Region plans to increase bus fare

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Students could be facing a hike in Grand River Transit fare sometime this semester or early next term.

According to the Waterloo Region Record, future student bus passes could increase by 23 per cent. However, Graham Vincent, director of transportation planning for the Region of Waterloo says this is not an official number.

“We’re still in negotiations so I really can’t comment on what that increase will be,” Vincent said. “We’re confident that we’ll be able to reach an agreement with the students.”

Negotiations between the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University and the Region have been ongoing, discussing these potential increases. “We certainly value the partnerships we have with the students,” Vincent explained.
“We think that there have been some benefits for all involved. What we’re trying to do is balance affordability for the students versus the long term sustainability of the program.”

Since 2005 the Region has introduced approximately 100,000 service hours-that is related primarily to the universities, according to Vincent. In turn, those hours create a cost of about $9 million annually to operate and maintain those busses.

“We’ve had to increase service fairly substantially since the program began to accommodate the students,” Vincent said. “And we’re still working on it. There are some proposals for 2013 to provide an express service along University Avenue so there’s still more service that we’re implementing. So that’s part of the balance that we’re trying to reach.” As well, Vincent explained that the passes would still be effective through the summer months.

“I’m not here in the summer, so I guess it’s pointless for someone who doesn’t stay in Waterloo the whole time,” commented Peter Wellington, a fourth-year English major at Laurier. “But I guess I’d pay the [increase], I use the bus all the time.”

In terms of the program itself, the fee is still one of the least expensive UPASS programs in Ontario. For example, in Guelph bus passes cost approximately $86 a semester, compared to the UW and WLU passes that cost about $60.
“I have my own car,” said Amanda Baxter, a second-year student at the University of Waterloo. “So no, I wouldn’t be too pleased. I don’t use my pass now anyways, why should I pay more?”

According to Vincent, the fare increase would be to help sustain the program that the Region has already put in place. “It is also important to recognize,” he continued, “That there’s more service that’s going to be coming as well.

“The benefits for the students,” Vincent said, “Are a relatively inexpensive UPASS and a way to get around the community, The service that we’re providing [comes with] the improvements we’ve made. For example,” he continued. “This year with the iXpress, we’ve increased the service from 15 to ten minutes, and we’ve made other improvements to routes along the ways as well. “We’re increasing the quality and frequency of the service so there certainly is a benefit there to the student community.”

Negotiations are slated to conclude by the end of March.


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