Transit: Can I get a referendum please?

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The fall term starts this week and with it comes the overhaul of the many bus routes that a significant portion of the Brock University student body rely on, due to the failed U-Pass referendum last spring. There is still a significant number of people in the Brock Community that utilize the U-Pass, the cost of which falls under our additional tuition fees. The upcoming changes to the bus routes won’t be pleasant for anyone.

Which is why I propose a second referendum and soon.

If you’ve ever been on a Brock bus, you’ll probably remember standing in the row between seats being knocked about by the person’s backpack in front of you and trying desperately not to do the same to the person behind you. Brock buses are busy and almost always full.

The St Catharines Transit Commission (STC) has done a solid job keeping up with the influx as more and more students choose to utilize the U-Pass, putting on more buses when needed, hiring more drivers each fall, and purchasing newer, better buses with more seating. However, all these extra routes, buses and drivers come with a price tag which has to be paid for somehow.

To put it into perspective, the average adult monthly bus pass costs $92, an eight month period equating up to $736. Yet the Brock U-Pass only costs the student $202 for the eight month period; a price that is not even a third of what the average adult rider will pay just in St. Catharines alone. The U-Pass covers outer regions like Niagara Falls and Welland. What’s even more jarring is that the increase the referendum asked for was only $38. The cost would continue to be included in student fees, a figure that is covered under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), so a greater portion of students who use loans would be covered for the amount anyway.

What’s most distressing about the failed U-Pass referendum, however, is that most students feel as if they weren’t properly informed about it due in large part to the Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) elections.

The BUSU elections, while necessary and important, can pose a fairly large inconvenience to students through how candidates often advertise themselves. Campaigners have been known to obstruct the flow in school hallways, throw buttons and accost students who are just trying to get to class. Not only is this style of campaign frustrating, but for many it’s a complete turn-off from voting at all, so when important subjects like the U-Pass referendum get lumped in with the chaos of an election that most people really don’t care about, decisions get left to a lesser few.

While the election itself is not entirely responsible for the U-Pass referendum failure, some of the responsibility comes down to the way that information was provided. While over four different emails were sent to Brock students from BUSU, not many were able to find those emails because they were either being transferred over to the clutter folder in Brock’s Office 365 email platform, or students assuming the emails they received were about BUSU election candidates.

These factors took a heavy toll on the amount of people who voted. There is more than enough reason to consider a second U-Pass referendum.

For now, the failed U-Pass referendum will serve as a reminder of why students should keep themselves informed on what’s going on behind the scenes. Big decisions like the U-Pass referendum cannot be left to chance.

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