As of July 1, student bus passes in Ottawa will only be available to those 27 and younger – and some students are not too happy about it.
Older students must now pay the full adult rate for a monthly pass, $84.75, instead of a $65.25 student monthly pass. They can no longer purchase semester or annual student passes, which offer additional savings.
Student outrage has sparked a Facebook group with nearly 1,500 members as of July 16. Student leaders in Ottawa condemned the new policy, which passed last December.
“If you’re a student, you’re a student,” says Erik Halliwell, president of the Carleton University Students’ Association. “Many people are still in school after the age of 27, and many people are going back to retrain during the recession.”
He says the change affects about 3,300 students at Carleton University, including over 1,000 undergraduate students.
Algonquin College Students’ Association president Mike Hirsch calls the change “a tremendous mistake” that “unfairly disadvantages a very large demographic at Algonquin College” in a letter to the Ottawa Citizen.
Although Hirsch could not be reached for comment, Halliwell says the ACSA is circulating a petition to remove the age limit.
Halliwell says he also intends to petition city councillors, and thinks the issue could become important in the 2010 municipal election. City council cannot revisit the issue until next year unless a special motion passes with support from 75 per cent of city councillors.
Representatives from the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa have also expressed concern, but could not be reached for comment.
Some students are expected to attend tonight’s Pedestrian and Transit Advisory Committee meeting to plead their case, but Halliwell says the student union is preparing to confront council in September.
Several students have posted much harsher criticisms on a Facebook group called “Against the Age-Cut Off for Student Bus Passes.” Complaints range from “discrimination based on age” to “cash grab,” though some students have defended the policy.
The age limit will save Ottawa’s public transit service, OC Transpo, about $220,000 a year, according to the motion passed by council. The limit is based on the amount of time a student would take to achieve a doctorate if they were in school continuously.
OC Transpo’s revenues are down this year after a 51-day strike by employees took buses off the road. Several other changes have been made to increase revenue, including increased prices for bus fares, tickets and passes. Council also rejected a proposal for a universal student transit pass at the University of Ottawa last March.