Paying for the U-Pass and a parking spot? Here’s why.

Alan Dunn, associate vice-president, Facilities and Ancillary Services at Durham College.

Many students complain about having to pay for both parking and a U-Pass through their student fees. Joshua John, a Mechatronics student at Durham College, is one of them.

“I wish I could opt-out of the U-Pass,” he said. “I did contact the school this semester, and they just said you can’t. Without any reasons.”

All students at Durham College and Ontario Tech University must pay $278 a year for the bus pass. As well, students who drive to school, also have to pay for a spot in the parking lot. A parking pass costs between $400 and $700 a school year.

Ross Carnwith, who manages on-site parking, says during the fall semester they had more than 1,000 waitlisted for parking, and during the winter, more than 700.

This means many people are paying for two ways commute. They are paying not only for the U-pass, which covers the public transportation, but also a parking space fee.

However, students should recognize that these systems are different, according to Alan Dunn, associate vice-president, Facilities and Ancillary Services at Durham College.

“The U-Pass and on-campus parking are two different items. The U-Pass system was voted on by the students of both Durham College and Ontario Tech University, the joint Student Association,” said Dunn. That decision was made years ago when both schools shared a student association.

As well, he says the funds collected by Durham College and Ontario Tech do not benefit the institutions. He says 100 per cent of this money is given to Durham Region Transit (DRT).

Dunn says there is no option to not pay for the U-Pass because the DRT significantly discounts the fare based on the total student population of both schools.

Additionally, he says parking is an elective service, which means it is not mandatory. Dunn adds campus parking prices are set based on many factors such as comparative local rates, the limited supply of spots, and the cost at other regional post-secondary institutions such as Humber College, Seneca College, and York University.

There are daily, monthly and annual passes in parking options. Currently, the most expensive price is the daily rate of $18. The college and university discuss the cost of parking on an ongoing basis but Dunn says it is not easy to change the rate.

Students who attend the Whitby campus are able to use a free option. They can park at the Whitby Entertainment Centrum (Landmark Theatres), and use their U-Pass to take a bus from there.

By using the U-Pass, students can connect between the off-site parking and the campus.

Although Dunn says this is a temporary situation because of the current construction on-site at the Whitby campus, it can relieve some parking pressure.

However, Carnwith says there are “unavoidable complaints.

“The best way to handle complaints is to provide timely and accurate responses,” he replied in an email. He says parking services does its best to “explain why parking works the way it does.”

Meanwhile, Dunn says the U-Pass cost is actually less than the discounted rate for both senior citizens and high school students in Durham Region.