Cheaper transit U-Pass would be mandatory for post-secondary students at participating schools
New recommendations from the TTC could mean that full-time George Brown College (GBC) students could see a 40 per cent reduction in the cost of their monthly transit pass.
The price was published on Tuesday as part of the transit commission’s recommended policy framework for a Toronto post-secondary student transit pass, or U-Pass. The recommendations are set to be voted on by the TTC Board on March 20, and would have to pass a student referendum, and be approved by the college’s board of governors.
While the U-Pass would lower the price of a post-secondary student pass from $116.75 a month to around $70, a difference of $187 over a four-month semester, there is a catch. The U-Pass could become a mandatory part of all full-time GBC students’ fees.
The one exception would be if the college finds that the program imposes “a burden on students whose personal circumstances or needs related to a protected ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code restrict their ability to utilize transit.”
In that case, GBC would, according to the proposal, allow students to opt-out of the pass on a case-by-case basis.
Gerard Hayes, GBC’s director of student experience, cautioned that while nothing was set in stone, there isn’t likely to be many exemptions allowed for the pass outside of disability needs.
“The challenge is the (students) that don’t use it will be paying for it,” said Hayes.
A similar pass was instituted while Hayes was working at the Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. There, he said that students who wouldn’t normally ride transit ended up using it more with the pass.
According to estimates from the TTC, full-time post-secondary students in Toronto from George Brown, OCAD, University of Toronto and Ryerson generate revenues of around $61.7 million annually. At $70 per month, the TTC estimates that the U-Pass would generate the current revenue and cover the costs of increased service.
The program would require the participation of at least one Toronto post-secondary institution, which includes George Brown, OCAD, University of Toronto (U of T) and Ryerson to go ahead.
The U-Pass would require a student referendum at GBC because, as per the Student Association’s (SA) ancillary fees agreement with the college, the fee represents a 20 per cent increase in compulsory fees for students.
The University of Toronto Students’ Union has scheduled a referendum on U-Pass to be held from March 26 to 28. An earlier vote on the idea failed at the U of T’s Scarborough campus in 2008.
According to a survey released this month by the U-Commute campaign by student unions, including the SA, more than 90 per cent of full-time undergraduate respondents from U of T’s St. George campus would vote for a U-Pass in a referendum.
Requests for comment to the SA board of directors were not immediately returned.