Wednesday, 16/10/2019 | 2:45 GMT+0000+0
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It’s time to update the U-Pass opt-out policies

Imagine being forced to pay $430 per year for a service that you never use.

Unfortunately, for many students like me who simply can’t rely on public transit as a viable method of transport, the U-Pass becomes more of a driver tax than a helpful service.

Of course, I am aware there are opt-out options for students who study part-time or live outside the STO and OC Transpo service areas. But this still excludes a large portion of the student population.

What makes matters worse, is the exorbitant price the college charges students for a yearly parking permit. As of the 2019-2020 school year, the cheapest yearly pass Algonquin has to offer for the fall semester comes in at a whopping $715.

In other words, a full-time Algonquin College student who lives in the STO or OC Transpo service area and purchases a yearly college parking permit has to pay upwards of $1,000 per year in transport costs.

That’s why I believe the Algonquin Students’ Association and the college should consider creating a U-Pass opt-out option for parking permit holders.

Now, I’m aware that this matter isn’t simple given all the different parties involved, but we can look to our friends in Windsor for advice as they have adopted a parking permit opt-out policy this fall.

Jeremiah Bowers, the University of Windsor’s Students’ Alliance president, outlined how this opt-out option is administered at his university.

“For us, we have a certain threshold of students that need to be opted-in in order to keep the (U-Pass) price affordable,” Bowers said. “If we allowed opt-outs to go over that threshold, then either we’d have to foot the bill ourselves or the price per student would go up.”

Bowers explains that students who live outside the Windsor transit system’s service area have priority on opt-outs, meaning parking permit holders can opt-out on a limited first-come-first-serve basis.

It might not be perfect, but if the SA and Algonquin can set a threshold of opt-outs with OC Transpo’s blessing, students wouldn’t have to worry about forking over more money for the U-Pass, while some students who are paying for a parking permit would get a chunk of money back in their pockets.

When proposed with the idea, Algonquin SA president Deijanelle Simon – who’s in the midst of U-Pass contract negotiations – seemed open to this possibility.

“If that’s in favour of students and it’s actually an option we can follow through on, then why not?” she said.

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