Over 16,000 students complete U-Commute survey

Next steps are meetings with TTC and Metrolinx

Over 16,000 students complete U-Commute survey

 

A total of 16,597 students filled out an online survey for U-Commute, a joint campaign of Toronto student unions that seeks to make the U-Pass — an affordable transit pass for Toronto students — a reality.

The survey, which ran from August 28 to September 28, was shared on the UTSU’s social media pages. It sought to determine if the U-Pass was popular among students and to detect student transit trends essential for future negotiations. Preliminary results of the survey are to be released in the near future.

After the results are in, the next steps for the U-Commute initiative will be meetings with TTC chair Josh Colle and Metrolinx. “Realistically, we need to get the TTC on board first for this pass to work for the majority of our students. We’re working on including GO (Metrolinx) as part of the U-Pass too,” Boucher wrote to The Varsity.

U of T, Ryerson University, OCAD University, and George Brown College — the schools that make up U-Commute — are among the few Ontario post-secondary institutions without transit passes included in their tuition costs. McMaster University, Carleton University, the University of Ottawa, Durham College, and UTM all have transit passes included in their ancillary fees.

The last attempt at securing a U-Pass was in 2008, when a $60 per month, $480 per year, no opt-out plan proposed by the TTC was rejected by the UTSU, after which talks stalled. Since then, there has been willingness on both sides to negotiate. The UTSU has been actively pursuing the U-Pass option, and TTC Head of Customer Development Arthur Borkwood stated that a U-Pass could increase ridership by 20 percent.

As part of this latest push, U-Commute recently held a transit panel discussion that aimed to offer different perspectives on current transit issues that may affect the U-Pass.

Boucher expressed confidence that the current push for a U-Pass will be more successful than the last. “At the end of the day, all [that the TTC] is interested in is ‘will a U-Pass cost us money or will it be profitable,’” she said. “So we’re set to show them how a U-Pass benefits them, not how it benefits us.”

U-Commute panel discussion criticizes public transit, calls for free services

Transportation funding and student fares among main concerns

U-Commute panel discussion criticizes public transit, calls for free services

TTC criticism, alternatives for transportation funding, and student transit were the topics of conversation at an October 20 panel regarding transit in Ontario. The panel included New Democratic Party MPP Cheri DiNovo of Parkdale—High Park, the Green Party of Ontario’s Transportation Critic Tim Grant, Dr. Ehab Diab of the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute, Suhali Barot of transit advocacy group TTCriders, and Moaz Ahmed of transit advocacy group CodeRedTO.The event was organized by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU), in line with its U-Commute campaign with Ryerson University, George Brown College, and OCAD University

DiNovo said that the TTC should consider important changes, including providing its services for free. “Make it at least seniors free, people on social assistance free, people with disabilities of all sorts free, and that’s the very least. I think that the aim should be that everyone should travel for free. The service is a necessity, it is not a luxury.”

The TTC was recently named the best public transit agency in North America by the American Public Transportation Association, largely for its ambitious “five-year modernization plan” the strives to improve many aspects of the TTC, such as public safety, employee relations, financial stability, and public reputation.

Grant highlighted more of what he perceived to be shortcomings by the TTC, such as riders contributing 76 per cent of operating costs, “the highest in North America.” He also implied that its current troubles have been caused by ineffective spending on major transit projects in the last 30 years. Barot criticized the elevated cost of transit and explained that a low-income transit pass is “extremely important in a city where a third of the people make minimum wage.”

With regard to funding alternatives for provincial transportation projects, Grant opined that road tolls are a win-win for both public transit and drivers. On the contrary, DiNovo proposed a “progressive taxation” solution, which would mean taxing large corporations “a little bit more,” seeing as Toronto has “the lowest corporate tax rate of any jurisdiction in North America.” She also hinted that the cost of operating future transit systems could be handled by public-private partnerships.

Free or partially funded student transit was both endorsed by Grant and DiNovo. “The province can show real leadership here by providing a free transit for students, which would be ideal… The province can be somewhat of a facilitator, and if not free, at least pay 50 per cent of the cost of student transit,” said Grant.

DiNovo, who will not seek re-election next year, also stated the importance of student participation in getting cheap transit. “It really requires you to be active and noisy … there’s two elections coming up this year: there’s an election in June, provincial, there’s an election next fall in 2018 for the municipal. If you care about this issue, make sure you know where your candidates stand on it and their parties and make sure that you are there at the all-candidates meeting for [them] to answer questions about your transit.”

The panel was preceded by a presentation of the Draft 2041 Regional Transportation Plan by Metrolinx Director of Regional Planning Antoine Belaieff, which contained the planning decisions required to accommodate transportation growth for the next 25 years in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Belaieff mentioned the challenges currently facing the provincial transportation system, such as the fast-growing population of the GTHA areas and the backlog of investment in the project.