University of Guelph bus pass

December 8, 2009


I have received many e-mails on this topic. Here is some information:

Council will consider changes to the current U of G universal bus pass program as part of budget deliberations. One option would be to create a single pass for all full-time students – whether elementary, secondary, post-secondary or other qualified institution – to offer more equitable access to Transit for all full-time learners. City Council must consider equity issues across the entire city, not only with one user group. This is just one option among many that Council will consider in this challenging budget year, as we work to protect core services while maintaining a reasonable tax rate.

Discussion with the Central Student Association dates back to July 8, 2009 when it was indicated that “(N)otice will be coming from Guelph Transit to the CSA indicating the intent to renegotiate the U Pass agreement.” We will continue to work with the University throughout this process. University students have been and remain an important user group of Transit Services.

The mandate of Guelph Transit Services is to increase ridership across the entire city in the most effective and efficient manner. Reviewing all of our policies and programs to ensure they are providing us with the outcomes we need is essential during fair or poor economic times. It may indeed be that the fee charged to students is disproportionate to the ridership and service provided relative to other users. I believe Council has an obligation to all Transit users and non-users, who financially support the system, to review this matter.

About Karen Farbridge

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7 Comments on “University of Guelph bus pass”

  1. Rob Green Says:

    This is absolutely shameful that you are even considering this. It makes total sense that you can further hurt cash strapped students while sitting in your brand new office in the new city hall, right? If you are having a problem with your budget i bet the new city hall never got brought up, its easier to pass it on the financial burden to one of the poorest demographics just working to better their lives. Shame on all of council.

  2. Megan Says:

    I’m also concerned with equity between all students in Guelph. It will be achieved when I go to school for free and have free school buses that pick me up at my house and drop me off at school. The equity argument is just a distraction.

  3. Michael D Says:

    Please read this post on why cancelling the U-Pass does not actually make sense financially:

    The University of Guelph’s students decided to collectively bear the burden for any transit use — that is, all students are subsidizing transit for the subset that use it. That is precisely the point of a U-Pass: a lower rate in exchange for a guaranteed revenue from a large population. If it’s not compulsory, then it’s just a regular transit pass.

    A U-Pass is nothing other than a bulk rate discount. If the bulk rate is losing money for Guelph Transit, then it should be renegotiated. But scrapping the bulk rate option entirely will significantly decrease transit use overall, and this will have negative repercussions far beyond the $300,000 or so Guelph Transit thinks it might win for itself. And this IS a gamble — it is by no means certain that the net effect would be positive for Guelph Transit’s revenue stream. Trading $2.2 million in guaranteed revenue for the hope that enough U of G students will want to buy a (more expensive) transit pass… not the safest bet.

  4. Bob McMullen Says:

    As a permanent citizen and taxpayer of this city, employee at the University of Guelph and a transit user I say it’s about time this plan was scrapped and all students pay at least 3/4 of normal fares (or more if it’s needed to sustain the system). Over the past 5-6 years the buses have gotten more crowded and I’ve experienced multiple problems using Guelph transit. I’m left standing at stops, as 3 full buses drive by, forced to wait for the next bus 20 minutes later (and hopefully they’re not all full). This occurs 4-6 times a semester during the fall and winter. Also, because the buses are packed it’s delayed more than the usual short stop when people wish to get on and off causing missed connections downtown (another 20 minute wait). I’ve witnessed people (students) get on at the UC and get off the bus at the McDonald Stewart Art Center, or the next stop, while others get left standing at the UC because the bus filled up. Personally I pay $2.50 a ride. In 3 days of return trips to work I pay what these students pay in a month. I’m also left to absorb the tax increases and fare increases forever while almost all of them move on to other cities and towns when they finish school, almost certainly not to places where they’ll subsisize other peoples children’s transit fares. And our service still doesn’t get any better. If they’re charged a fare of 75% or more and the buses are still overcrowded at least Guelph Transit should be taking in enough money to put more buses on the routes affected. Who knows, I might even get to sit down on my bus ride home after work instead of being crammed into the aisle of a packed bus.

  5. Matt Says:

    I could not agree more with Michael D’s response.

    I for one will say that if the U Pass is in fact discontinued and replaced with a monthly pass, i will resort to daily walking rather than paying more.

    I’m sure i (and many others) will find much better use for $200+ per semester.

  6. Michael D Says:

    I was not aware of the overcrowding problems. Forcing anyone away from using transit due to packed buses is absurd — packed buses, whether with students or not, are not the ones financially “dragging down” transit systems. This is also the easiest ridership to capture if you’re trying to get more people to take the bus instead of their cars, since it’s already trying to get on but is prevented from doing so by poor on-board conditions or lack of space.

    In light of the overcrowding, the blindingly obvious solution is that Guelph Transit and U of G should renegotiate the U-Pass from $60 to maybe $70-75 a term, with substantial service increases on whichever routes are used by students. The U of Guelph student union should be negotiating for enough buses on those routes to handle the ridership, and Guelph Transit should be negotiating a price that gives them more revenue overall from U of G students (relative to amount of service) than they would get were the students allowed only individual passes.

    The way a U-Pass should work: win for the transit agency financially (increased revenue and decreased overhead costs), win for student users (more convenient and cheaper), loss for adamant student non-users. And importantly, there’s a win for the city and the environment due to the plentiful would-be drivers who become transit users if their institution puts a bus pass in their pocket.

  7. Gillian Says:

    I firmly believe that our new transit director has overestimated the number of university students who will buy this new “equalized” pass.

    The main problem with “equalizing” is not whether or not university students pay tuition – the issue is that university students are (for the main part) not living at home with parents who have cars and/or full time jobs (low income or not) who can either drive their children to important appointments, shopping, recreational activities etc or subsidize the cost of a bus trip/pass. With 11 secondary schools in the Upper Grand District, 3 in the Wellington Catholic District, and the 1 Guelph Montessori School there are a total of 14 secondary schools in the Guelph area (I am aware not all of these schools are in town), there is one University. With the density of high schools there is sure to be one within reasonable walking distance, but if a student lives too far from a high-school in their district there is a government-funded bus program that is free to high-school students (I did not include elementary because these children for the most part are not old enough to navigate the transit system alone), so where is the necessity for high-school students? I, personally, do not see one. The university students who use the U-pass, however, need this transit system to get to appointments, go grocery shopping, get to school, and to get to long-distance transit (ie. GO, Greyhound) so that they can go home to their families for weekends/holidays. Necessity.

    University of Guelph students also have a very earth-conscious attitude where a lot of them do not buy or use cars to get to school simply because it is better for the environment to take the bus. University of Guelph students are also very determined protesters and I am sure they will find a way to protest the elimination of the U-Pass which will very negatively affect Guelph Transit’s finances (by not riding/walking, offering carpooling to other students to eliminate the need to buy a pass – decreasing Guelph Transit’s revenue).

    To Mr. McMullen’s comment on the crowding of the buses, this is simply a problem of population demography and Guelph Transit has been proactive in putting new routes on the road and making stop times more frequent, but the system cannot keep up with the development in the South of Guelph. If the price of the U-Pass is increased reasonably, perhaps the buses can keep up with increasing population density in the South of Guelph. What you are suggesting is to ditch the pass so that ridership decreases, or that it doesn’t decrease ridership, but Guelph Transit pulls in enough extra revenue to fund adding buses to busy routes and substantially decrease the crowding on buses. I can assure you the latter will not happen, and if the former does happen, you are encouraging more university students to drive their cars, or buy cars adding to pollution and traffic. If those students ditch the bus and start driving, traffic will be slowed and your bus ride to work will still be delayed. About the UC-to-Macdonald Stewart trips, a lot of people transfer buses at the UC to go downtown, or they stay on the same bus that stops and the UC and continue downtown, so a lot of the people you see getting off at Mac Stewart have actually been on a bus longer than you think. I do the same thing going the opposite way with the 52 University Kortright; I get on the 52 when I’m downtown, take it up to the university and stay on it until the stop after the UC, or if the 52 is full when I am downtown I will take the 54 and transfer when I get to the UC. It would appear as if I am getting on a bus to go only one stop when really I have been on the bus for quite a while. There is a bus stop at Mac Stewart so that riders can get on and off there, do you get off one stop early if someone else pulls the stop request to get off, so that you could save the bus driver and other riders from making the next stop? I doubt it. Scrapping the U-pass will not make one-stop bus rides stop either, so your point is also quite irrelevant.

    Many people have done the math and a slight increase int he price of the U-Pass would give Guelph Transit the extra revenue they want. Also, I do not think this motion should be referred to as “equalizing” until the University of Guelph gets a free yellow bus system like high-schools.

    The U-Pass is a revolutionary idea, and Guelph broke the ice for many other university towns to follow suit to encourage the use of public transit as an affordable alternative to using cars. When so many Universities are moving forwards and starting their programs why would we moving backwards and end ours?

    In conclusion, eliminating the U-Pass will likely:
    -decrease ridership
    -not affect, or decrease Guelph Transit’s revenue
    -encourage drunk driving
    -increase resentment in University students
    -decrease the stability of Guelph Transit’s finances
    -increase traffic density
    -decrease revenue for downtown nightlife
    -with decreased ridership, the 20-minute guarantee would no longer be feasible
    -make the University of Guelph less desirable to prospective students, encouraging them to go to a University that has a U-Pass
    -with more high school students using transit because of its affordability more young crime (vandalism, shoplifting etc.) and class-skipping can be expected

    To be fair I will list the possible positives:
    -POSSIBLY increase transit revenue
    -POSSIBLY lessen crowding on buses
    -POSSIBLY decrease resentment of permanent residents

    Is it worth it?

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