Groceries, rent, Internet, clothing, fuel and vehicle maintenance, hydro bills, cell service, (more than) the odd night out: young adults, myself included, stereotypically spend a lot of money, and more often than not on things that may not be strictly necessary. As students, we spend that much more. As students of Brandon University, we are obliged to pay student fees upon enrolment, and one of the services provided, whether you believe it to be useful or useless, is access to the Brandon Transit service.
For the cost of $15.51, we receive a thumb-nail sized sticker (available at the BUSU office) to adhere to our student cards which enables us to ride Brandon Transit from September through August. In addition to supplying students with the option of saving money on gas and outrageous on-campus parking fees, public transit reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions and provides a safe means of transportation around the city during the day and after dark.
“I live over twenty blocks away [from the university],” says BU student Alanna Downey, “So the fact that it’s only a ten minute bus ride is phenomenal.” Vehicle-less, Downey uses the service to commute to work and to other locations across the city, much like other BU students living both on- and off-campus who would otherwise be forced to walk long distances in often frigid temperatures. “It really does make it a lot faster to get around the city, especially to get groceries,” Downey says.
Students at Brandon’s Assiniboine Community College pay a similar fee for public transit. “It helps me,” R.L., a second-year student who rides the bus to school daily, says, “but it sure doesn’t help the majority.” In addition to suggesting that buses operate on Sundays, R.L. and Downey both stated that Brandon Transit buses often arrive before their scheduled time, leaving students stranded until the next bus stops, which is an incredible inconvenience for all commuters, not just students.
For non-students, the regular price for a monthly bus fare in Brandon is $66, which is comparable to Winnipeg’s fee of $77 per month in 2012 and $82.80 per month in 2013 for regular passes, and $61.50 per month for students. Unlike in Brandon, neither the University of Manitoba nor the University of Winnipeg have added a public city transportation pass onto student fees, though they are now contemplating doing just that.
For U of W student Justin Pawluk, public transit isn’t beneficial. Given he owns a vehicle and lives further away from a bus stop than the university itself, “it doesn’t make sense,” he says. “It’s usually more practical for me to walk or drive.” Tardy buses are also a problem in Winnipeg, Pawluk says. “This fall, I ended up waiting for a bus that was almost twenty minutes late while it rained and hailed on me, since the bus shack was full.”
On the other side of the board, University of Manitoba student Bailee Ploshynsky disagrees. Despite living on-campus and owning a bike, the Bison soccer athlete rides Winnipeg city buses at least three times a week during winter, and isn’t in favor of paying a mandatory bus fare. “It is unreasonable for those who have their own vehicles to pay for a service they will not use,” Ploshynsky argues. “In my opinion, the fee should be optional.”
As the heated debate rages on, Brandon University students are obliged to pay for a year-round bus ticket regardless, and may as well reap the benefits of Brandon Transit. Even if you own a car, maintaining a sour outlook on the subject is arguably pointless. The cost is minimal and every vehicle is bound to break down on the day you really need to get to your doctor’s appointment on the other side of the city at least once. As for students who use the service regularly, it’s likely the most rewarding $15 ever spent.
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 16, January 8, 2013.