Students in Metro Vancouver’s public post-secondary institutions will vote beginning in January to determine whether their school will continue to participate in the U-Pass program.
The current U-Pass program launched in September 2011 and provided students in participating institutions across Metro Vancouver access to a monthly transit pass for $30. The program expires in March 2013 and an extension of the program has been negotiated with TransLink by student associations.
In the renewed program, the price will increase to $35 starting in May 2013. It will increase to $36.75 in May 2014 and then to $38 in May 2015. The agreement will expire at the end of April 2016.
Students will be issued a Compass Card and the U-Pass will be a “fare product” loaded onto the card allowing holders unlimited travel across all zones.
The U-Pass and Compass Card will not be built into the student identification cards. The two instead are linked together electronically meaning students will still need to carry their student cards with them all times. If the two do not match, the holder will be subject to fines.
The U-Pass will be automatically renewed after each month and each semester as long as the student is enrolled and has paid his/her tuition. Students will only need to pickup their Compass Card once.
The full Compass Card system is not expected to launch until October 2013, so it appears U-Pass holders may be participants in the pilot program. Testing of the system is expected to begin in early 2013 as most SkyTrain stations have been outfitted with faregates and buses have begun to receive their readers.
It is worth noting that TransLink will not be switching to distance-based fares when the Compass Card launches, but it could be implemented down the road.
“We’ve had lots of calls to re-evaluate it though, and we’re planning to take a look once we’ve collected enough data through the Compass system,” explains TransLink’s Jhenifer Pabillano. “The tap in, tap out process helps us collect robust data on exact trips people are taking around the region, and can allow for distance-based fares in the future if we decide to go that way.”