The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) and the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students (APUS) are lobbying the University of Toronto administration to provide a permanent shuttle bus service between UTSC and the St. George campus. The two unions pooled their resources to run a free shuttle service on January 13.
The bus made three round trips between the two campuses. “We had a really great turnout,” said Yasmin Rajabi, SCSU vice president, external. “Our buses were at capacity going to the St. George Campus. Many students actually could not get on the bus due to such high demand.” Rajabi told The Varsity that because of the growing number of students at the Scarborough campus, many UTSC students have resorted to studying or taking classes at the St. George campus due to a lack of space at UTSC. She also noted that UTSC students pay for services available at the St. George campus, such as Hart House and academic resources. “We pay some of the highest tuition fees in Canada, and deserve a basic service like a shuttle bus in return,” said Rajabi.
A shuttle between UTSC and UTSG ran more than a decade ago, but the service was discontinued due to low demand. Currently, such a service only exists between UTM and the St. George campus. The shuttle bus is free of charge for UTM students, who fund the service with an annual fee; each ride costs $6 for non-UTM students.
Although U of T’s Governing Council discussed the prospect of reviving the UTSC shuttle in 2013 and 2014, UTSC chief administrative officer Andrew Arifuzzaman told The Varsity that the university has no plans to re-implement a shuttle service for UTSC. He explained that the shuttle between UTM and the St. George is viable because UTM is in the City of Mississauga, which is not connected to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). The UTSG-UTM shuttle service has the ability to take members of the public on the bus, which means there is a “business case” for the service.
“The university should be more creative in developing business cases,” said Rajabi, noting that York University provides a shuttle service funded by the university’s operating budget between the Keele and Glendon campuses, both of which are within the City of Toronto. “The University of Toronto can look to York University as a leader in providing this essential service.”
Arifuzzaman also pointed out the prevalence of traffic congestion along the Don Valley Parkway and said that a shuttle bus would be “not much faster than what you currently have around bus connections.”
“During our shuttle bus campaign event we actually timed the buses for the very same reason,” said Rajabi. According to Rajabi, the trip between the two campus took 30 minutes during non-peak hours and a maximum of one hour during rush hour. “The TTC alternative… is a significantly longer ride. Students have stated countless times that the commute between the campuses is very mentally and physically draining. I encourage administrators to take the TTC between campuses to better understand the reality of students, TAs, and faculty,” Rajabi said.
Arifuzzaman explained that the university would continue to work with the TTC to improve public transit in the area. He pointed out the 198 U of T Scarborough Rocket, which is an express bus route launched last year that travels between Kennedy Station and UTSC. “…[T]hat, for us, has seen a significant improvement from what was previously here,” said Arifuzzaman. “We continue to work with the TTC to see if there are any further improvement that we can make on that bus line to reduce the number of stops that exist between the campus and the subway station. And we’re also very active in the City of Toronto in trying to advocate for additional bus routes.”