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During the SRC's elections February 21-25, 2022, the transit referendum was also conducted. It asked students if they would be prepared to pay a new student fee, beginning this fall, that would automatically provide them with a low-cost Transit Windsor bus pass.

The referendum question saw 1,159 students vote in favour of the creation of the proposed fee, and 284 students vote against it.

The SRC will now review the results of that vote. To be implemented, the new fee must also be approved by the college’s Fee Protocol Committee – a combination of the school’s administration and student organizations.

CAMPUS ELECTION: REFERENDUM ON TRANSIT WINDSOR BUS PASS

On February 8th (2 p.m.) and 17th (4 p.m.), interactive info sessions will be held about a proposal to create a new student fee that would provide a low-cost Transit Windsor bus pass to St. Clair students attending the college's Windsor campuses.

The sessions will be hosted by Student Representative Council President Shubham Sharma.

The implementation of the new student fee - with an opt-out component - will be the subject of a referendum vote during the campus elections taking place from February 21st to 25th.

To participate in the info sessions, register here.

Here is the comprehensive information about the referendum, and the proposed new fee and service:

WHAT IS THE IDEA?

If they approve of the idea during a referendum in late-February of 2022, St. Clair students at Windsor campuses will have a low-cost Transit Windsor bus pass automatically built into their student fees beginning with the Fall 2022 semester (this coming September).

WHY?

For the past several years, St. Clair's Student Representative Council (SRC) has been hearing student concerns about the steep price of bus passes, and the inconvenience associated with having to renew the passes every month. Many students have wondered why the college doesn't have the same automatically-provided, cheap and convenient bus pass built into its fees and services as the University of Windsor (and many other postsecondary institutions throughout Ontario).

Last year, Transit Windsor introduced semester-long passes (four months in duration) costing $274. While that is the lowest rate ever offered by the agency, the SRC thought it could - in conjunction with Transit Windsor - develop an even more attractive package.

Secondarily, the SRC has always reflected the environmental conscience of most college-aged young adults. As such, it believes that making public transit more affordable will help to make it more popular - and, thus, reduce automobile usage and the related pollution.

There are a number of cost-savings tied to the use of public transit too, including reduced wear-and-tear on one's car, fewer visits to the gas station, and no need to purchase a college parking permit.

HOW?

Several months ago, the SRC launched negotiations with Transit Windsor officials to come up with a bus pass for St. Clair.

The deal, ultimately, would have to make sense for both parties.

Transit Windsor required overall financial feasibility and a firmly predicable revenue stream, which could only be calculated based upon a guaranteed minimum number of users.

The SRC (and the students it represents) demanded a fee structure that would be extremely attractive - both to current users of the bus system, and to those who haven't used it regularly (but would if the rate was astoundingly discounted).

WHAT'S IN THIS DEAL FOR THE SRC?

Absolutely nothing. The SRC will receive no portion of this new student fee. The revenues generated will be used in their entirety to pay for the Transit Windsor passes.

The SRC is advocating this idea solely as a new service that it believes will be an immense benefit for a substantial number of students.

WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC DETAILS?

Here's the proposed package that was developed, that will be subject to student review and voting during the referendum in late-February:

Full-time students enrolling for the 2022-23 academic year at the outset of the Fall semester (September of this year) will be assessed a student fee of $274.00. The payment of that fee will entitle them to a Transit Windsor bus pass for one full year (September 1, 2022 to August 31, 2023).

For January-start students (enrolling at the beginning of the Winter semester), an eight-month-long pass will be provided (until the end of August) for $182.00. For May-start students (enrolling at the beginning of the Spring semester), a four-month-long pass will be provided (until the end of August) for $91.00.

These are "universal" passes. They do not restrict ridership to transportation to and from school. They can be used on any day, at any time, to ride on any route, to go to anywhere serviced by Transit Windsor.

HOW ABOUT DOING THE MATH FOR ME?

Here's the mathematical comparison:

As noted above, previously (just this year), the best price that had been offered to students by Transit Windsor was a semester-/four-month-long pass for $274. For a full year, that would mean an expense of $274-times-three: equaling $822.

The newly negotiated package provides a FULL YEAR of ridership for that same $274 ...

... Translating into a "66 Percent Off" sale price ... or "Three For The Price Of One", if you prefer.

WHAT IF I LIVE IN ESSEX COUNTY, IN A COMMUNITY NOT SERVED BY TRANSIT WINDSOR?

Students in this geographical circumstance will have grounds for using the "opt-out" for this fee. Declaring that you live in a community other than Windsor or LaSalle (serviced by Transit Windsor) will entitle you to obtain a refund of the bus pass fee.

Then again, such students can - if they feel it is advantageous to do so - decline the opt-out and keep their pass. Perhaps, for example, a student from Leamington might choose to drive his/her car to Windsor, park at a city friend's house, and then hop on a bus to come to campus (using his/her Transit Windsor pass). That would, after all, eliminate the need to purchase a college parking pass. Maybe such individuals would find other cost-savings associated with the ability to move around the city on buses during the day. Anyway, it is an option.

WHAT IF I LIVE IN A TRANSIT WINDSOR-SERVICED AREA, BUT I MUST (FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER) DRIVE MY CAR TO CAMPUS?

That is the second grounds for an opt-out exemption. If you must drive your own vehicle to campus, and have purchased a college parking lot permit, you may also opt-out and receive a refund of the fee.

HOW WILL OPTING-OUT WORK?

Up to 40 percent of a semester's enrolment may opt-out of the new fee, based solely on the two grounds cited above.

The SRC will probably develop an on-line form submission system, which will require those seeking opt-outs to provide documentation (a submitted photo) of their grounds for seeking the exemption. That means either (a) a piece of personal identification or a college registration form bearing a residential address of a municipality not serviced by Transit Windsor, or (b) a college parking permit receipt in the name of the opt-out claimant.

(Note: If a student fits both of those categories - living in a non-serviced county community, and holding a college parking permit - he/she will only have to cite one of the grounds when filing for the opt-out.)

In all cases, opt-outs will be processed on a "first-come/first-served" basis, by a deadline of either September 30 or when the 40 percent cap is reached. (There will be similar deadlines for January- and May-intake enrolment.)

Once that date-deadline or 40 percent limit is reached, no further opt-outs will be allowed for any reason.

WHY 40 PERCENT?

Remember our preliminary comment about the negotiations: that a deal would have to make financial sense for both our students and Transit Windsor?

In the latter's case, the municipal agency had to base its new price structure on some sort of guaranteed minimum level of fee revenue ... and the "feasibility" level that was ultimately agreed upon is that a minimum of 60 percent of students would be provided with the new transportation service.

Many schools with mandatory bus passes of this nature do not allow for any opt-outs, for any reason. Others allow only students living in non-serviced municipalities to opt-out.

The SRC has established considerably more liberal grounds for opting-out by recognizing parking-permit-purchasers - but, nevertheless, the 40 percent cap must be firmly abided by. Again, regardless of one's grounds for seeking the opt-out, the process will operate on a first-come/first-served basis, with the deadline(s) and cap-limit cited above.

WHO? (AND WHEN? AND HOW?)

Who gets to vote in the referendum about whether to implement this new fee/service?

Answer: Any SRC-fee-paying, Windsor-based student - meaning almost every full-time student at the college.

The referendum will be conducted in conjunction with the SRC's annual election for its Executive positions: the President and Vice-Presidents who will lead the council during the 2022-23 year.

That election and the referendum will be conducted on the SRC's section of the Blackboard app, from Monday, February 21 to Friday, February 25.

Students will be notified via the app when voting commences.

... and ...

Who makes the final decision about whether to proceed with the new fee/service?

Answer: The SRC's Board of Directors will examine the referendum's results in detail. It will be looking for a solid level of voter participation, and for a strong level of support for the idea of implementing the new fee/service. Even if a majority of students vote in favour of creating the new fee/service, the SRC may decide not to proceed with the plan if only a couple of hundred students cast votes, or if it is a very close vote. Eventually, if the implementation of the new fee/service is to proceed, it will be have to be the subject of an approved motion by the SRC Board of Directors ...

... And, even then, there will be a secondary review. All new proposed fees must be approved, jointly, during the annual Student Fee Negotiations conducted between student organizations and the college's administration. Therefore, the Transit Windsor bus pass (if it is to proceed) will have to be approved in that setting also.

HOW LONG?

The negotiations between the SRC and Transit Windsor also dealt with the duration of this initial service agreement. It will be in place for three academic years (2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25). At the conclusion of those three years, it may be reviewed, amended and renewed (or not). Its implementation in 2022-23 will be binding on the student fee structure during the subsequent two years.

MIGHT THERE BE ANY OTHER BENEFITS TO THIS ARRANGEMENT?

In a very real way, the implementation of this new fee/service will create a significant partnership relationship between Transit Windsor and the SRC (and the students it represents). The SRC will be in a much better position to lobby for high quality transportation services, including new routes.

WHAT? (EXACTLY?)

The wording of the referendum question will be as follows:

Are you in favour of the implementation of a new student fee, taking effect in the Fall 2022 semester, which would automatically give all students a low-cost Transit Windsor bus pass?

Depending upon a student's start-date, the cost would be $274.00 for an entire year (September 1 to August 31), or $182.00 (January to August), or $91.00 (May to August).

There will be a limited opportunity for students to opt-out (receive a refund) of the paid fee. Grounds for opting-out could include place-of-residence (living in a county community not served by Transit Windsor) and/or the possession of a college parking lot permit.

Opting-out will be on a "first-come/first-served" basis, with a deadline of either September 30 or when the 40 percent cap is reached. (There will be similar deadlines for January- and May-intake enrolment.) Once that date-deadline or 40 percent limit is reached, no further opt-outs will be allowed for any reason.

Yes, I am in favour of the new Transit Windsor bus pass student fee.

No, I am opposed to the new Transit Windsor bus pass student fee.