University of the Fraser Valley students are putting the wheels in motion to develop their own bus route after years of pressuring Abbotsford and Chilliwack to establish a public transit link between the two cities.
UFV's Student Union Society hopes to hire a private shuttle bus to transport students between the Abbotsford and Chilliwack campuses as of September 2013.
The SUS will hold an online referendum in early March on the initiative, which would cost students an additional $6.75 per semester.
The university will also contribute 40 per cent of the cost of the project.
SUS president Shane Potter said students, particularly those whose programs have been transferred to the new Canada Education Park in Chilliwack, have borne the additional cost of finding transportation between the campuses given there are no public transit options available.
"We have students that have to take classes in Chilliwack . . . and they can't afford a car to get out there," said Potter.
"It's a huge disadvantage for lower-income students."
With the service, students with cars would also save money on gas and parking costs, and the environment would benefit, he said.
The 35-seat shuttle would make 10 runs a day between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The pilot project will run a year before it is analyzed and goes back to referendum.
However, the UFV bus is meant to be a temporary solution until the cities of Abbotsford and Chilliwack develop a permanent public transit option, said Potter.
Students have lobbied Abbotsford and Chilliwack for the inter-city transit route for years, he said.
"It's kind of disappointing that it has come to students funding their own transportation option in partnership with UFV, instead of the cities coming together and solving the much needed public transportation problem."
Potter said 16,000 students attend the separate campuses, but it's not yet clear how many would take advantage of the shuttle.
"But the fact students are taking it into their own hands speaks to the necessity of the route," he said.
Abbotsford Coun. Simon Gibson, chair of the Mission Abbotsford Transit Committee, said an inter-city route with Chilliwack was examined but not considered financially viable.
"It is something identified in our long-term plan, but right now the focus is on local service. Even routes to the west of us are more viable financially than going to the east," said Gibson.
It's not clear there would be enough ridership, especially during non-peak hours or the summer semester, to justify the cost of the bus, he said.
A number of private enterprises have attempted to service a route between the two cities but have failed due to a lack of passengers, he noted. However, if the proposed UFV shuttle bus gets a good response, MATC might reconsider, said Gibson.
"If the system proposed by the students is overwhelmingly successful, I'm sure the transit committee would be persuaded to take another look at the route."