UNB looking into universal bus pass

There could be more students at this stop if UNB undergraduates adopt a universal bus pass. (Cara Smith/AQ)

Slide over St. Thomas, the University of New Brunswick wants to give its 8,246 students a chance to sit next to you on the bus.

The campus is trying to put together a universal bus pass proposal that will allow its undergraduate students access to Fredericton’s transit system year-round.

The University of New Brunswick’s students’ union approved a motion on Sunday to start negotiating with Fredericton Transit about a pass.

If the students’ union is able to negotiate a better deal than they’ve been offered in the past, UNBSU vice-president external Joey O’Kane said students could vote on a deal this spring in a referendum.

And if the undergraduate students vote “yes” in the proposal this coming spring, the bus system would see an increase of students that could easily dwarf STU’s presence.

“We would have to potentially expand three times the size we are now,” said Fredericton Transit manager Sandy MacNeill.

“When STU came on board we had to increase the service. For UNB we’d have to go that much bigger.”

While an influx of people coming from UNB could have a large impact on St. Thomas students, STU students’ union president Mark Livingstone hopes the neighbouring campus will finally take full advantage of the public transportation.

“They’ll absolutely find it worth their while,” said Livingstone. “It’s proven valuable for us here and I encourage them to finally vote it in.”

Livingstone said a universal bus pass at UNB wouldn’t affect STU’s contract with Fredericton Transit.

“The city is committed to us here…it’s a good price for our service and we’re signed up for at least another year or two.”

Although the city hasn’t been officially contacted yet about a new deal – MacNeil was interviewed before Sunday’s motion passed – if one is approved, MacNeil said to expect more routes, more times, as well as other additions STU students will benefit from.

“We’re looking at Wi-Fi service on our vehicles…and Sunday services are something we could look at. We would consider just about anything if it made sense,” MacNeil said.

In 2004, both STU and UNB sent students to the polls to vote on adopting a universal bus pass.

STU students agreed to pay $75 each for everyone to have a universal pass. UNB disagreed, voting it down, and has tried to rework the idea several times since then.

UNB has tried to get a universal bus pass for its students since 1983. Each time the proposal was rejected, often because every student had to pay the fee whether they used the service or not.

The exception has been UNB’s 986 graduate students, who adopted a universal bus pass plan in 2009.

For $100, they have unlimited access to Fredericton Transit, with an opt-out option for students living outside the Fredericton region.

The most recent vote for UNB undergraduates was in 2009, when the pass was rejected by a vote of 955 to 908.

“I’m not going to bring forward the same deal again,” O’Kane said in response to past failed attempts.

Livingstone speculated that UNB is shaping the latest deal to include an opt-out option in their proposal, so those who don’t need the pass wouldn’t have to pay for it.

“If that’s true it’s something we could look at ourselves later on down the road when our contract expires. Our’s right now is the best proposal that meets the concern of our people.”

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