U-Pass program would provide monthly passes for as low as $70, but payment would be mandatory for all students at participating schools.
University students could end up with a significant discount on the cost of riding the TTC but there is one catch — they won’t be given the option of opting out of the program.
The TTC board will meet next week to consider a staff report that recommends creating a new “U-Pass” that would allow students at participating universities to ride the TTC for just $70 per month.
The staff report says that the program would be “revenue neutral” because of the additional income it would bring in by requiring that all full-time students at participating universities pay for the pass.
Under the proposal, students would automatically be charged $280 per semester through their student fees. The “U-Pass” would then be loaded onto their Presto cards, allowing them unlimited access to the TTC.
“A U-Pass priced at $70 per month, or $560 for eight months, amounts to a 40 per cent savings over the purchase of a post-secondary metropass,” the staff report notes. “A U-Pass will make transportation more affordable for post-secondary students and could potentially unlock additional economic, educational and cultural opportunities. Moreover, the U-Pass may allow some students to reside in different, more affordable neighbourhoods to further reduce their expenses.”
TTC staff first began looking into the possibility of offering a “U-Pass” after student union representatives from four downtown Toronto post-secondary institutions created an online survey, in which 95 per cent of 16,000 respondents said they would vote in favour of such a program.
The staff report notes that 760,000 post-secondary student metropasses were sold in 2017 at a cost of $116.75 each. The report adds that the sale of metropasses to full-time students brings in about $61.7 million annually, revenue that would be essentially guaranteed with the introduction of a mandatory “U-Pass.”
Staff, however, say that they TTC will have to increase its service to account for an expected 15 per cent rise in passenger volumes among participating universities. For that reason, $5 from the cost of the “U-Pass” will be set aside for boosting service.
“The cost to add the incremental service required to support a 15% increase is approximately $4.7 million annually, which results in an additional charge of about $5 per month, for a total U-Pass price of $70,” the report notes.
If the “U-Pass” program is approved by the TTC board, staff will be empowered to enter into negotiations with post-secondary institutions who are interested in participating. The program will only be made available to fulltime students at public universities and colleges at first but the TTC will ask staff to report back on the potential of expanding it to private career colleges and also making it available for part-time students as well.