By: Aaron L. Pope
This year, the city transit system has decided that student passes are no longer available for anyone over the age of 19.
As Algonquin does not have a U-Pass program instituted there are currently no options for mature students to get the same level of transportation services for the same price as their younger peers.
Yet, representatives of the city claim that this is not discriminatory as many other Canadian cities have instituted the same policies when it comes to public transportation.
Councillor Diane Deans, chairwoman for the Transit Commission says the city would welcome Algonquin into the U-Pass program.
“The decision was made with the assistance of the legal department – understanding that the transit commission has the legislative authority to make that decision – and that it conforms with all legislation and human rights,” said Deans. “There are some municipalities, I’m actually told, that have the student age set as low as 17. So for us we’ve established the student ages 19 as a maximum for the student pass.”
Ottawa city council has been talking with Algonquin Student Association in an attempt to initiate a referendum on the U-Pass. The city claims the U-Pass would be in the best interest of all the students, despite the fact that many Algonquin students live within walking distance of the campus, or choose to drive in from home and would not need a bus pass.
The association is not considering a referendum this year. They are attempting to get the city to reinstate the old semester student passes.
“The board is focused solely on ensuring that student rates apply to all students, regardless of age. Currently, the city is discriminating against all students over the age of 19 by not recognizing them as students,” said David Corson, SA president. “Before the board would make any decision whether or not to consider a U-Pass, we would first embark on a considerable consultation process with our students.”
The city is not considering reinstating the old program, saying that because the new system is the same as many other cities that have an under-19 student bus pass policy.
“The transit commission did visit the issue of student age eligibility in April and August of this year,” said Deans. “There were two discussions at the transit commission and the transit commission decided to have the eligibility set at 19 years of age.”
The city is encouraging Algonquin to strongly consider that U-Pass program. So far about 50,000 students are enrolled in the U-Pass program through Carleton University and the University of Ottaw, Deans said.
“I think public transit is the future of our city and that we need to encourage participation on our public transit system,” said Deans. “I think Algonquin has huge investments at that location and the transit infrastructure and I think that the Student’s Association should proceed with a referendum.”