All aboard the Magic School Bus!

By Associate Editor Natalie Gates

’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to getting to school. I strongly believe in promoting public transit, biking, and walking—especially since Nanaimo is going to be receiving a “transit upgrade” by implementing the allegedly more environmentally friendly Compressed Natural Gas powered buses. But this year, I’ve been driving to school for the first time.

I live close enough to school that I could make it there in about 20-30 minutes. But I don’t finish until dark and would rather not trek home through the woods at 7:30 by myself. Plus, of course, there are those days you are just unavoidably rushed AF and 20 minutes is not doable.

Thus, I have realized a whole other struggle that hundreds of VIU students deal with each day. Parking.

Determined to save money, for the fall semester I joined the folks who park across the highway on College Drive for free, and trek down to classes (and back up at 7pm at night, alone in the dark…). But this semester, the steel water supply main construction on that road is extending far past its original deadline, thus cutting off the majority of the parking for most of the semester. Plus, last year, they closed off that gravel lot right by the highway many students used to park in.

So I caved and coughed up $150 for a semester parking pass (after spending $40 on day parking in the belief that the construction would be done in time…). If I hadn’t made that $40 mistake, I still would have been saving money over a bus pass.

Which brings me to the question: why doesn’t VIU include a bus pass in student dues? Camosun College, UVic, and Capilano, among many others, all do this, with the average cost around $80 a semester. Students (at some of these schools) who would still rather drive or walk, have the option to opt-out—just as VIU students do with health coverage.

The price for a student bus pass at VIU? $176.

It’s more expensive than a parking pass. Yes, if you decide to not have a car at all, you save a lot on insurance and gas, but the students driving to school don’t have cars just for getting to school. They often have them to get all over the Island, and beyond. A bus pass at this price would be an expensive add-on for them.

Of course, busing in Nanaimo is nothing like in a bigger city, such as Victoria, where all routes are frequent and dependable. Here, it might take you at least 45 minutes on a bus that would take you 10 minutes to drive. Getting to the ferry on the bus from anywhere but downtown is a pain and a half. The one route that goes by my house runs once an hour (if I’m lucky). Nanaimo’s transit system is worthy of a whole other editorial, but, since the “quality” is so much lower than other cities, shouldn’t students be paying less?

Parking is—for lack of a better term—a shit-show at most universities. You wind up driving around in circles for often at least half an hour before you finally make that glorious, crazed eye contact with the kid walking back to his car and snag his spot before that girl in the yellow Volkswagen Beetle can pull a fast one on you. You end up breezing into class 15 minutes late and just as sweaty as you would have been if you’d ran to school.

And the state of VIU parking may only get worse as enrolment increases. Plus, the new Health and Science centre is being built on Parking Lot D, which is currently short-term pay parking. This might mean more permit parking is sacrificed to replace short-term parking.

Don’t get me wrong, I think improved amenities for science students is more important than a few parking spots. And I think we should be bussing more. Yet, for many people, it’s hard to argue given the (lack of) value of passes. But, if it were to save you money by being included at a reduced rate in your student fees, benefit the environment, save you the stress of finding a parking spot, and still get you to school dry and without breaking a sweat, would you do it?

I know I would.


Now in her fourth and final year of a political studies major and journalism minor, Natalie has been on The Nav team for about two years. When she’s not brainstorming stories or studying, she’s usually on her yoga mat, going for a hike, listening to Springsteen, or fantasizing about what to cook for dinner.