Photo By: Mackenzie Gerry

Every student registered in 1.5 or more credits is charged a Universal Bus Pass (U-Pass) fee. You pay the fee, along with a few other fees, when you pay your tuition at the beginning of the academic term in September. 

But what does that mean for you? 

This gives you unlimited access to the U-Pass for the fall and winter semesters. The  U-Pass can be your greatest asset for getting around the region this school year, if you know how to use it. Given that you’ll be charged the same amount of money for the U-Pass whether you use public transportation or not, you might as well learn how to take advantage of it.

The U-Pass is effective from the first day of classes (Sept. 9) until April 30 every academic year. Though there is no U-Pass available from May 1 until Aug. 31, Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) has an agreement with St. Catharines Transit (STC) to provide a discount to anyone studying in the spring or summer semesters. 

Like so many other services available through the university, the U-Pass is connected to your student card. To use it, simply swipe your card when you board at the front of the bus and you’re set to ride. 

In order for bus drivers to verify that you’ve paid for your U-Pass, you’ll need to get a verification sticker from BUSU in the first few days of classes. BUSU is working to distribute the stickers from multiple different places this year, including through the Brock Card Office, which is located across from the stairs to the Guernsey Market Hall in the Thistle complex, the BUSU office, on the second floor of the Plaza building, and through stalls placed around campus during Welcome Weeks. Make sure you head to one of these locations for your bus sticker in the first few days of classes as you’ll need to get yours in order to access transit in the region. 

Generally speaking, transit employees are lenient about the stickers for the first few weeks of classes and you’ll be able to swipe your card whether you have yours or not. Make sure to get yours as soon as possible though, because they are required to ride.

The U-Pass gives you access to St. Catharines, Thorold, Niagara Falls, Welland, Fort-Erie, Pelham and the Niagara Regional Transit systems, but there are a couple of routes that are going to be particularly useful to you in your first year at Brock. 

The 316 Brock-Glenridge route will take you from the bus loop on Brock’s main campus to the downtown bus terminal with stops in Glenridge, a neighbourhood popular with Brock students because of its proximity to the campus. In the evenings and on the weekend, the 316 becomes the 416. Though the route doesn’t change, the timing of the buses does. Buses come more often during weekdays, about every 15-30 minutes, compared to on weekends or in the evening, when they slow down to generally every 30 minutes to an hour. If you’re one of the students who makes the commute from the main campus to the downtown Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, you’ll find yourself on the 316 pretty often. 

The 335 Brock-Pen Centre goes from Brock’s bus loop to the Pen Centre, with stops along Glendale Avenue, St. David’s Road and Burleigh Hill Drive, another area where many Brock students live. The Pen Centre is the largest shopping centre in the Niagara Region, with grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores and pretty much everything else you’d expect to find in a standard shopping mall. You will also be able to transfer buses at the Pen Centre to get wherever it is you need to go. Like the 316, the 335 becomes the 435 in the evenings and on weekends with no changes to the route, just to the frequency of buses.

If you want to familiarize yourself even further with the bus routes available to you, it’s recommended that you download the St. Catharines Transit App. The app can tell you when a bus is going to arrive, if a line is experiencing a delay and whether or not you’re going to need to transfer buses at a terminal depending on where you are. 

If you’re able to, try and get to your stop at least a few minutes before your bus is scheduled to arrive. Once you board the bus, make sure to find a seat or something to hold onto before the vehicle starts moving. 

At the time of writing, all passengers are required to wear a mask or face covering and maintain as much physical distance as possible on all transit vehicles in the Niagara Region. These guidelines are also in place in terminals and bus shelters on transit property. Though masks and face coverings are required, passengers are also asked to be respectful of those who may have medical conditions that prevent them from following the mask requirements. 

Without the U-Pass, it costs $3 for one ride. Keeping some change in your bag or pocket might save you if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having lost or forgotten your student card. If you do happen to have lost your card, you can head to the Brock Card Office to have it replaced.

Ride safely and be polite, courteous, and follow the guidelines put in place for your safety while riding public transit.

Students can find other routes and updated information via the transit app or at www.yourbus.com.