On August 28, the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) shared a survey across their social media pages to gain data for a new initiative called U-Commute. Partnering with students’ unions from Ryerson University, George Brown College, and OCAD University, the UTSU is hoping to bring Toronto students the U-Pass, an affordable transit pass.
This is not the first time that the UTSU has attempted to get a transit pass for all students at U of T. According to Anne Boucher, Vice-President External of the UTSU, the last push for a transit pass was in 2008.
“I feel like ever since , many of our students had given up on the idea that they could ever have a U-Pass too,” she told The Varsity. “It’s just been assumed for so long that a U-Pass is not viable, when really, it’s just that no one had been trying.”
Transit passes and U-Commute initiatives are not new to Ontario universities. Other schools like McMaster University, Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, and UTM have transit passes included in their tuition costs. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College also have transit passes included in their tuition that give students unlimited use of the Durham Region Transit and GO Transit bus routes within the Durham Region.
It’s these programs that could possibly pave the way for U-Commute Toronto. Ottawa’s transit system, Ottawa City Transpo, saw an “unprecedented” record for ridership after the implementation of the U-Pass.
“Increasing ridership (and therefore fare revenue) is one of the TTC’s goals,” wrote Arthur Borkwood, Head of Customer Development at the TTC, to The Varsity. “Based on experience elsewhere … a U-Pass can increase ridership by 20%.”
When asked how a U-Pass could be detrimental to the TTC, Borkwood wrote that “the only real downside would be potential for lost revenue but that would be balanced by an increase in ridership.”
For students, the cost will be part of their tuition fees. If U-Commute were to pass the referendum, Boucher said that an ancillary fee would be added to everyone’s tuition.
“The idea is that with everyone pooling in, it ends up being cheaper for everyone,” Boucher wrote. “The hope then is for a price that’s as affordable as possible. Of course, we recognize that transit in Toronto is quite unique, and that the negotiations will be tough.”
However, Boucher also believes that the pass will be beneficial for the students.
“The U-Pass is the key to the city – sure, it could get you to class, but it would allow you to explore every corner of the city,” she stated. “Fun restaurants, cool spots, beautiful trails, your friend’s house on the opposite end of the city – getting to these once inaccessible places suddenly becomes a lot easier.”
An unlimited transit initiative could also change the way students with mobility issues navigate campus. Currently, those students use taxis subsidized by Accessibility Services to get around campus. It remains to be seen how transit and transit initiatives will be made more accessible.
The UTSU is urging students to participate in their U-Commute survey.