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CARPOOL, ANYONE? Get your thumb ready. Some students aren't eligible for taxi vouchers due to strain on 1,200 Calgary cabs.
Neal Ozano/The Gauntlet

Free rides end for students

City says students are no longer eligible for taxi vouchers

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Some students stranded by the transit strike are no longer eligible for taxi vouchers, according to the City.

"It's an issue of capacity," said City of Calgary General Manager of community and neighbourhood services Chris Branch. "The taxi industry in Calgary only has 1,200 cabs on the road at any given time. The reason that we are making this decision isn't because we have any kind of issue with regards to students trying to get to class. We recognize that school is important; there's no question about that."

Branch said that low-income students with child-care, health and work-related travel needs would still receive passes. "What we're faced with is trying to trying to serve the neediest of the needy," said Branch. "What we're trying to do is assess each person as they come in and trying to serve the ones at the sharpest end of the problem."

While Students' Union Vice-president External Duncan Wojtaszek understood the city's position, he was disappointed with the decision.

"Class is as valid a reason as work or many of the other reasons that they're giving out vouchers [for]," said Wojtaszek. "Why is it fair to say that a student who has to has to go to work and classes is more important than a student who has three midterms on that day and has to go to class?"

Branch said that the decision to disqualify students from receiving passes was based on feedback from the taxi industry.

"We're in contact with the taxi industry people pretty much every day and what they're telling us is that they have achieved capacity," said Branch.

Norman Goodale, Chair of the Taxi Commission, denied responsibility for pulling the service from students.

"We license and supervise the cab industry in the city. We do not have any involvement in the administration of taxi vouchers or who gets them," said Goodale. "It's not in our mandate to recommend or be involved in that [process] whatsoever."

While there are no additional plans by the SU to bus in stranded students, Wojtaszek is optimistic that the voucher situation will improve.

"I think there's room for compromise [with the city]," said Wojtaszek. "I'll be urging the external commission to urge the City to allow class being accepted as a reasonable need for taxi vouchers."

In the meantime, the SU recommends that students continue to join forces in carpools, and to make more use of the web site www.carpool.ca.

"It certainly could be more successful. There are a lot more requests for rides than rides being posted," said Wojtaszek. "I would urge all students [driving] to campus to throw their car up there." Wojtaszek notes that the SU and university may consider alternative transportation plans towards final exams. He added the university cannot give blanket deferrals to every student affected by the transit strike.

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