Since the U-Pass program was cancelled in May, students in Vancouver have had to pay for public transit at regular prices. Now, the AMS and GSS have rolled out a program to subsidize the cost of transit for the months of July and August.
The subsidy will credit eligible students the difference in cost of their TransLink monthly pass and the $42.50 monthly cost of the U-Pass on their SSC. The monthly subsidy amounts are between $55.50 and $134.50 depending on which type of pass — one-zone, two-zone or three-zone — eligible students buy.
The form, posted on AMS social media on July 16, asks students a variety of questions to determine their eligibility for the subsidy. The form includes basic information such as whether the user will be travelling on a one-, two- or three-zone fare as well as more probing questions: students are asked for their monthly income and an explanation of the financial hardships that they’re facing.
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In an interview with The Ubyssey, AMS VP External Kalith Nanayakkara said that the AMS “had to ensure that these subsidy funds are distributed to those most in need, based on those questions.”
Nanayakkara also explained that the handling of student responses to the form will be “in line with government regulations, as well as internal AMS privacy policies.”
The AMS and GSS have been given $1.2 million from UBC to distribute as transit subsidies for July and August. Based on projections from UBC and the AMS, it is expected that 8,000 students will be served by this program in July and August.
While the form asked questions about financial status and hardship to determine and prioritize need, Nanayakkara said he does not expect to turn anyone away.
“We've actually allocated enough funds to ensure that, based on our projections, if all those students apply that they would still get credited. However, the reason we asked these questions about financial need is because just in case that we get more applicants than we project, then it would come down to basing these on financial need,” he said.
In an interview with The Ubyssey, GSS VP External Alireza Kamyabi stressed the importance of affordable transit for graduate students. While most undergraduate classes are online, many graduate students still have to come to campus for research.
“Around half of graduate students are in research or thesis stream programs and that makes it a requirement for their academic progress, for them to come to labs and have access to their research equipment and the place to work,” Kamyabi said, adding that a recent survey found that 35 per cent of graduate students rely on public transit.
The future of transit at UBC past August remains in question. As it stands, the U-Pass will automatically be reinstated on September 1. However, with most classes online, students who aren’t in the Lower Mainland would be paying $42.50 a month if the U-Pass is reinstated.
Nanayakkara confirmed that the AMS is actively working with the provincial government, TransLink and other student associations that participate in the U-Pass program to come to a solution for September.
However, he would not go into details on what exactly that solution might look like, saying “naming any options right now might hinder those negotiations.”