U-Pass program temporarily suspended beginning May 1 amid COVID-19 pandemic

As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused post-secondary institutions across the Lower Mainland to suspend in-person classes until further notice, student unions, university representatives and TransLink have agreed to temporarily suspend the U-Pass program beginning May 1.

TransLink announced the decision on their website on April 9, adding that discussions between student associations and post-secondary school representatives regarding “potential refunds for students not using their April passes” are still ongoing.

“Students not needing their April U-Pass are encouraged not to use it and to check their school, student association, or our U-Pass BC website for further updates,” reads the statement on TransLink’s website.

According to AMS VP External Cristina Ilnitchi, over the last few weeks, student associations and university representatives have been in consultations with TransLink to determine how to proceed with the U-Pass program in a way that best supports students.

“We know this is a really tough time for students and the AMS has heard calls from students asking for extra support, and also questions around what kind of state the U-Pass is in considering everything that's going on with COVID-19 and the kind of responses TransLink has had to regular bus fare,” she said.

The representatives will assess the state of the program on a month to month basis throughout the summer as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold. Ilntichi added that while discussions about potential refunds for the April U-Pass are still ongoing, the refund process will be administered through the university.

“Our message to students at this time is that those who don't need to use their U-Pass are encouraged not to use it and to kind of check out updates later this month as we finalize our approach,” she said.

The U-Pass BC program is an agreement between several post-secondary student associations and TransLink that allows students at participating universities to access a bus, SkyTrain and SeaBus pass for a set price of $164 per term. Students pay for the U-Pass fee as part of their student fees.

This program suspension follows other fare reduction decisions by TransLink, including a decision to cancel fare collection and move to rear-door only boarding on March 19.

The Mayor’s Council also recently endorsed a recommendation from the TransLink Board of Directors to postpone fare increases that were scheduled to start taking place in July 2020. The planned increases would have resulted in a 20 to 25 cent increase for single-use fares, a 25 cent increase for day passes and a $3 to $5 increase for monthly passes.

Due to physical distancing measures enacted by provincial health authorities to halt the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, including school and workplace closures, TransLink has seen a steep drop in ridership since mid-March.

According to TransLink’s internal data, total boardings on the entire transit system are down 83 per cent and bus boardings are down 82 per cent. Due to the decrease in ridership, TransLink has also reduced services on several routes.

“We want to remind everyone that we need to work together, and that we need your help to keep the system safe and clean for yourself and those around you,” reads the most recent update on TransLink’s website.