The City of Peterborough is increasing transportation fees for Trent University by 10%, and the university has the option of making significant changes to the offered bus services or altering the fees to match the cost increase. Those who voted during the Trent Central Student Association elections would have noticed a referendum question on precisely this topic.
The unofficial results of the referendum released on the afternoon of Thursday March 19, 2015 indicated that 57% of students were in favour of the price increase, which will take effect in September’s fees.
On Tuesday March 17, Tracy Milne, the TCSA Operations Manager and Benefits Coordinator, explained the price increase and the potential results of the referendum to increase the transit fee.
The cost increase being implemented is one that will bring Trent University to the same cost level that is in place throughout Peterborough. Milne said that several years ago a price increase applied to the rest of the city that was not applied to the university.
“I believe it was two years ago now there was increase to fares. We were not impacted at that time so now we’re playing catch-up,” she said.
Currently, the hourly rate the university pays for a bus is $73.76. With the increase, that will be going up to approximately $88 per hour. For students that means a transit fee change from $252.35 to $277.59, as indicated in the referendum question.
Milne explained that asking students whether they would be willing to accept a 10% fee increase was first discussed in a Transit Committee meeting.
“The city came to that meeting, let us know the 10% was happening, that’s when we first discussed where to take things,” she said. “I then put the question on our services survey to kind of gauge students’ desire. My question on the services survey was ‘would you be in favour of an increase to see a similar level of [transportation] service, or no increase and see a reduction of service’.”
The results from the services survey demonstrated that the numbers of those willing to pay the increased price were “overwhelmingly positive.” Thus, the question was added to the election referendum.
The comments from Milne were obtained when the result of the referendum was unsure, so she explained both possibilities. If a majority voted in favour, as it did, a similar level of service would be maintained, though the bus schedules would not necessarily remain exactly the same.
In preparation for responding to the cost increase the services survey was used to gain student opinion on the current service, and a two week count of usage was requested from the city. With these, the goal was to determine the most valuable bus routes and times so that the least used could be eliminated first in cost-saving measures.
“One run for an academic year costs about $8,000. We want to be sure that where the busses are placed are actually being well utilized,” said Milne.
The TCSA is well aware that the Monday to Friday 7am to 7pm service with three busses on each bank each doing two rounds per hour and stopping every 10 minutes is well used, and therefore changes there would be unlikely. Other bus times that are less used, however, would be more likely to be cut if necessary.
“We’re always cognitive of the fact that our main goal is getting students to and from their classes safely,” said Milne, suggesting that cuts would first be made to times outside of class schedules, such as weekends, evenings, and late nights.
With the results now in and a majority voting in favour of increasing the fees, Monday March 23 will mark the beginning of the more in-depth planning of the bus services for the summer and the next school year, but there will be fewer changes to be made than there would have been had the vote turned out differently.