are saying because you are inconvenienced I have to walk?

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