Brock University Students’ Administrative Council chose to have a second transit referendum following the failure last February during the executive election.
This time, 81.1 per cent of students who voted, voted ‘yes’ to allow an increase in the student fee. About 33 per cent of the undergraduate student body voted on the referendum, according to BUSU. The passing of the referendum will allow the U-Pass program at Brock University to continue and bring back bus routes that had been removed for this year.
“Chris Green (BUSU General Manager) and I will be sitting down to discuss which routes we are returning,” said Aidan Hibma, BUSU Vice-President, Finance and Administration. “This will allow for future growth of our transit system, because students will see an immediate response instead of having to wait until September.”
Students were asked, via their Brock email, if they support a $34.67 increase to the bus pass fee, which would increase the cost from $212.33 to $247.
“It will bring us an average of $500,000 per year, which will get us out of our deficit of $350,000,” said Hibma. “It will allow us to extend the amount of buses on our routes, the time of operation and hopefully bring back our summer program.”
Hibma also discussed the future of transit, as the Niagara region and the cities within have begun to plan for a region wide transit system rather than municipalities having their own transit.
“It will give us more bargaining power with the region and the various cities of the Niagara region.”
Last year, 51 per cent of students voted ‘no’ to the referendum, in a voting period that saw a record-breaking 32 per cent of the student body vote.
On many Facebook pages related to Brock, mainly the ‘Accepted at Brock’ groups, some students advocated for the ‘no’ side. Hibma says during the voting period he and his team were able to turn some of the no’s to yes’.
“It’s how basic taxation works: the majority pay for the minority — if I don’t have children, I’m still paying for teacher’s,” said Hibma.
Hibma also discussed how the potential to lose the U-Pass entirely could have led to more students driving to campus.
“If we lost our transit there would be a bigger demand for parking on campus, which is already tough to find a parking spot,” said the VP. “The response of the university would be more than likely be to increase parking prices.”
BUSU has no control over the parking prices, rather the best they can do is compare pricing to other universities to help protect students from the university increasing parking costs.
The referendum also only allowed for undergraduate students to vote as BUSU only represents undergraduate students. Although graduate students have access to the U-Pass, they are offered the service thanks to the Graduate Student Association.
“Our undergraduate students pay for the U-Pass, they pay for the services we offer as individuals,” said Hibma. “The GSA buys into our U-Pass. It’s their organization buying into the service we offer, it’s not the individual buying into the service.”
“It’s unfortunate that they can’t vote, but that’s the technicality of it,” added Hibma.
BUSU hopes to potentially have old bus routes, more buses and extended bus times to return by January 1. The next BUSU elections will be held in March, when students will have a chance to vote on the 2018-19 BUSU executive team.