The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) passed a motion to hold a referendum for UTSG members to establish a new U-Pass fee of up to $322.50 per session, or approximately $80.60 per month, at a Board of Directors meeting on February 24.
UTSU President Mathias Memmel confirmed the fee would be no higher than $80.60 per month, compared to $116.75 per month for a Metropass. Should the referendum succeed, the fee would be established at a TTC board meeting on March 20.
The motion approved the referendum question, which requests that the UTSU board be authorized to increase the fee by up to five per cent per year to account for increases in administrative and transit costs.
Students would not be able to opt out of the fee. UTSU Vice-President External Anne Boucher said the union pushed for that option but was unsuccessful in securing the choice. “We’d even suggested a distance-based opt-out, but there was no take,” she told The Varsity. “It was made very clear to us by TTC stakeholders that an opt-out would not be possible if U of T students wanted a U-Pass.
“It’s a price some of us will have to warm up to, but given all factors, it’s the best price we could have ever hoped for.”
Faculty of Medicine Director Donald Wang was critical of the motion to hold the referendum. Wang asked how the board could ask students to vote when the UTSU has not yet come to an official agreement with the TTC regarding the exact cost of the U-Pass. Memmel confirmed that there is “no scenario” in which the UTSU would begin collecting fees without having a contract in place with the TTC.
“It’s not a perfect situation,” said UTSU Vice-President Internal Daman Singh during the meeting. “In a perfect situation, we’d have a full contract drafted.”
Wang also worried that the agreement with the TTC would not be in accordance with the UTSU’s Bylaw XIX.b on Autonomy, which states that the UTSU “shall not enter into any perpetual agreement that cannot be terminated by a vote of the Board of Directors.”
Memmel claims that the contract with the TTC will not be perpetual and will be fully compliant with UTSU bylaws and policies.
Beginning next week, the UTSU will be updating its website, postering, and publishing ads ahead of the March 5 deadline to give notice of the referendum. Memmel told The Varsity that, before voting, students can expect to know how U-Pass distribution will work, what expenses will be incurred, and what arrangements can be made for students in “unique situations,” including students in second-entry professional programs.
Students can also expect more information regarding the U-Commute survey, which ran from August 28 to September 28 last year. Boucher confirmed that some of the information gathered in the survey includes that 74.32 per cent of U of T students use transit to get to class, 84.63 per cent of U of T students use transit for other travel, and 98.25 per cent of U of T students use the TTC.
The UTSU, along with student unions from Ryerson University, OCAD University, and George Brown College, has been in negotiations with the TTC since summer 2017. The TTC board voted unanimously in favour of a U-Pass on December 11, 2017.