Bussing is not always an option

Reporter: Kim Moreau

Not so long ago I looked condescendingly upon students who drove to school.
Our bus passes are covered by our tuition, allowing us to travel through Durham Region essentially for free. Sure, it doesn’t run as often as people might like, but it comes without the price tags of gas, maintenance and an almost $500 per year parking space at the college.
Fast forward to today, two months into the ownership of my first vehicle and I’ve shipped out my almost $300 to park on campus for this semester, an unknown amount that I likely don’t wish to know shipped out weekly toward gas, and thanks to mother nature’s dumping of snow occasionally, all of the perks of preparing for a winter drive. Am I mad?
Full-time students at Durham College and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) receive a Universal transit pass (U-Pass) as part of their student fees. This pass allows unlimited usage of any Durham Region Transit or GO transit bus operating in Durham Region and reduced GO transit fares outside of Durham Region.
Several Durham Region Transit and GO Transit buses stop at the Oshawa campus, with the Simcoe bus running every seven minutes to and from downtown Oshawa.
Student fees, on the other hand, do not cover college parking. Short-term parking is available in Pay N Display parking areas near the main entrance of the Gordon Willey building and in visitor areas, or parking spots are available on a semester or yearly basis.
At the Oshawa campus, a parking space costs up to $500 for a year, and Pay N Display costs $4 per hour or $10 per day. At the Whitby Campus a yearly pass costs almost $450 however they also have one, four, six, eight, or 10-week period parking at a discounted rate.
For some students bussing is not an option because they live out of the city and the bus does not travel to them or it does not travel enough. But why do people living in Oshawa, often just down the road from the college, still drive to school every day?
Many students, to pay for their own education, housing, and other expenses, need to work part time. As a result, the bus system does not always transport them quickly from the college to their place of employment. Driving their own vehicle gets them there on time.
Acknowledging that catching the bus is not the easiest option for all students should be addressed, potentially though a reduced parking rate.
The majority of Ontario colleges have a similar parking rate. Comparatively, a parking space at Fleming College ranges from about $300 to $500 per year, Seneca College is just under $300 per semester, and Humber College is closer to the $600 to $700 price range for a year.
For a student trying to pay their own tuition in hopes of leaving college or university with a chance at a better future, paying what amounts to seven to 15 per cent of their school costs to park on campus, to afford to get to a job on time that’s helping pay for that schooling, is unrealistic.
Even reducing costs by $150, to about five to 10 per cent of a student’s tuition costs, saving someone potentially a week’s worth of money, the campus can still bring in money to maintain the parking lots, and acquire additional money from parking spaces.
It is convenient to have a universal transit pass. Students can hop on and off any bus in Durham Region without having to remember to buy a new pass at the end of each month, or to pay a full month’s rate if they happen to lose their bus pass.
But for students living outside of Durham Region, paying a significant amount to travel the remainder of the way to their destination, or for students living in Oshawa who have other engagements such as a part-time job to travel to, buses are not the best option.
Some students complain because buses, even the Simcoe bus that travels every seven minutes, are too packed.
Inside the bus students are squished together, backpack to backpack, some standing, some tight against the window or against a person they don’t know. And when it’s their turn to escape the claustrophobic crush of people, they have to push and shove to get off – and often must yell at the bus driver because the bus is leaving the stop with them still aboard.
Perhaps if buses ran more often, had more space, or had overhead storage for backpacks, taking the bus would not be such an inconvenience to students, but it is a large factor in why some students prefer to drive.
Regardless of why students choose to park on campus, parking rates do not address the financial needs of students but for many it is more convenient than being crammed on a bus hoping to get to work on time.