Reporter: Brad Andrews
The U Pass, and its higher costs, are here to stay.
Students voted overwhelmingly to keep the transit pass following a referendum organized by Durham College and UOIT. According to results announced by organizers of the referendum from both schools, voter turnout was higher than previous student votes and clearly favoured keeping the U Pass. Out of 8,372 eligible students at UOIT 2,461 voted in the referendum, with 1,797 in favour of keeping the pass and 664 against. The college had a slightly lower turnout, 1,859 students voted of the 9,567 eligible to, with 1,628 voting to keep the U Pass.
Students were given relatively short notice of the vote prior to it beginning. Voting began Monday, March 10 and UOIT announced its referendum the Friday before while college students received an email announcing the vote midway through the referendum. Despite the lack of notice, voter turnout far surpassed that of the two previous SA elections, with last year’s only drawing 1,797 votes and 1,259 for the year before.
The referendum was organized without the Student Association’s involvement and required the college to seek special permission from the provincial government to undertake. Representatives from the institutions said the vote was in response the increase in U Pass fees full-time students have to pay. That cost will increase 16 per cent a year for the next three years. Durham Regional Transit proposed the increase with little to no notice or debate and Durham Regional council approved it only weeks later, while students were on their winter break.
Currently students pay $77 per semester for the U Pass with no option to opt out of the fee. That cost will increase to $89 for the new fall term and will continue to rise over the next two years to $120 by September 2016, an increase of almost 64 per cent over the current rate.