Nfld. & Labrador

Memorial University releases proposed route changes ahead of U-Pass vote

The university released its plan this week to augment Metrobus service if a U-Pass is voted in next month.

Some students still wary of mandatory fee increase

Students get on and off a bus at Memorial University. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Memorial University has released proposed improvements to St. John's-area bus routes, and should members vote for a discounted bus pass come February, it could mean new routes and improved service across St. John's.

The U-Pass would give all students at Memorial University a semester pass at a reduced price. Students would pay for the pass — estimated at $139 for each of the fall and winter sessions — along with tuition and other fees.

The university released its plan this week, outlining three new proposed routes and increased service on a number of lines.

The proposed route changes include:

  • Increasing service from 60- to 30-minute frequency during evening hours on Route 1, 10, 16, and 30
  • Increasing service from 60- to 30-minute frequency during daytime hours on Route 14 and 16
  • Added service on Route 1, 14, 21, 23, and 30
  • Increased service on weekends for most of the above routes
  • Three new routes, including two express buses from Mount Pearl 

A full list of proposed changes can be found here.

Idea still controversial

The U-Pass only works, the university argues, if everybody pays into it. 

That leaves the MUN Students' Union concerned for its members stuck paying mandatory fees without getting any benefits.

"We've always asked for a universal opt out. So that students have the option not to have to pass if it was not something they were going to have the benefit of having," said Bailey Howard, MUNSU's spokesperson.

Bailey Howard is still concerned about a universal fee increase. (CBC)

Howard also expressed worry that the student referendum for the U-Pass isn't binding, but merely a tool to gauge students' opinions.

"The idea that students could vote no for this, and they still could be paying this extra fee every semester — a mandatory fee, that they would not be able to opt out of even though they've decided they don't want that — that is definitely concerning." 

Jordan Wright, who works with the transportation solutions committee at MUN, said the plan has been three years in the making.

"Students are saying they don't want to wait an hour for buses. So let's see what we can do to reduce that wait time," he said. "They told us they want improved evening and weekend service." 

All of that is included in the proposals, which, if implemented, would take effect next year, Wright said.

Jordan Wright is a member of the school's parking and transportation committee. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"If the program proceeds it'll take about a year and a half to get underway. So we'll be looking at September 2020 as our implementation date. We need final agreements with our municipal partners, the transit provider, and we have to order new buses. We're looking at six new vehicles required for the program."

Wright said their research showed that, when looking at expanding the service, it's not just about getting to classes on time. 

"We've heard from students that between classes, some of them like to go to the mall, some like to go downtown, some want to go bowling. So it's also about connecting their lives." 

Metrobus declined an interview about the proposal.

Yays and nays

Madison Loten, a fourth-year education student from New Brunswick, said she'd be thrilled with the savings on a U-Pass.

"I think it's a great idea. All my friends go to university in New Brunswick and Halifax. The U-Pass is already included and I'm really hopeful they bring it to MUN," Loten said. 

"It would be easier for me, because a bus pass now is very expensive. It's about $275 for four months. and that's pricey for students."

Madison Loten says a U-Pass would save her money, plus she'd get around faster. (Cecil Haire/CBC)

Parker Glavine, a first-year nursing student, doesn't share her enthusiasm. 

"From what I hear is this will be mandatory for all students. I don't think that's the best thing when it comes to students like me who live in residence, because we don't need to have the bus, necessarily," Glavine said.

"The new fee should not be mandatory at first. It should be an opt-in fee ... That's the only concern, considering we're all poor students. We need to budget our money the best we can." 

The university said full-time students registered at the St. John's campus, Centre for Nursing Studies, and Marine Institute will have the opportunity to vote on the proposed program from Feb. 26 to 28.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Cecil Haire

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