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Kwantlen students vote for customized U-Pass

Kwantlen Student Association director of operations Ashley Fehr. Dissatisfaction with transit service has prompted the association to unveil plans for its own inter-campus shuttle. - File
Kwantlen Student Association director of operations Ashley Fehr. Dissatisfaction with transit service has prompted the association to unveil plans for its own inter-campus shuttle.
— image credit: File

Kwantlen Polytechnic University students have voted 65 per cent in favour of adopting a TransLink U-Pass, but with a major wrinkle.

They intend to run their own shuttle service between the four Kwantlen campuses in Richmond, Langley and Surrey (Newton and Cloverdale) – paid for through an add-on fee that conveys other benefits as well.

Their planned MultiPass would cost Kwantlen students $40 a month, with $30 of that going to TransLink. Besides unlimited regular transit service and the inter-campus shuttle, students would get a gym membership, a delivery discount on organic food and access to on-campus car rentals.

Kwantlen Student Association spokesman Nathan Griffiths said the shuttle will cost an estimated $500,000 a year but is critical to the plan working.

"It's going to revolutionize the culture on campus," he said. "TransLink has been unable or unwilling to fill that need and the student association has stepped up."

Kwantlen students previously complained TransLink service was too ineffective south of the Fraser to make the standard $30-a-month TransLink U-Pass attractive enough.

They even staged a beat-the-bus race last fall that saw a runner go from campus to campus faster than a student who took the bus.

Now that the Kwantlen referendum has passed, the KSA is aiming to have the U-Pass in place by May and the Multipass components, including the shuttle, ready for next September.

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said TransLink isn't yet in a position to offer enhanced service to serve Kwantlen students but applauded their ingenuity in crafting an enhanced pass.

"They get full marks for creativity and thinking beyond the box on that one," he said.

Kwantlen is the last major institution to adopt the U-Pass, ending fears that its students might be left out.

Students at Vancouver Community College, Douglas College, Emily Carr University of Art and Design and BCIT have all voted already to adopt the U-Pass, now reduced in price to $30 a month after the province mandated a standard, consistent rate for all.

The institutions that already have the U-Pass – Langara, Capilano University, UBC and SFU – will have to vote again before September to adopt the new system.

For UBC and SFU students, it will mean an increase in the monthly price they pay, from around $25 to $30.

Hardie said TransLink is tightening up administration of the passes to prevent abuse.

"We had experienced a lot of misuse of passes, students selling them, passes being reported lost and then replaced and then the supposedly lost passes showing up in circulation someplace else."

Instead of one U-Pass good for an entire term, students will now get a series of monthly passes that they'll display along with their student card.

That will change once TransLink's smart card system arrives in 2013.

By then, student cards will include a U-Pass chip that will be detected by the new system.

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