The RRCSA is calling on students to stop U-Pass extinction

By Gabrielle Piché

City council is proposing the U-Pass be eliminated as of June 1./GABRIELLE PICHÉ

The U-Pass isn’t dead yet — but students need to speak up to keep it alive, according to the Red River College Students’ Association (RRCSA).

Winnipeg’s city council announced in its preliminary budget released March 6 that it would eliminate the U-Pass. But it isn’t a done deal — council will vote on the future of the pass at a meeting on March 25, according to Melissa Ghidoni, the RRCSA’s vice-president external.

The executive policy committee will hear delegations regarding the preliminary budget at a meeting on March 19. Ghidoni said she hopes students will come in droves and speak to politicians about the impact the U-Pass has on students.

“Our goal is to basically keep (the committee) there til’ the 20th,” Ghidoni said. “That meeting will go on as long as there are delegates.”

She said politicians might reconsider cutting the U-Pass if there’s enough opposition.

People wanting to be a delegate can visit the City of Winnipeg’s website for more information.

The RRCSA is working with student groups from the University of Manitoba and The University of Winnipeg. The student groups plan on banding together at the March 19 and 25 meetings, Ghidoni said. They also plan on making a petition that’ll circulate across the schools they represent.

“We hope that by presenting a united student voice, that it really makes city council stop to listen,” she said.

Ghidoni said students who can’t make it to the meeting on March 19 can call their local city counsellor and leave a message stating their desire to keep the U-Pass.

Red River College has never had a U-Pass. City council approved RRC joining the U-Pass program last November. The college was prepared to join in fall 2020.

The University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba have had U-Pass deals since 2015.

“It’s like being given a birthday present and then having it removed from you before you can open it,” Ghidoni said. 

Melissa Ghidoni is Red River College Students’ Association’s vice-president external. She says she’s working on making city council rethink their plan to cut the U-Pass./GABRIELLE PICHÉ

The U-Pass plan proposed last November would cost students $160.75 per term. The charge would be automatically applied to the tuitions of full-time RRC students in Winnipeg. People paying the U-Pass fee would get unlimited bus access each term. Students living outside the city could opt out.

A semester-long bus pass during the 2019-2020 school year at RRC costs $272.25.

Taylor Hopkins, a Business Administration student, said she doesn’t take the bus because she lives outside the city and a regular bus pass is too expensive. However, Hopkins said she’d park and take the bus if there was a U-Pass.

“With this U-Pass thing, I feel like it may turn some people away from taking the bus,” she said about the proposed cut.

She said it doesn’t make sense for city council to eliminate the U-Pass when they want students to take the bus — especially after the opening of the Southwest Transitway.

“You’re charging so much for tuition, and now you’re going to charge more for the bus,” Hopkins said. “It might turn people away from even going to school.”

Representatives from the University of Manitoba’s, University of Winnipeg’s and Red River College’s students associations gather at city hall on March 6 for the city’s preliminary budget./PHOTO BY SAM COHN

Under the proposed budget, students will be able to apply for low-income bus passes. The passes will have a 30 per cent discount in 2020, a 40 per cent discount in 2021, and a 50 per cent discount in 2022, according to the budget. However, students must meet eligibility requirements to get passes.

Students can get a 20 per cent discount off the cost of regular fare if the proposed budget is accepted.