U-Commute is fighting for a universal transit pass for students

Student unions at George Brown, U of T, OCAD and Ryerson join forces to lobby for a student transit pass that is included in student fees

Getting around Toronto and the GTA is getting hard to afford, especially for students.

This is why the Student Association of George Brown College (SA), which funds The Dialog, joined student unions from University of Toronto (U of T), OCAD and Ryerson in a campaign to get a universal transit pass that could make things easier for everyone.

The new campaign is called U-Commute and the goal is to get a discounted universal pass that’s included in student fees, so the students don’t have to worry about the monthly payment. This pass would be available to all students.

According to the report Mapping the World’s Prices 2017, Toronto is the 10th most expensive city for a monthly public transportation pass. Many students know this by experience: getting around and traveling to school is hard to afford.

“A lot of our students come from places that aren’t always in Toronto and we found that the Presto pass has a lot of issues and there’s still a lot of miscommunication going on,” said Tiffany White, the director of education at the SA. “So, to make it easy for students, and because a lot of other schools are already doing it, we are just going to try and get a u-pass here as well.”

Other institutions already have a universal transit pass. Students at Durham College, UOIT and Trent in Oshawa can get a U-Pass that allow them to use the local public transportation and the GO train and buses.

White and other student union leaders met with the TTC chair Josh Colle, to talk about U-commute on Sept. 13. They are also trying to reach Metrolinx and the municipal government to find support.

Stuart Green, senior communications specialist at TTC, said he has not heard about the campaign yet.

“We do see value from customer development perspective in having a U-Pass and would speak to any group or institution who wants to propose one.”

On Thursday, Robert Hollis, the executive vice president of Presto, presented their quarterly report at the Metrolinx board meeting. The report said that an update of the Presto system will allow students and institutions to load discounted U-Passes onto Presto cards in November.

“This is a good action that Metrolinx is taking,” said Jose Wilson, vice president external at the U of T Mississauga Students Union in a press release. “This is also getting us closer to our stated goal of receiving a Greater Toronto Area wide U-Pass.”

To support their demands, U-Commute is asking students to fill out an online survey at ucommuteto.ca. They want to give the TTC and GO concrete numbers to show them how this pass could benefit the system by reducing fare evasion.

So far, the survey has been successful. “Our initial goal was to reach 2,000, and we actually exceeded that. I think the last time I checked we got 3,500 responses, and that’s just within our first week,” said White.

About 300 of those responses are from George Brown College, but there’s still a couple of weeks to fill out the survey.

White said there’s nothing is going to change without student approval.

“We have to have a referendum meeting to actually implement the changes and be able to put into our fees, so nothing will affect anybody until they say so.”

White said that she wants some students to be able to opt-out, but they haven’t reached an agreement on the details yet.

“Some students also live within a radius where they can actually just walk to school, so we are looking at the options for including an opt-out option for students,” said White.

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U-Commute is fighting for a universal transit pass for students