Editors, the Gauntlet,
Re: "Universal bus pass debate," Jan. 25, 2001
It seems we are jumping to conclusions based on some false perceptions about a possible universal bus pass and an incomplete understanding of the issues that are relevant to a meaningful discussion. The U-pass deal is not written in stone. The numbers we have are a result of initial negotiations by our Students' Union; they do not represent a final conclusion. If all the post-secondary institutions in Calgary came together and used their collective bargaining power, a better deal with Calgary Transit could be reached. The possibility of a low-cost U-pass as well as improved service to Calgary's post-secondary institutions are real possibilities that should not be ignored.
All the published criticisms of the U-pass were based on economic arguments. However, some economic benefits of the pass for drivers have not been discussed. In the six Canadian universities that have this system, transit use went up about 50 per cent and parking availability rose 20 per cent. A decrease in the demand for parking, according to ECON 203, would result in a lower price for parking. This alone could offset bus pass costs for drivers substantially. Less traffic congestion means less fuel use and less time on the road for drivers. Also, drivers willing to switch to the U-pass would see an enormous savings in fuel and maintenance costs. A study done by the University of British Columbia shows that on average $650 per month is spent owning and operating a car; the monthly cost of a U-pass at $10-20 is much less.
The environmental benefits of a U-pass are real and undervalued. Climate change is happening; we are causing it and Canada has a lot to lose. The CEO of Ford stated that climate change must be addressed and that the car manufacturing industry has not taken the role it should in promoting clean alternatives. The implementation of a U-pass resulted in a significant reduction in emissions at other universities. We should recognize the importance of this in helping to solve a catastrophic global problem.
Many factors that fall outside the old left-wing/right-wing economic game have been left out. There are many diverse benefits of a U-pass. The present deal with Calgary Transit should not be seen as absolute; student influence can create a better solution. Let's leave ideology aside and acknowledge all that a universal bus pass has to offer.