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Students who are familiar with the old bus pass sticker will have to adjust to a two-card system for the 2015-16 academic year.

In the past, the bus pass was designated a section of the validation sticker on the front of every student ID card. This year, in order to take advantage of their $138.65 Hamilton Street Railway bus pass fee, students will be required to have a secondary card with the last three digits of their student number.

Students will have a grace period extending until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 21 where both the old sticker and the new bus pass will be accepted. Afterwards, students will be required to pick up the secondary bus card from one of the campus bookstores in order to freely board any HSR transit.

“Over time, we’ve looked to becoming more efficient around our processes,” said University Registrar Melissa Pool on the change to a second, physical card.

“I think everyone thought that the sticker equates the bus pass, but it was really a part of broader processes that we’ve moved away from.”

Where the validation sticker once served multiple purposes, the HSR bus pass remains the last vestige of a sticker that was originally intended for other reasons. The majority of those services have since gone electronic, and so the university has been looking for alternatives for several years.

According to MSU VP (Finance) Daniel D’Angela, while the new system is not specifically based on any one system, schools like the University of Western Ontario were examined to understand how the distribution and implementation process would work.

John McGowan, Business Manager with the McMaster Students Union, explained that the change was also an indication of future goals between the MSU, HSR, and various other partners.

“Longer term, there’s been discussions with Presto and the HSR […] about having a solution that’s based on the Presto card,” said McGowan. “I think that’s the ideal solution.”

But some of the changes behind implementing the new bus pass remain unclear. For example, the secondary card does not appear to be more secure than the previous sticker method, since the final three digits on the bus card are simply written in Sharpie.

The largest point of contention is the drastic increase in the replacement cost of lost or stolen bus passes. In the past, a replacement would cost students $30. Now an initial replacement fee will cost $100, with each subsequent replacement running students $150.

Nancy Purser, HSR’s Manager of Transit Support Services, explained how the replacement fee emphasizes the value of the card to each student.

“It’s basically a highly reduced transit pass that’s good for 12 months, and it represents over a thousand dollars in transit fares,” she said.

“We should have done this a long time ago; however, the replacement fee represents that this card has a lot of value.”

Yet D’Angela explained that the MSU recognizes that the cost of replacement is uncomfortable for many students, and remains a point of discussion for the future.

“We’re still looking at ways to bring the price down […] because I think $100 is very, very cost-prohibitive for students, and I don’t think it’s fair for students to have to pay that $100 if they lose something,” said D’Angela. “Steps should be taken to prevent fraud, but I think when it’s not fair to students, that’s when it’s a problem.”

The replacement fee increase in particular has angered several students, and a group identifying themselves as the Student Mobilization Syndicate has initiated an online petition entitled “Stop the Replacement Fee Hike for Bus Passes.”

Kathleen Quinn, a third year Political Science student and one of the organizers of the petition, explained that the replacement fee increase is not a fair cost to expect students to cover.

“Our position is pretty reasonable: we’re asking that the fee be reduced to either last year’s $30, like when you had your sticker with the student card, or something in line with the cost of making and administering the card,” she explained.

As of Wednesday, Sept. 9, the online petition has reached 853 supporters. Although McGowan explained that the HSR is endeavoring to look at each issue for replacement on a case-by-case basis, Quinn stated that she was against any kind of an exemption-based system.

“When you have an exemption system, it’s two-tiered, and that’s not right, because everyone pays the same amount. And I also think it’s an invasion of privacy if these sorts of guidelines make you prove financial need, make you prove these things,” she said.

Those involved have echoed that the current implementation of the bus passes this year is a pilot project. Both McGowan and D’Angela reiterated that the MSU’s goal is to minimize the replacement cost to students, in a fair and equitable manner.

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