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Student transit pass goes province-wide

Affordable public transit will soon be extended to many more post-secondary students in B.C., after years of campaigning by student groups.

Under the new U-Pass BC program, students attending publicly-funded schools across the province will be able to purchase a discounted transit pass, expanding the affordable U-Pass program currently offered at institutions like UBC and SFU.

Starting September 1, 2010, the pass will cost students $30, about $50 less than a regularly-priced monthly pass.

"This announcement will positively impact over 100,000 students in our region," said Nimmi Takkar, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students BC and a student at Vancouver Community College. "Next year, students will begin to save thousands of dollars on their transit costs."

The province will invest $20 million between now and April 2013 to subsidize the standardized U-Pass in Metro Vancouver. In other regions, funding will be provided "as required" to ensure the student rate remains below $30 a month, according to a press release issued by the province.

No details were available on how many classes a student must be enrolled in to qualify for the reduced-rate pass.

Students at Vancouver Community College, Emily Carr University and Douglas College currently shell out three times as much for a monthly transit pass than students at UBC and SFU, which have had U-Pass programs since 2003.

Existing rates at those schools, which are less than $30 a month, will not change under the new program.

"The U-Pass issue has been ongoing for years," said Takkar, who has been working with the OnePassNow campaign towards a provincial standardization of the pass.

Last October, a OnePassNow rally at Victory Square in Vancouver drew 1,500 students calling for a fair price and standardized pass, according to Takkar.

Robyn Smith is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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