UMSU president crunches city’s numbers in bid to save bus pass program

By | March 18, 2020

With the clock ticking to a vote for the City of Winnipeg’s budget, student leaders believe they have a compromise that will save the U-Pass program.

Part of the plan is to convince councillors the math they are relying on for millions in savings is wrong and the second part is a willingness to make up some of the missing revenue with a hike in the cost of a pass.

Cutting the U-Pass program is part of a series of budget recommendations to balance the city’s finances. The promise of a low-income bus pass has been made by members of Mayor Brian Bowman’s team as a compromise for cutting U-Pass.

University of Manitoba Students’ Union president Jakob Sanderson has been involved in almost every aspect of shepherding the U-Pass program through its development.

He’s not willing to give up on it now and he says his analysis of the city’s calculations show a different conclusion on the financial impact of the program.

Sanderson believes its discrepancy of nearly $12 million.

“I think partly it’s the numbers and it should be about the number, right? Because no one’s coming out [from the city] and saying I really hate the U-Pass,” Sanderson said.

University of Manitoba Students’ Union president Jakob Sanderson says he believes the city is using faulty math in its U-Pass calculations. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Sanderson says the city used one number as their total enrolment of students to calculate revenue and used a different number of students when they calculated lost revenue.

He says the city also used old levels of enrolments and old rates for the passes and didn’t factor in the number of students buying low-income passes instead of post-secondary passes, affecting the revenue the city is projected to generate.

Sanderson says the executive council of UMSU has authorized negotiations with the city to raise the price of a U-Pass to make up some of the difference.

“We are open to negotiation to consider an increased rate to save the program,” he said. 

The UMSU president met this week with public works chair Matt Allard, whose committee oversees Winnipeg Transit, and thinks Sanderson have made some headway.

“He’s done some tremendous work on U-Pass … he’s looking for a solution and made some compelling arguments,” Allard said.

Sanderson says 71 proponents of the U-Pass have registered to speak at Wednesday’s executive policy committee meeting, although he says the chilling effect of the COVID-19 emergency might scale back those numbers.

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