Capilano left students without a ride home
// Julia Barros

Sometimes being a student at Cap is the pits. We’ve all experienced the long cashier lineups and the overbooked advisors, but this term an even more glaring error was made on the part of the University administration: the changes to the U-Pass this year involved every student being re-issued a new Cap Card, and for some reason, it was decided that they wouldn’t be handed out until the very last day of the month.

If you take the bus, you may have felt anger and frustration while waiting in line at the Cap Card centre on August 31, and with reason. The line started more than an hour before the centre opened, and was cut off more than two and a half hours before they closed, with the line going all the way up the stairs and onto the sidewalk outside.

The U-Pass, if you aren't familiar, is a transit pass that charges students $30 (up-front, in a lump-sum through their student fees) for access to transit service including the bus, SeaBus, and skytrain services within Metro Vancouver, as well as discounts on the West Coast Express.

The U-Pass is essential for any Capilano student in the Lower Mainland. It allows students from outside the walkable North Vancouver area to get to Capilano for class, bus to work, and then bus home again, for a price that doesn't leave one with the decision of whether to pick school or food for the week.

For example, a two-zone transfer costs $3.75 each way and expires after only an hour and a half, which is not enough time to attend any class. This makes a daily trip to North Van worth upwards of $7.50.

One new student, Nora Waters*, is making an astonishing commute. She lives and works in Gibsons, but due to an over-populated Sechelt Campus, she must attend all her classes in North Vancouver.

With a car, the commute from Gibsons to Capilano in the morning takes an hour and 42 minutes, which includes a ferry trip. Without a car, which is the case for Waters, it's two and a half hours or more. With her living on the coast and going to school in North Van, it was a serious inconvenience to have the delay in getting her Cap Card and U-Pass.

“I have to go back to work in Gibsons, so I can't even wait in line, because it's over an hour and a half [long],” she explains. “I have to pay to take the bus home.. I have to bus back tomorrow really early to go to class and try to pick up my card again before that,” says Waters, exasperated.

This is the new system that was supposed to make things more convenient for students. The issue, however, is not with the U-Pass. On the contrary, the U-Pass vending machines in the Library and Birch buildings had no long lines at all, as the swipe system dispensed the pass very quickly. It was the organization and distribution of the new student cards that made the whole thing a catastrophe. The University already had the computers, printers, cameras and the trained staff, so why did it take so long before the Cap Cards could be issued?

Would it have been so difficult to offer an earlier date for students to have their cards taken care of? The only help that was offered was for returning students, who could wait in a shorter lineup and get their card printed with their old picture, although it was not officially announced that this was an option. Many returning students were turned away at the end of the line and left without knowing. Many others waited for hours when they would have been happy to take the shorter option.

This information could have been sent out far earlier than the last day of August. Students could have ordered cards with their pictures from the year prior if desired, and those IDs could have been handed out at a separate location from the Cap Card centre, where the priority should have been the new students. This would have, at the very least, aided in the wait time for new students to the school who needed to have pictures taken, as well as smooth the process for returning students.

Even if there was a solid reason that it had to happen right on the last day of the month, it could have been planned and handled in a much more effective manner.

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

// Julia Barros

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com