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The Daily Tar Heel

Congress Takes Steps Toward Free Busing

The resolution calls for a referendum to be placed on the Feb. 13 Student Elections ballot that would give students a say on whether to accept an increase in student fees in return for the free service.

If passed by students, there will be an $8.49 increase in student fees per semester for the fall and spring terms and an increase of $1.49 per credit hour for the summer sessions.

The plan is the brainchild of Student Body President Brad Matthews, who included the project on his platform during his campaign last year. "We wanted to create a way for students to use the bus system without paying the high prices that exist with the current system," Matthews said.

Under the proposed plan, all current Chapel Hill Transit buses would be converted to buses that operate similar to the U bus in that no fare would be charged for anyone wanting to use the service.

Several members of Congress expressed concern about UNC students paying for the entire transit system, but Student Body Vice President Lerissa Rentas said it would not be the case.

"We are going to be paying for the amount of service that we use -- no more, no less," Rentas said.

The University will pay for about 40 percent of the transit system. The remainder of the money will come from the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Matthews said.

He cautioned that nothing has been set in stone with the resolution because it all depends on the Town Council's actions after the student vote. "It's a conditional offer, which means the towns have to go along with us," Matthews said. "Just because our students approve this deal doesn't mean that it will happen."

Matthews said Chapel Hill leaders are more willing than those in Carrboro to go along with such a plan.

"I think that it's a very exciting proposition," said Congress Speaker Alexandra Bell. "It could be very beneficial to the students who go here."

Some students said they would vote for the referendum because they would save money in the end. "Although I am normally against any kind of increase in student fees, I do support this particular one because I know that there are a lot of people who live off campus and have to take the bus to get here," said Andrew Dennis, a freshman from Pinopolis, S.C.

A year-round bus pass costs students $250 for unlimited rides on city buses. The proposed charge would greatly reduce the amount that students must pay. "It would cost students a lot less money for the exact same service," Rentas said.

The remainder of the Congress meeting was filled with allocation of funds, confirmation of appointees and consideration of bills.

Groups such as the Hellenic Student Association, THINK Transit and Black Graduate Student Association received money to promote their organizations.

Congress also approved the appointment of former student attorney general staffer Geniene Loucas to the Honor Court. "I would like to establish effective communication between (the attorney general's) staff and the Honor Court," Loucas said. "I know what training the council goes though, and I can see through any antics that they may pull."

One of the more heated bills of the evening dealt with a resolution to abolish exam days on Saturday due to it being the Sabbath. Debate sprang up with others feeling that University policy should treat all religious convictions in the same manner.

Another Congress member then proposed an amendment to the resolution that would allow exams on Sundays. Both versions of the resolution failed with many members feeling that the topic was too controversial for one meeting.

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