University of the Fraser Valley students are hiring a shuttle bus by September, 2013 to transport them between the Chilliwack and Abbotsford campuses. The expectation is that this move will pressure the two cities into finally establishing a permanent inter-city public bus.
Student Union Society members held a referendum in the first week of March, and results were ratified last Friday.
75 per cent of voters said ‘yes’ to paying an additional $6.75 annually to hire a private bus.
“I’m not surprised,” says SUS president Shane Potter of the high final figure. “We had a lot of positive feedback, and we had a lot of people really supporting it.” This included the hugely supportive campus environmental group Students for Sustainability.
Over 1,000 of the 9,500 eligible SUS members cast their votes, a much higher figure than the “norm” of 600 votes in a referendum, says Potter.
SUS is now signing a Memorandum of Understanding with UFV, which will take the lead in hiring the bus through an open bid.
“Now it’s just a question of allowing the companies to competitively bid for the route, and start up,” says Potter.
UFV will handle the “business side” of the shuttle bus, says Potter.
Although the final structure will depend on the winning bid, SUS and UFV are planning for a 40-passenger bus to complete 10 trips per day, from early morning to late evening.
For now, SUS student fees are due to cover 60 per cent of the estimated $200,000 bus cost. UFV will cover the other 40 per cent. SUS is looking into advertising on the bus to reduce the financial burden.
Although SUS members will fund most of the bus cost, the bus will be freely available to all 16,000 UFV students, as well as to faculty and staff.
The success of establishing the route demonstrates that there is high demand for an inter-city public bus, says Potter. He expects lobbying pressure on the municipal governments to increase as a result.
“This is really just a band-aid solution. We hope this lobbies the municipal governments to have a public route,” says Potter. “I don’t believe this is sustainable. I don’t believe this is something we need to be doing every year. What we do need, is the municipalities of Chilliwack and Abbotsford to step up and provide a permanent public option.”
Laying the full cost of inter-campus transport on students is unfair, according to Potter.
“It shouldn’t be on the backs of the university and the students to provide this route. We need a public route.”
The cities of Chilliwack and Abbotsford have had an inter-city public bus service in the pipeline for years.
The UFV shuttle bus announcement comes shortly after Greyhound, the only mass transit service between the two cities, cut its service by 50 per cent on the route.