Dear Niagara College Transit Riding Students,
We get it and we understand your issues! Your Niagara College Student Administrative Council (NCSAC), wants to fix the problem too.
We know the easy answers to the transit issues. Add more buses on routes between 7am-9am and 3pm-5pm, increase the frequency of buses during peak times, use bigger buses to transport more students and spread classes out so students are not all starting at 8:30am and ends at 4:20pm.
Please don’t think for a second that we haven’t thought of or tried these easy fixes. Here’s why some of those easy fixes aren’t so easy…
Budget (no, your tuition dollars don’t pay for transit)
Your Niagara College Student Administrative Council (NCSAC) is comprised of students just like yourself, and as your Student Government and number one student advocacy group on campus we understand that school is expensive. As International students you often pay over $12,000 for your academic year. As a Domestic student, you pay $4,000 – $12,000 per year depending on your program. In addition, you have to purchase textbooks, meals and some of you have to pay for housing.
Not to mention, the issue of transportation.
You also pay ancillary fees to NCSAC. You pay:
Your Student Activity Fee: which is used to operate your Student Centres including the services, events and businesses within them
Your Health and Dental Plan fee: which covers you for Health and Dental Insurance situations at a fraction of the cost of private health care
Your CSA fee: which pays for your membership to a provincial advocacy organization that NCSAC relies on for advocating for you in regards to tuition, OSAP, transportation and other important student issues
Your U-Pass fee: $177.46 for 8 months, or $88.73 if you’re with us for 4 months.
With NCSAC being a not-for-profit organization, we create operating budgets that are audited each year by KPMG, a reputable external auditing firm. We mention this, as within our guidelines, we have to use the $120 annual Student Activity Fee to pay for student activities and your services, events and businesses within. Likewise, when it comes to transit, we have to use the revenues from the $177.46 annual U-Pass, or in some cases $88.73 for the 4 month pass, to pay for all transit related expenses. We aren’t allowed to be taking from the Student Activity Fees to pay for Transit or vice-versa. So, what we’re saying, is that your tuition dollars aren’t able to be used to pay for transit, your health and dental fees are not able to be used to pay for transit and neither is your student activity fee. The only money we are able to use for transit, is the U-Pass fee that students pay.
So, now that you know the funds that are able to be used for transit, let’s discuss our U-Pass budget and financial situation. Here is the revenue situation over the past 3 years. Here are the revenues from previous years:
$1,757,006 in 2013-2014
$1,803,780 in 2014-2015
$1,982,242 in 2015-2016
over $2,000,000 in 2016-2017
Sounds like a lot of money…right?!
In those years, here are our transit expenses:
$1,812,171 in 2013-2014
$1,856,286 in 2014-2015
$2,268,000 in 2015-2106
exceed $2,300,000 in 2016-2017
We’ll do that math for you…that’s losses of:
$55,165 in 2013-2014
$52,506 in 2014-2015
$285,758 in 2015-2016
The truth is, the revenues for the U-Pass, the way they are structured right now, are not enough to deliver the service that we offer. This means that there is literally no extra money left in the U-Pass bank account in order to add additional buses without seriously depleting other sources.
So, the easy answer to this, is charge students more money for the U-Pass. NCSAC is regulated through our referendum agreement with you, the students of Niagara College to a maximum increase of 5% of our entire U-Pass fee. We’ve increased the fee to the maximum each year for the past 6 years and this still isn’t enough to keep up with our contractual agreements with our 6 transit providers, therefore putting us at a further deficit each year. So the easy answer there is, we can’t charge you enough extra at this point to cover our costs under our current referendum agreement!
Have the drivers come at different times and adjust schedules!
Although this sounds like an easy alternative, it’s not. NCSAC works with 6 different transportation providers to facilitate transit to and from Niagara College campuses. They are Welland Transit, Niagara Falls Transit, Niagara on the Lake Transit, St Catharines Transit, Niagara Regional Transit and sometimes even custom shuttles from private providers.
Although these providers often want to work with us to solve the issues, they are also responsible to answer to their community members (Trust us, we know that you’re community members too. We were referring to those community members who don’t attend school and use transit for work, groceries or other personal reasons). They advertise transit schedules for community member’s months in advance and major last minute changes to their regular routes aren’t always possible.
This leads to NCSAC having to schedule custom routes for students or add buses to existing routes, which funnels back to the issues of funding above!
So, how do we fix it?
Let us just say that we understand why you need the system fixed. You rely on transit to get you to school and into your classrooms; it isn’t safe to have you pushing and shoving to get on buses; you pay for the service and it should work for you.
Advocacy takes time and we know you’re only here for only 2 or 3 years. You want fixes to the system now and so do we!
Please understand that we have been working tirelessly here at NCSAC through bus stop stakeouts, fielding complaints in person, over the phone and through email, talking to students, asking for feedback in actual transit lines and we understand your issues.
What we’re trying to say, is that if there was a quick and easy fix to this system, we would have implemented it. We are working to solve the issues behind the scenes and felt the need to write this letter because we want you to understand that you aren’t alone in your frustration, anger and disappointment towards the system. We here at NCSAC are in this with you as we work forward to find a resolution.
We understand that the Niagara Falls hub (Morrison/Dorchester) is challenging in the morning. The buses are full, it’s creating pushing and shoving and it isn’t safe!
In order to alleviate some of the congestion and to transport students to school safely and effectively, we have added additional buses to the #21 route from Niagara Falls (Morrison/Dorchester) to the Welland campus and addition buses from the Welland campus to Niagara Falls at the end of your school day.
Beginning Thursday, January 19th, there will be additional trips to campus in the morning at 8am and 9am. In order to ensure that those additional students can get home at the end of their school day, we have added additional buses from the Welland campus to Niagara Falls at 3pm, 4pm and 5pm.
Please understand that this additional service cost over $36,000, which as stated above, is money that the UpPass bank account does not have.
This means that it was not an easy decision to make and long term changes still need to happen in order to make this service sustainable.
In order to advocate for you and create a sustainable service we need your input in a productive, factual manner, so that we can find a solution that works for as many students as possible. If leaving a comment, please indicate the city you live in, the campus you’re heading to and the bus number you’re talking about.
Your Niagara College Student Administrative Council