A decision has been made to relaunch U-Pass BC for TransLink’s services across Metro Vancouver, following the complete suspension of the program throughout the summer term.
The discounted monthly public transit pass for post-secondary students will resume on September 1, after a four-month suspension that began May 1, in response to the widespread interruption of in-class instruction due to COVID-19, and the resulting collapse in transportation demand at campuses.
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The public transit authority said it worked with post-secondary institutions and their respective student associations on the plan to resume the program for the new school term, with the “continuing support” of the provincial government.
The program has 10 participating post-secondary institutions within the region, including the University of British Columbia (UBC), Simon Fraser University (SFU), Capilano University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Langara College, Douglas College, Vancouver Community College, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Nicola Valley Institute of Technology’s Burnaby campus, and British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).
The mandatory monthly fee for the pass for all eligible students has increased slightly to $42.50 per month ($170 per term), following the pre-pandemic, student referendum approvals of a nominal hike, effective May 1, from the previous fee of $41.00 per month ($164 per term).
Students living in the Lower Mainland and enrolled in classes can now load their September U-Pass onto their Compass Card online.
It should be noted that student eligibility for the U-Pass may vary at each post-secondary institution due to the impact of the health crisis. Post-secondary institutions will be delivering many, if not most, of their courses online for at least the first term this fall due to COVID-19.
UBC and its Alma Mater Student Society have indicated there will be exemption options for students who are living outside of the Lower Mainland and taking courses online during the first term.
Capilano University’s policy states students are exempt if they are both studying entirely online without any on-campus instruction and are living outside of the region. Capilano Students’ Union is offering financially struggling students access to a new U-Pass BC Hardship Fund during COVID-19, which provides a bursary equivalent to 50% of the value of U-Pass fees for one term.
Langara College has noted students identified as being enrolled in on-campus instruction, practicum, and COOP courses will continue to be eligible.
At the time of writing, SFU and BCIT have not indicated their specific policy direction for U-Pass eligibility this term.
Students with the U-Pass can make unlimited trips on buses, SkyTrain, and SeaBus, and receive lower fares on the West Coast Express. Compared to a $177 regular three-zone adult monthly pass, the U-Pass saves up to $538 each term.
Approximately 140,000 post-secondary students typically receive the U-Pass, which accounts for about 13% of total ridership. But the program’s high degree of universality is highly unlikely this term with the absence of many domestic students who are from elsewhere in BC and Canada, and international students who have returned home.
In an email to Daily Hive Urbanized, TransLink states the main objective of the reactivation of the U-Pass program is to “support students with continued access to low-cost transportation.” An increase in ridership is expected, but at this time there is no estimate on what kind of bump will be experienced.