In a general committee meeting on January 11, 2023, the Mississauga City Council provided their unanimous consent to a two-year renewal of the Universal Transit Pass (U-Pass) program, which was set to expire on August 31, 2023. The report, presented to the city council by Commissioner of Transportation and Works, Geoff Wright, recommended a transition to a digital U-Pass set to roll-out in Summer 2023, as well as a five per cent price increase per year.
The U-Pass program has run over 15 years and allows full- and part-time University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) students unlimited transit rides across all MiWay routes for a flat fee—included in tuition charges for all students.
The proposed digital U-Pass will have a pilot run in summer 2023 before being fully launched in the fall. At the beginning of each term, instead of the existing paper U-Pass, students will be issued a PRESTO U-Pass eTicket to download on their phones. Those who cannot download the eTicket will be given a U-Pass voucher on a PRESTO card. To board a bus, instead of showing their ID to the driver, students can simply tap the PRESTO reader.
The digital U-Pass will allow the City of Mississauga to track usage data more accurately, as the current system relies on bus drivers pressing a button to log each U-Pass carrier. It will also eliminate the need to charge replacement fees for lost cards, which currently costs $125.
If a student changes phones or deletes the ticket, under the proposed digital system they’ll be issued a replacement U-Pass eTicket for free. However, to prevent fraud, students using PRESTO card vouchers will be limited to one replacement at no charge. Other Ontario post-secondary institutions that use digital U-Passes, such as Ontario Tech University and McMaster University, saw over 90 per cent of students choosing to download the U-Pass eTicket. Additionally, it is expected that fewer U-Passes are lost when they are downloaded on phones.
At the request of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), the report presented to the city council also proposed to equalize U-Pass fees between the summer and fall-winter terms. Up to, and including summer 2023, students have been charged more money per month for a summer U-Pass than a fall or winter U-Pass, which the report says is due to summer students using the pass more often during the summer.
In his report, Commissioner Wright makes it clear that the U-Pass program benefits both students and the community, stating: “For students, it reduces transportation costs, creates new and convenient travel options, and makes it cheaper and easier to use transit more often for school, social outings, and work. Our goal is to encourage students to continue to use transit after they graduate as the City benefits from reduced automobile traffic which leads to a healthier community for all.”
On January 25, 2023, at 11 a.m., the UTMSU will be holding a celebration for the U-Pass program at the Student Centre’s Presentation Room. Students interested in learning more about the program and its changes can join in on the event.