Widespread dissatisfaction over UTM’s ongoing digital U-Pass program
Students at UTM are embracing the new Digital U-Pass for its convenience while others reminisce about the benefits of the physical copy

While many students are taking advantage of the recently implemented digital U-Pass, others have expressed their dissatisfaction as it remains unchanged for another term. The U-Pass is a transportation service for students that provides unlimited fare-free rides on MiWay transit buses. 

The U-Pass was implemented years ago by the University of Toronto Mississauga Student Union (UTMSU) to alleviate the costs associated with commuting to school in Mississauga. UTM students are eligible for this year-long service as long as they are registered at the university, and it is appreciated by many students at UTM.

Before the digital transition, students could present a physical copy of their U-Pass and T-Card without the use of their phone. Then, during the summer of 2023, the UTMSU began a test run for implementing a digital program. In September 2023, they decided to move forth with a digital U-Pass. 

Students can access the digital U-Pass through the PRESTO E-Tickets app. They must sign into the app through their official university email address. Once the digital U-Pass is distributed at the start of each semester, it will be viewable in the app under the “Available” tab. Upon selection, it will move to the “Active” tab for students to use. Then, they can scan their tickets on the PRESTO E-Tickets app onto the PRESTO fare payment device near the bus conductor to ride anywhere in Mississauga. 

To learn more about students’ opinions of the recent digital transition, The Medium spoke with UTM students on campus. The shift garnered mixed responses among those interviewed. Some students loved the convenience of not having to carry around a physical pass, while others loathed the digital format and much preferred the old physical version.

Rosca Wang, a second-year student majoring in chemistry with a minor in creative writing and philosophy, expressed a preference for the physical version. Wang initially disliked the digital U-pass, explaining, “The code wouldn’t scan when you needed it to, causing delays, and it was a huge hassle to pull out your phone, pull out the app, and wait for the ticket to load.” Although “the digital version is growing on me, especially because the code scanning has become more efficient.” Wang still believes the physical copy was more convenient in the long run. 

Rheanna Swanson, a second-year student, double majoring in psychology and French and minoring in sociology, expressed a similar preference to Wang, although for different reasons. “I like the old physical pass because I don’t have to use my data when travelling,” she responded. Rheanna also commutes and spends a lot of her time in Toronto, not Mississauga, adding, “I don’t have enough storage for an app that I only use to commute in Mississauga.”

Aida Malone, a third-year student completing a double major in philosophy and sociology with a minor in anthropology, claimed to not prefer either, saying she felt both versions had their pros and cons. The advantages of the digital card, Malone stated, are that “I can never lose or forget it since it’s on my phone, and I always carry my phone with me; unlike with the physical card, which I have lost or forgot a bunch of times.” As for the physical card, “I liked it because it didn’t matter if my phone was charged or not, which is a good thing because sometimes my phone dies when I’m at work or it turns off when there’s cold weather. Since I get off work pretty late, I wouldn’t want to have to worry about not being able to get on the bus.”

Overall, there is a divide in opinion as to which version of the U-Pass is better, but it seems that one of the main issues a lot of students had concerning the digital U-Pass was that it was slow and faulty when it came to scanning the QR code on the bus. With the pass already being implemented for its second term, its lag has significantly lessened since it was first introduced.


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