TTC board approves U-Pass, student referendum still needed

Photo by David Lao

The Toronto Transit Commission board has approved a new discounted Metropass for full-time post-secondary students. The board voted unanimously in favour of implementing the U-Pass.

The Universal Pass (U-Pass) will provide students unlimited access to the TTC during the academic year for a lesser cost than the current Post-Secondary Metropass, which costs $116.75 a month.

“This is so so incredible,” said Daniel Lis, Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) vice-president of education. “We’ve been working on this for over a year. It’s just incredible to see that with hard work comes results.”

It is now up to the student unions of Ryerson University, the University of Toronto St. George, OCAD University and George Brown College to hold referendums to make the pass a reality for students.

Lis said that he thought the board would vote “yes” to the pass. He said that he believes it’s likely for the referendum to pass at Ryerson.

If approved, students will have to pay an additional $280 every semester, working out to $70 a month, toward their tuition to pay for the pass. The TTC board is able to offer the more affordable Metropass by making it mandatory for all full-time students to pay the monthly fee, there will be an option for students to opt out on a case-by-case basis. Those be handled by the university.

Lis said the pass is long overdue for students.

He had helped conduct an online survey in cooperation with the TTC and the four post-secondary institutions about student ridership. The TTC reported that 95 per cent of the 16,000 students who were surveyed use the public transit system.

“Every city in Canada that has a university has a U-Pass except for the ones in Toronto. Especially with how big our commuter base is and how small our residency is, it’s surprising that it’s taken us this long, but it’s better late than never,” said Lis.

University of Toronto’s St. George campus has already initiated their referendum and is on track to becoming the first of the four schools to implement the U-Pass. If Ryerson decides to move forward with the pass, they will be entering into a four-year contract with the TTC.

The U-Pass is designed to be “cost-neutral,” with $65 going to pay for transit and the remaining $5 allocated for TTC improvements. TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said the pass will lead to an increase in ridership and revenue for the TTC.

Arthur Borkwood, head of customer development for the TTC, said that there is a possibility that the same photo ID students use with their monthly student metropass will be allowed for use with the U-Pass.

The pass will either be available at a designated station or on campuses.

Some Ryerson students see the pass as a much needed financial relief.

Claudia Alonzo, a second-year engineering student, has been commuting for years. She said the new cost is, “a little extra, but it’s not [so] expensive that it’s not fair [for students who don’t commute].”

Sameet Zainab, a second-year nutrition student who commutes from Brampton, Ont., said her commute costs about $400 per month.

Like many students, Zainab has a low-paying part-time job.

“Since I have a full-time course load I can’t work that much, so my paycheck is basically going towards my commute all the time,” she said.

Should Ryerson students approve the U-Pass proposal, the university could offer it as early as fall 2019.

 

By Matthew Chin 

and Teresa Donato

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