There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the new school year, but one of them was answered on Wednesday, and if you’re among the likely few University of Guelph students who are coming back to Royal City in September, you will have to get around town without your usual universal bus pass. The move not only leaves students in a transit lurch, but it blows a big hole in the City of Guelph’s transit budget.
The announcement to U of G graduate and undergraduate students was posted on the website for the Central Student Association on Wednesday. Distribution of the Upass has been suspended for the fall and winter semesters because of the large number of students who will not be returning to campus in September. According to the U of G’s own plan, about 30 courses will have to offered face-to-face with another 16 having an optional face-to-face component.
The plan will also allow for only 1,000 people to move into residence, 700 undergrads in residence, and 300 students in family housing, which is only one-fifth of the normal complement. Exceptions will only be made for students who have limited internet connectivity at home, international students, students with unsuitable living arrangements for studying, and other extenuating circumstances.
Anyone coming to campus that needs a bus pass will be offered the opportunity to buy one for $272 per semester fro the City of Guelph. The City has been offering a similar summer pass to post-secondary students since July 6 when the City began charging fares on Transit again.
The cost for the student Upass through the CSA and Graduate Student Association was supposed to be $150 each for the fall and winter semester. According to the CSA, the low price of the student Upass is only made possible because of volume; there are nearly 25,000 undergrad students alone at the U of G.
The bigger question for the City of Guelph is how are they going to plan around the $3.5 million per semester that the Upass brings in for transit revenues. The Upass fees from U of G students account for over half of the expected $13.5 million in budgeted revenues for transit in the 2020 budget.
“Our biggest revenue loss across the Corporation for this pandemic has been transit,” Colleen Clack, the deputy CAO for public services, told Guelph Politico last month. “Like municipalities across the country, our transit is at the top of the list when we talk about COVID impacts because we have needed to keep transit systems running but the revenue has dropped.”
The loss in transit revenue, and the need to alter transit routes and schedules to save money, was discussed last month in a closed meeting of council, but no directions or proposed strategies have been announced to the general public. The report for the next COVID-19 response meeting will be posted to the council page on the City’s website this Friday.
The CSA has floated the idea of reinstating the Upass for the winter semester if conditions “change significantly.”