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No STM deal for ConU students for now

by Owen Nagels March 22, 2011

Full-time Université de Montréal students living on the island of Montreal will be able to benefit from a discounted (or for some, further discounted) transit pass starting next fall, regardless of their age. But what about Concordia? More students go here than there, and Concordia boasts a much higher student-over-25 population than UdeM.

The demographic of our school is very different from the UdeM’s. Out of Concordia’s 24,000 undergrads living on the island, just under half of them are aged 25 and up, compared to only 15 to 20 per cent at UdeM. It would cost a lot more for Concordia students to benefit from a program of this kind, since there are so many more students who would be eligible for the discount.

And that’s where the problem lies.

The challenge right now is to discuss who would subsidize the lost revenues for the STM. More than a third of Concordia students over 25 and living on the island buy a monthly pass at $72.75. By handing these students reduced fares, the involved parties would lose over $1 million each semester, the Concordian reported in January in a story about mother and full-time Concordia student Desea Trujillo.

She had started a campaign to bring lower transit rates to all students. The Concordian found that the CSU came close to striking a deal with the STM in September 2010 to bring reduced fares to all students, like a U-pass. (This plan grants students a pass for universal transit, which is included in tuition and fees. It’s available at other Canadian universities, like Carleton.)

The CSU’s plan was quietly discarded because of the cost to all parties.

UdeM’s plan is great news for Concordia because although all students don’t yet have access to reduced fares, plans for something similar may not be completely dead.

Allison Reid of Allégo, a Concordia body that promotes walking, biking and using public transportation, says that not only would all students living on the island of Montreal benefit from this, but the STM would greatly profit from it in the long run as well. “Students who use public transit when they are at school are more likely to continue using it after they’ve graduated,” she said. By ensuring more ridership, the STM would in turn secure more future revenue. It’s a win-win situation.

Besides, it just makes good sense to give access to reduced transit fares to all students. Just because someone is over 25 years old, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have more money. The discounts would apply to full-time students and, as we unfortunately know, a student is a student, and most students are perpetually broke. The extra $127 “older” students pay for the monthly pass for four months a semester really adds up in the end – it’s an extra $762 for a three-year degree.

Students under 25 who currently get the reduced fare will also get a further discount, although it’s not nearly as exciting as that of their older counterparts. For UdeM students under 25, an additional five per cent is taken off their current rate. But there is a perk, and it’s a good one. They wouldn’t have to fill up their Opus card every month. It would all be done automatically for the duration of the semester.

Although there is no concrete plan yet to bring this kind of system to Concordia, there are talks of coming to some sort of arrangement. Reid says there may be a chance the school can strike a temporary deal with the city, something along the lines of a 25 per cent discount for full-time students over 25. Although it’s not perfect, it is a step in the right direction. And it’s about time.

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