The U-Pass is an ineffective and inexcusable attempt at wholesale redistribution of wealth. While proponents brand it with the "universal" façade, the U-Pass isn't. Much like communist economic programs, it doesn't reach those who need it and is incapable of serving everybody. Indeed, the success of the U-Pass is dependent upon its own disuse and failure.
Claims of alleged benefits the U-Pass will provide are flawed and ill-conceived for several reasons.
First, parking on Calgary Transit lots becomes scarce during and after the morning rush hour. If you can get parking at LRT lots at 7:30 a.m., you can get parking on campus at 7:30 a.m. The U-Pass alone will not change parking availability.
Second, students not served by transit or who choose to drive will get doubly screwed and get nothing by paying for something they can't use and by paying more for parking on campus, as SAIT illustrates. While some claim this tax on vehicular mobility may encourage students to use public transit now and in their professional lives, the university should not be in the business of making such social policy.
Third, students who walk to or live on campus will derive almost no benefit from a U-Pass except when visiting those establishments with last calls before transit service ends at 1 a.m., which must exist somewhere, other than the Den.
Fourth, existing transit riders have budgeted both the time and the money to use the transit system. Unless service is increased, more riders means more stops, busier busses and longer rides for both students and regular passengers. Tightly-budgeted students, those most likely to take transit daily, would also get less loan money since they would have hundreds of dollars less in eligible expenses.
Fifth, part-time students, who likely have two or more daily travel needs and can have their needs served by transit, are ineligible for the pass as though their vehicles do not occupy stalls nor do they add to campus or city traffic. Obviously, if the service was available to part-time students, it would be abused by random people taking one half course and maybe getting educated for the express purpose of getting the $300 per semester discount on transit passes.
Finally, any positive environmental impact from more transit usage will be offset by more transit vehicle emissions, increased energy consumption, and less carpooling due to increased parking prices.
Unlike health care, Campus Recreation, and genuine social services which can be used by everybody for their intended purposes, the U-Pass cannot. Everyone pays for it, benefitting an indiscriminate few at the expense of everyone else-including those it was intended to help.
Imposing the U-Tax cannot be justified through nebulous arguments about the 30 trips per semester needed to recoup the $50 cost, or the mere potential for students to use the system. And unlike a genuine social program, the potential for graduate and faculty opt-ins will result in a new class of taxpayers, the undergrads, bearing a disproportionate proportion of the cost.
We need mandatory prepaid universal transit pass as much as we need mandatory prepaid universal Den passes. At least then we could share beer.