‘U-commute’ transit pass a possibility for Toronto students?

Four downtown Toronto student unions campaign for discounted transit passes

Almost 10 years have passed since the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) brought a plan for a unique student transit pass to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). This year, the students’ union is trying again.

While many universities and colleges across Ontario provide discounted transit passes as part of their tuition, students attending post-secondary schools in Toronto don’t have the same perks. For many of the more than 40,000 undergraduate students at the University of Toronto, the TTC is the only accessible means of transportation.

Automatic transit passes

McMaster University in Hamilton, just an hour outside of Toronto, has a yearly bus pass automatically paid for in each student’s tuition. Durham College has a bus pass for students in Oshawa; a similar pass is also available to the 10,000 or more students enrolled at neighbouring University of Ontario Institute of Technology. The UTSU wants Toronto students to have the same opportunity.

UTSU has joined forces with other downtown students unions to work on a new transit pass option. The Ontario College of Art and Design, Ryerson University and George Brown College were all contacted in May 2017.

UTSU’s vice president, Anne Boucher, tells the Toronto Observer how the U-Commute idea was created.

“The U-Commute campaign was limited to the downtown schools since the four schools have similar transit patterns,” Boucher said in an e-mail on Sept. 21.

“I knew we’d have to join forces with other students, and thought a downtown-wide effort would be strong and effective,” she said.

UTSU has posted a survey on its Facebook page and also on Reddit, asking if this transit pass is something students want as part of their tuition.

Transit negotiations

The monthly student Metropass which the TTC currently offers to all post secondary students, costs $116.75.

“The U-Pass would offer [the TTC] a stable and anticipatable income from students,” Boucher said. “It would allow them to know precisely how much money to expect from our students.”

U-Commute is still in the early stages and will be, until UTSU holds a student vote on whether to add this transit pass as part of tuition fees.

At this time, the TTC has not been formally contacted about this plan, but transit officials don’t expect their current policy will change quickly, if at all.

“The TTC has no plans to introduce a new pass,” TTC spokesman, Brad Ross said.

“Any change to the existing pass structure would need to be made by the TTC board,” Ross said. “Staff have not been asked to look at the [U-Commute] for their consideration.”

University of Toronto student Clara Rebello was excited when she heard about U-Commute.

“It would be super beneficial and convenient for students, especially because of how often we commute in the GTA,” Rebello said.

UTSU will show the proposal to TTC board members, in the coming months.

“The biggest hurdle we will face [with the TTC] is price negotiations,” Boucher said.