Post-secondary TTC riders could soon see dramatic monthly pass discounts

The TTC says it’s considering the introduction of a new significantly cheaper pass for post-secondary students.

New U-Pass could be as low as $70, but would mean additional tuition fees for nearly all students

The TTC and some local colleges and universities could soon roll out a new pass that would provide significant discounts to students, but there's a catch. (Mike Wise/CBC)

The TTC says it's considering a new significantly cheaper pass for post-secondary students.

The proposed Universal pass (U-Pass) could be as low $70 a month for eligible college and university students, and would allow for unlimited travel on the TTC. 

For the pass to become a reality, the TTC says that University of Toronto – St George, Ryerson University, OCAD University or George Brown College would have to commit to a four-year term.

The program would also require the cost of the pass to be incorporated into student fees, making it mandatory for all eligible students.

An opt-out provision will be offered for those who may be restricted in their ability to take public transit. 

The U-Pass would also be only available through the existing Presto card system and could either be provided to students either on a per-semester basis or year round.

Students would see a $280 cost added to their student fees each semester, and the price of the U-Pass fee could also increase if the TTC implements fare increases.

Students would not be allowed to sell their pass. 
U-Pass would also be only available through the existing Presto card system. (CBC)

U-Pass expected to boost ridership, cut costs

The transit authority says it hopes the new post-secondary pass would make transit more affordable and increase transit ridership for students.

A TTC report on the U-Pass says full-time students at University of Toronto – St George, Ryerson University, OCAD University and George Brown College already help generate $61.7 million annually, but with all 110,000 full-time students from those post secondary institutions paying $70 a month, the TTC could generate $66.4 million.

The TTC expects that it would see a 15 per cent increase in rides with the U-Pass or approximately 4.2 million more rides annually.

However, with the additional service costs due to the anticipated increase in the number of riders, the TTC says it would still generate the same $61.7 million as it does now.

College and university students already receive a discount with the existing post-secondary Metropass, but at $116.75, it only offers a discount of $17 from the standard adult pass. The U-Pass would present a 40 per cent savings over the existing Post-Secondary Metropass.

"A U-Pass will make transportation more affordable for post-secondary students and could potentially unlock additional economic, educational and cultural opportunities," the report said. "Moreover, the U-Pass may allow some students to reside in different, more affordable neighbourhoods to further reduce their expenses."

The TTC says that it will look further into how the U-Pass could work for part-time students. 

Could come to U of T this fall

The U-Pass could be implemented as most major colleges and universities in Toronto by fall 2019, with the University of Toronto's St. George Campus possibly seeing implementation this fall if the U-Pass gets approval in a referendum later this month.

University of Toronto Students' Union president Mathias Memmel says that he partnered with other student unions to get the TTC on board with the U-Pass and the referendum will give students a chance to speak up about the proposal.

He says that a significant amount of students already pay more than the proposed $70 cost of the U-Pass.

University of Toronto Students’ Union president Mathias Memmel partnered with other student unions to get the TTC on board with U-Pass. (CBC)

"We're looking at about 13,000 or so students who are buying Metropasses and there are a significant portion who are spending about $100 a month on transit. So on a whole that's about 60 per cent of our membership at the St. George campus who we know are using the TTC at $100 or more a month," Memmel said.  

But while thousands of students are already riding the rocket, some students say they don't. Student Rakib Ahmed said he didn't feel great about not being able to remove the option of the U-Pass from his tuition, but would use still use it. 

"I guess I would use it more. If I'm already paying for it, might as well," he told CBC Toronto. "I'd rather not pay for it because I'd walk everywhere anyway."

York University could also see a version of the U-Pass, but it would cost $100 a month since it is also served by Brampton Transit and York Regional Transit in addition to the TTC; however, a TTC-only U-Pass could also make its way to York University, for those who only take the TTC.

Student Rakib Ahmed said he would rather not pay for the U-Pass. (CBC)

With files from Greg Ross