Need a good reason to jack up the price of valuable service, but don’t have a good excuse to do so? There’s a simple way to get what you want. Make a survey that skews the data in your favour, share it in a less than forthright way, and you’ll have the perfect justification to raise prices. That’s what ETS has done in order make their proposed U-Pass cost hikes seem legitimate. But there are a few problems with their method of data collection which should make their survey results invalid.
Currently, students pay $140 per semester for the U-Pass — which provides unlimited transit access in Edmonton for the four-month period in which it’s valid. However, ETS has recently proposed an increase in cost which would see it priced at $171.42 per semester. This value was determined by an ETS survey, in which it is estimated that the average U-Pass user makes about 47 trips per month. However, that’s only an estimate, and the concrete numbers have not been released. A FOIP request has been filed by the Students’ Union in order to see those results.
ETS also had external company The Mustel Group administer an independent survey, which interviewed 2,500 students in line to get their U-Pass, as well as an online survey. The Mustel Group determined that students made roughly 38-41 trips per month.
Although it does seem like both sides are amicably trying to come to an agreement, the fact that ETS created a biased survey that specifically targets regular transit users in order to get larger numbers should raise a few eyebrows.
The ETS survey was conducted at bus stops and transit centres. Of course they’re more likely to find people that regularly depend on Edmonton public transit to get around — which in turn makes the average trip metric a lot higher and gives them the justification to raise the U-Pass prices. It fails to take into account students who live on or near by campus, students who regularly drive and students who otherwise don’t rely heavily on transit to get around the city.
Likewise, with the Mustel Group survey, students in line to get their pass create biased results that lean in ETS’ favour. Every student in line is going to say that they use their pass quite frequently — that’s why they’re in line the first place. The online component is just as biased. Once again, students who use the pass have a vested interest and are going to go out of their way to fill out a survey that states how valuable the U-Pass is to them.
When it comes to the cost, the U-Pass Advisory board has come to the table with the much more agreeable proposal of tying the cost of the U-Pass to the cost of the Municipal Price Index. Currently, it’s tied the Consumer Price Index which Vice President (Student Life) Saadiq Sumar says fails to take into account the price of fuel and other costs realted to transit. And although the price is a bit higher than CPI, MPI is a fair way to go when it comes to raising the price.
According to Sumar, transit providers are open to the proposal of tying the cost to MPI, but are not willing to reconsider the trip metric in order to accurately reflect the true number of regular U-Pass users. However, ETS must come to peace with the advisory board and create a truly independent and unbiased survey. It would make sense to talk to a wide number of students all over campus in order to get accurate results. Interviewing students on Quad, in SUB or any other area frequented by a large number of students would see a range of people who depend on the U-Pass as well as those who don’t.
Until a truly unbiased survey is conducted, ETS has no solid numbers or credibility to stand on during these negotiations.
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