Sarah Houshmandi’s eyes light up as she contemplates how much cash UTM’s proposed UPass would save her on a weekly basis.
“It’s a lot of money,” the first-year student said. Ten Mississauga Transit tickets cost $21.
From Tuesday through Thursday this week, full-time undergraduates at UTM are voting on a proposal that would give them unlimited rides on Mississauga Transit for an additional $89 in student fees a year, a fee students would not be allow to opt out of.
Currently, full-time students pay $85 a year in UTMSU student fees, and the UPass fee would more than double that amount.
The UPass program would run from Sept. 1 to April 30, starting in the fall.The UPass itself would just be a sticker applied to student cards.
For UTM Student Union vice-president Ryan Singh, the referendum represents the culmination of several years of lobbying and negotiations with Mississauga Transit.
“A unified voice made it happen,” Singh said, crediting the solidarity built between campus student groups on this issue.
According to Singh, a recent UTMSU survey found that around 45 per cent of UTM’s 9,000-odd full-time undergraduates take transit regularly, 35 per cent drive to school regularly, and the remaining 20 per cent oscillate between the two.
When polled on Wednesday, many commuting voters were keen on the UPass proposal, pointing to the savings they would expect to reap. Transit riders currently pay $86 a month for a Mississauga Transit pass.
But the fact that one would not be allowed to opt out of UPass irked some of the students who drive to school.
“I don’t think it’s fair to pay an extra $90 when I’m never going to use it,” said Doha Sabawi, a fourth-year student. “People say driving is a privilege. But when you live that far it’s not a privilege,” Sabawi said. “It’s a necessity.”
Other critics argued that UPass would only half-cover students who bus in across several transit systems from suburbs such as Oakville or Brampton. “That’s a big concern to students,” said Gabriel Didiano, a former UTMSU commissioner.
Didiano said he wished that an opt-out option were included in the UPass proposal. He and his friends have spearheaded a “no” campaign and hopes to prevail-but he’s not holding his breath.
“Looking at the demographics, drivers on campus don’t vote,” he said. “Commuters tend to vote more. They probably have the upper hand.”