Fee increase leads to bus pass referendum

Feds has issued a notice of referendum for students to decide if they’d like to continue participation in the GRT’s universal bus pass program.

The referendum will take place during the upcoming elections Feb. 11–13.

VP Education Adam Garcia said the Feds board of directors decided to call the referendum after regional council confirmed there would be a seven per cent increase to the bus pass fee.

“The fee had been increasing so much over the past few years that we felt it was important to take the question back to students to ensure that they still feel they receive value for the cost of the services,” Garcia said. “The increases over the time span of the program being in place have been quite steep. They’ve increased from $42.50 in 2008 already up to $72.23 right now; so another $5 increase is a fairly steep increase. We’re almost to a 50 per cent increase in a short span of time.”

According to Garcia, the referendum is being included in the upcoming election cycle for two reasons. The first is to get students engaged in the process and the other is to have enough time to give notice to GRT if students decide they are not comfortable with the fee increase. 

“Within the agreement is a clause that says [it] can be terminated by either party with six months notice, so for us to leave the program by fall 2014 we’d need to give them notice by roughly March 2014,” Garcia said.

Regional chair Ken Seiling said he was taken aback by Feds’ decision to hold a referendum.

“We negotiated a contract that had increases in it. The UPass that we have here is among the lowest in Ontario for universities already,” Seiling said. “We’ve invested a lot of money in increasing the bus service, particularly at the north end for students, so I’m taken aback that they’re doing this.”

The referendum will be binding with the results dictating the fate of the universal bus pass program at UW.

“If students say no they do not want to pay $77.29, we would have to terminate the agreement because we wouldn’t be collecting enough revenue to cover the cost,” Garcia said. “But if students see value in the service and in the program then we’re happy to continue to administer it.”


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