ANTHEA WEI/THE VARSITY

The referendum to establish a $280 per semester U-Pass transit fee for undergraduate UTSG students has failed to pass. A total of 12,428 students voted in the referendum, 306 of whom abstained. Of those who voted ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ 7,946 students — 65.6 per cent — voted against the proposed pass, and 4,176 students — 34.4 per cent — voted for it.

If passed, the TTC would have established a semesterly universal transit pass. The UTSU Board of Directors would have been able to increase the fee by up to five per cent per year to cover rising administrative and transit costs, up to $322.50 per session.

The U-Pass would not have had an opt-out option except for those students whose needs were protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code and restricted their ability to use transit.

“The outcome of the referendum is a strong indication that a UPASS without opt-out provisions for those students living near campus is not sellable,” said University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) President Mathias Memmel in an email to The Varsity. “Transit and housing remain significant barriers to affordable and accessible post-secondary education for our diverse student body.”

“We look forward to working constructively with both provincial parties and City Council in advance of the upcoming election. We also hope to continue our productive conversations with the TTC Board,” he added. 

Donald Wang, speaking on behalf of a ‘no’ campaign against the pass, wrote to The Varsity that it’s clear students do want a U-Pass, but not in this form. “The U-Pass, proposed and pursued with the best of intention by a group of student leaders, aimed to bring cheaper transportation to all students. However, in this referendum, the student body has spoken loud and clear – the U-Pass in its current form is unacceptable.”

“These election results show that it can’t just be subsidization of Toronto residents. The students want options to opt-out and the integration of the GO transit system. A better approach would see greater consultation and a slower, more thorough process. I hope the UTSU executives, current and incoming, are able to listen and advocate for the best of our collective student body.”

Speaking on behalf of U-Commute, which ran a ‘yes’ campaign, U of T student Aidan Swirsky told The Varsity, “We respect students’ decision, which was heard loud and clear, and hope the newly elected UTSU will build off this result and address the many criticisms heard during this cycle and throughout the year, if they wish to further explore the U-Pass.”

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