Renegotiations of the agreement between the City of Fredericton transit system and St. Thomas University are ongoing, but it doesn’t look like students will be getting Sunday buses anytime soon.
The agreement, which was created in 2004 and has been extended every two years since, is up for renegotiation for the 2018-19 year. City representatives, the university and the STU Students’ Union met on Jan. 18 to discuss.
The only change to be made as of now is reinstating the ID validation stickers eliminated this year through a miscommunication error.
Cost of the bus plan and hours of operation are to stay the same.
“As it currently stands, all parties were satisfied with the contract as it is,” said STUSU president Philippe Ferland.
A student consultation meeting was held on Jan. 15, but besides Ferland and vice-president student life Jimy Beltran, only three students attended.
Concerns raised included this year’s blank white validation stickers, the exclusion of part-time students from the bus pass agreement and the lack of a Sunday service.
“The reason why buses don’t run on Sunday is that in their [the bus drivers’ union] collective party negotiations, it’s considered a religious day or holiday and they have [to] pay double their salaries for that day,” Ferland said.
Jason LeBlanc, administrative officer of growth and community services for Fredericton Transit, said Thursday it would cost an extra $700,000 per year to run buses on Sundays.
Under the current agreement, part-time students pay a different set of student union fees that do not include bus passes.
Ferland and Beltran said the possibility of an opt-in system to include part-time students in the plan is on the negotiations table but has not been decided.
An opt-in system would allow STU’s approximate 100 part-time students to pay the extra fee for bus use.
“It would be a good way of giving them that chance of having access to the transit system,” Beltran said.
“We haven’t reached an agreement on that but that’s going to be part of the conversation during this semester.”
More consultations to be had
The city is also consulting about designing a transit master plan that would include changes to the bus system.
“It’s a very large project … Feedback from all aspects of the city are required,” LeBlanc said.
Ferland said the new plan is set to be finalized in March.
“There’s a possibility that, by the end of the semester, we’ll have to renegotiate it. Otherwise if there are no changes they recommend it will most likely be extended,” he said.
Surveys are being conducted by the city about the transit system online through social media and through the parking of buses across the city for Frederictonians to take the survey.
Ferland said a bus is slotted to park on campus on Jan. 24 for students to take the survey.
STUSU may promote the bus’ visit and the online survey through its own social media platforms. Ferland said there’s also a possibility STUSU will create its own survey for students regarding the bus services.
“We’re just waiting for feedback from the city and their master plan is to see if there will be any changes in the future.”