‘Students are extremely anxious’: Post-secondary groups calling on the city to reduce transit fares following U-Pass suspension

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“Students are extremely anxious. $110 is a lot of money. Many students will need to be on campus for classes, essential workers need to get to work, students need to get groceries,” Ley said in an interview with Postmedia Monday. “People are feeling very anxious because if they can’t afford access to transit, they might be choosing between transit and food and transit and clothes.”

Ley said the union has been in talks with the city since late June about finding an alternative solution, but doesn’t feel listened to. Two of their proposals were quashed and then the city came forward with the option to expand the youth fare products to all post-secondary students without any consultation, he said.

The union’s initial idea was to provide a U-Pass opt-in scenario for students who will continue to rely on transit, but that would impact how the program is currently structured.

About 70,000 students in Edmonton are U-Pass holders and account for one-third of total trips on the transit system, Ley said in pleading for their concerns to be taken seriously.

“ETS has not treated us with the respect that is due to an important stakeholder,” he said. “For two months they turned down our proposals without offering one of their own.”

Students will have a chance to address their concerns to city council on Wednesday after councillors voted to take the extraordinary step of hearing from speakers during regular council meetings, usually reserved for committee meetings which aren’t being held during the pandemic. There are currently 10 people signed up to address council.

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