The student voice has been heard and a second Bus Pass referendum is coming in the October Brock University Students’ Union election. The Bus Pass referendum will be the only item for students to vote on.
During the typical October election cycle on Brock campus, students vote on various Brock University Students’ Administrative Council positions. However, BUSU has announced that all the positions for BUSAC have been acclaimed. A position being acclaimed simply means that only one individual ran for a given position and won by default.
Students will be sent an e-mail through their Brock e-mail on October 24, with a direct link which they can use to vote. Students will be asked: “Do you support a $34.67 increase to the Bus Pass Fee ($212.33 to $247.00) starting September 2018 as outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding?” Polling results will be revealed after voting closes on October 26.
The previous BUSU election, held in February, held a similar referendum on bus pass fee prices. In the prior referendum, BUSU asked students to vote on a motion to increase Bus Pass Fees from approximately $202 to $240. The referendum resulted in 51 per cent of the voters choosing not to raise the fee, however, the election did see a record high in voter turnout, with 32.3 per cent of the student body voting.
Some controversy was created as result of the referendum and its results, with some students claiming they were unaware of the vote or did not understand what the question was asking. The results of the vote also angered other students’, who believed their peers needed to do a better job of getting informed.
In response to the results of the referendum, BUSU posted the following message to social media:
BUSU is currently operating the U-Pass in a deficit of approximately $426,000. BUSU does have some retained earnings, but as of the end of the 2017-18 year, BUSU will be unable to afford the service levels and route offerings, timings and reach that it currently has.
BUSU currently funds 17 direct routes to Brock University in St. Catharines/Thorold alone that had over 3,000,000 rides in 2015-16. We also have service agreements with Welland, Pelham, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and the Niagara Regional Transit system. BUSU will need to begin a budget exercise that results in the elimination of this deficit. BUSU will still be providing the U-Pass, however service levels/areas and timings will have to be altered and some routes/services areas will have to be eliminated.
This year BUSU will be asking students’ if they would agree to the bus fee going up to $247 instead of the $240 from last year because as mentioned in the above post, BUSU operates the transit in a deficit and also have seen inflation affect the cost.
Due to the failed referendum from last year, there has been a decrease in services for the 2017-18 academic years, among fewer double length buses. If the referendum is to fail again this year, BUSAC will have to decide if a third referendum will occur in the 2018-19 academic year, or potentially in the March election of the winter term. Furthermore, a second referendum could lead to more bus routes being cancelled.