McMaster students, you'd better not lose your bus pass this year – because replacing it just became almost four times as expensive.
What used to cost $30 for replacing a stolen pass now costs $100 the first time around, and $150 each subsequent replacement.
The city says costs have jumped over fraud concerns from lost or stolen passes, but hundreds of people have still signed a petition denouncing that steep rise, saying it puts an unfair burden on already cash-strapped students.
"I think it's really ridiculous," said Ehima Osazuwa, McMaster Student Union president. "That's just ridiculously high."
This is the first year the new replacement fees have been instigated. McMaster students are able to ride the HSR for a full year while in school, which is paid for through student fees. To get on the bus, they have to show both their student card and HSR pass.
By contrast, it costs $25 for Mohawk College students to replace a lost bus pass (in the form of a sticker on a student card) and it costs $25 to replace an Ontario driver's license.
Pass 'highly discounted,' city says
Nancy Purser, the city's manager of transit support services, told CBC News the price hike was instigated this year because card's value. She says the card is worth about $1,000 worth of bus rides a year. "It's a highly discounted pass," she said.
However, the only way someone could use another person's bus pass is if they also found or stole their student card as well. "But if both get picked up ... there is the chance a person could use it for a few rides before it's spotted."
Coun. Sam Merulla, who is the head of the city's public works committee, said the price jump was a staff recommendation and not a council decision. He said city staffers would only have jacked up the price if fraud was "becoming a concern for the taxpayer."
"I'd suspect there's tangible evidence to support the decision," Merulla said. "And it just makes it that much more important for people to account for their belongings."
That's of little consolation to the more than 600 students who signed an online petition denouncing the price hike. Many others have signed a paper version on campus, the student union says.
"This new fee is significant, especially for students on a limited income and little justification has been provided for the very large increase," the petition reads.
Monitoring on a case by case basis
Sana Ahmed was one of the people who signed the petition to voice displeasure over the steep fare hike.
"I'm a Mcmaster University Alumni from a low-income family. I relied heavily on the bus system throughout my university life," Ahmed wrote. "I would have to work long and hard to pay for my tuition and my transportation.
"I am saddened that a university, that I love and that always helped and worked for me, is now making it difficult for students to attend university."
Purser said she didn't expect the kind of blow back that HSR has been receiving over the move. "I really didn't anticipate this," she said.
The city does intend, however, to review costs on a case by case basis, she said. "Obviously if you come in with a police report and say you were robbed, you won't be charged," she said.
"We're going to be monitoring and reviewing this and getting feedback from the students."