We all pay for U-Pass

Photo by Justin Bailey

The Oshawa campus bus loop, a busy place almost any time of day

Have you ever wondered why we all have to pay for a U-Pass, even if we don’t take the bus? It turns out the $254 per year we pay is the result of an arrangement between Durham College, UOIT and Durham Region Transit.

Vincent Patterson, general manager at DRT, says the agreement between DC, UOIT and Trent University, stems back to more than a decade ago.

“Historically, I can’t recall who started approaching who first,” says Patterson.

U-pass is a universal bus pass for post-secondary students allowing unlimited access to transit in Durham Region and beyond, seven days a week. The more people participating in the program, the cheaper it is for everyone involved, according to Patterson.

“I think the agreement is working very well for all parties,” he says.

The U-Pass fee is part of the ancillary fees every student pays as part of their tuition. Liam Hatch, marketing and communications, at DRT says the price of the U-Pass is set by Durham Regional Council. The price, he says, is essentially based on how many people use the U-Pass.

According to the DRT website, a monthly Presto pass costs an adult $117 per month. To put that in perspective, a student would pay more than $900 a school year for the same access to transit their $254 U-Pass gives them.

“The price is significantly lower than people would pay without a U-Pass arrangement,” says Patterson.

Many people attending college and university work part-time jobs to help pay bills while in school. While taking the bus might not be for everyone, it’s cheaper than driving and paying for parking.

“It’s something that does make sense for more attractive rates for the students,” Patterson says.

With only 5,000 parking spots to share between roughly 20,000 students at both DC and UOIT, not everyone can drive. Many students also make the choice to take the bus as a method of saving money they would spend on gas and maintenance on a car. Taking the bus is also better for the environment.

Parking passes cost $400-$650, more than students pay for U-Pass. Rising gas prices, maintenance, and insurance rates make driving to school difficult for many people on a student budget.

But don’t expect the price of the U-Pass to stay the same forever. U-Pass prices will keep increasing as time goes on. Patterson says it’s needed to help cover some of the cost incurred by DRT.

“We need to keep adjusting the price as we go forward,” he says.

The longstanding agreement between DRT, DC and UOIT will continue. All parties signed a contract in May of last year that will bring them to August of next year.

“We don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t be interested in continuing,” Patterson says.

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Justin Bailey is a first-year journalism student at Durham College. He has worked in three difference provinces across Canada in the mining industry over the last ten years. In his spare time likes to cook, read, and watch sports with friends and family. After college he hopes to find a job in his field in Ontario.