With the introduction of the much anticipated U-Pass in September, bus routes have become overcrowded and many university students have been subjected to long waits as buses “fly” by their stop.
The U-Pass, a compulsory $145-per-semester transit pass was approved in a spring 2010 referendum at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa.
But it hasn’t been a happy situation for many transit users. For university students, the U-Pass means more students are taking advantage of public transit. However, with the limited number of buses and stop times on certain routes such as the Somerset Street West bus stops, overcrowding is becoming acute.
“This is one of the many fundamental issues of the U-Pass. If you want to increase the demand of the service you’ve got to increase the provisions of the service,” says mayoral candidate Charlie Taylor, a Carleton University student.
The constant overcrowding, especially in the peak hours of the morning and evening rush, has caused many transit users to be late to work or school.
“I have always managed to catch the bus on time so far, but I have seen the bus zoom by people at bus stops,” says Dana Pizzolato, another Carleton student living on Maclaren street.
“I think they should add long buses because no one is walking anymore, no one’s driving, they’re taking the bus,” says Pizzolato. “I think OC Transpo should have taken into consideration that more people, especially students would be taking the bus more now since the U-Pass is mandatory.”
Somerset Coun. Diane Holmes says she’s been unsuccessful in trying to contact OC Transpo after hearing complaints from other wards.
“There are so many factors that could be creating the issues. It could be the U-Pass and so many students are taking the buses now, or the buses could be breaking down more often,” says Holmes.
Despite overcrowding,some transit users agree that the U-Pass is somewhat beneficial.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction. It certainly has made life less expensive,” says Alyssa O’Dell, a fourth-year Carleton student. However O’Dell says she’s noticed there doesn't seem to be enough buses to compensate for the increased demand for public transit use.
The U-Pass is accepted on all regular bus routes, as well as express and rural. But not many seem to be taking such routes.
“Even though students can ride the express or rural routes without paying extra, students are still sticking to the main transit way routes,” says Nandini Thaker, a University of Ottawa student.
Daniel Di Giovanni, a linguistics and religion student at Carleton, who lives on Cambridge Street, says the U-Pass is really useful despite the fact that he has a car. “However, OC Transpo seems to be totally ignorant of what people want in terms of timings. They only schedule the long buses only when they don’t need them.”
OC Transpo officials were unavailable for comment, but city spokesman Patrick Uguccioni says a handful of complaints relating to the overcrowding buses have been received but there is no particular reason why there is overcrowding on buses.
But many transit users say they feel OC Transpo should give its public transit users better service by adding more buses.