By: John Stoesser and Nouran Abdellatif

If Algonquin signs a U-Pass contract with OC Transpo, they could expect a similar deal to that of Carleton University and the University of Ottawa.

At both universities, the price of the U-Pass is added to students’ tuition and OC Transpo collects the fees. The current price is $180 per semester with a 2.5 per cent increase every year.

Both schools have multi-year contracts with OC Transpo. Under that contract, Carleton and the U of O print and distribute the passes. The universities’ student associations handle the opt-outs. Any complaints and lost or destroyed cards are also the student associations’ responsibility. There are minor differences as each school negotiates a different contract.

“I believe Carleton students are generally satisfied with the U-Pass,” said Hayley Dobson, vice-president of student issues at Carleton University Students’ Association. But student satisfaction with the U-Pass agreement and the referendum process at the universities wasn’t always absolute.

Two years ago, nine U of O students sued the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), claiming the referendum question to implement the U-Pass was vague and the referendum itself was unconstitutional. The case was settled out of court.

Last year the U-Pass fees went up coinciding with OC Transpo service cuts. Carleton and the U of O lost some bus service. Carleton students protested the price hike, but the referendum to renew the contract still passed.

“I think there’s a lot of room (for the U-Pass) to be improved,” said Elizabeth Kessler, vice-president of university affairs for the SFUP. “We have one of the most expensive U-Passes in the country… and I don’t think we’re getting the kind of transit service that we should be considering the price that we’re paying.”

Either way, Algonquin students older than 19 are paying full price for a service that the U of O and Carleton students receive at a significant discount.

The question the Students’ Association needs to ask is whether or not Algonquin students are willing to ratify an agreement that affects every student whether they walk, drive or take the bus to school.

“We need to know these details before we go to the population,” said David Corson, SA President. “Our concern isn’t that students can’t make a good choice, but students can’t make a good choice if they don’t know what their choices are.”

The SA is currently in the middle of a human rights claim over OC Transpo’s age restriction on student passes. They approved a budget of over $20,000 to promote their Fair Fares campaign. The SA’s marketing manager, Annie Thomlinson confirmed the funds were spent on a radio and newspaper campaign.