BVC and the U-pass

Gareth Jones,

The UPass service is meant to provide a less expensive alternative to adult bus passes for full-time students. Valid based on the typical four-month semester (September to December, January to April,) the UPass service is the result of a partnership between Calgary Transit and post-secondary schools in Calgary. Five post-secondary institutions have access to this service: SAIT, ACAD, Saint Mary’s University, Mount Royal University, and the University of Calgary.

Noticeably absent from this list is Bow Valley College, and this has irked students for some time. Every student has their take on the absence of a UPass. But what is truly keeping it from the institution? To understand it, let’s first take a look at some numbers.

The cost of a UPass is $145 per semester. Over the same time period, one would spend $400 on adult bus passes, or less if one qualifies for a low-income transit pass. That is a difference of, at most, $255. Next, consider student population. Bow Valley College has approximately 16,000 students. While smaller than other schools, it is estimated that 90 per cent of student population takes public transit to school. And who wouldn’t? The college is conveniently located on the CTrain line.

Comparatively, however, 40 to 60 per cent of students at other schools use public transit. So, if one assumes 90 per cent of 16,000 students (14,400) take public transit to get to school, and multiplies it by the $255 difference in price between a UPass and an adult bus pass, one arrives at a product of $3,672,000. Each semester, the City of Calgary saves $3,672,000 by not supplying Bow Valley College with a UPass. By comparison, University of Calgary students not having a UPass would save approximately $3,060,000 to $4,590,000.

Giving Bow Valley students UPass access would heighten its cost for all schools involved, in order to recuperate the loss of nearly four million dollars. Dividing this cost between 40 to 60 per cent of students from schools with the UPass and 90 per cent of Bow Valley students, the cost of a UPass would increase to approximately $230. In the eyes of some, this is likely an exorbitant increase. Nevertheless, it would provide Bow Valley students unlimited transit access while still short of the $400 they currently pay.

In order to get students a UPass, all other schools partnered with the City must allow Bow Valley College to join the contract. An increase in fees has proven to be a hard sell. However, representatives of SABVC have advocated for UPass introduction to the municipal and provincial government. SABVC has discussed the matter additionally with student leaders from SAIT, ACAD, Saint Mary’s, Mount Royal, and the University of Calgary.

At the time of writing, the state of the UPass is uncertain. While it would undoubtedly benefit a large majority of Bow Valley’s student population, it is a wholly more complicated issue than it appears on the surface. SABVC will continue to advocate for a UPass for students.