U-Pass gets a chance in Ottawa - Macleans.ca

U-Pass gets a chance in Ottawa

City council votes 22-2 in favour at budget meetings


Dick Pen_busAfter a lengthy debate over pricing, Ottawa’s city council voted to give the university transit pass pilot project the go-ahead at budget deliberations Thursday night.

The proposed project still has to pass a referendum question in the upcoming student government elections at both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa before the pass will begin next school year.

The pass will cost $145 per term pass and will be folded into mandatory undergraduate annual fees. This price is discounted from the $242 students normally pay for the OC Transpo semester pass.

A referendum question requires 1,000 student signatures before it can appear on a ballot.

If the referendum vote doesn’t pass at either school then the pilot project will be cancelled.

Carleton’s student newspaper, The Charlatan, quotes Carleton University Students’ Association president Erik Halliwell as saying he is positive the referendum will pass.

“There are strength in numbers,” Halliwell told the Charlatan. “And students are becoming more of a priority.”

The paper reported that project will cost the city an estimated $3 million taken from the city’s transit reserve fund.

– photo by Dick Penn


U-Pass gets a chance in Ottawa

  1. Although I agree that students should have lower bus fares, this addition to annual fees does not benefit everyone.
    I did my undergraduate degree and now am working on my gradutae degree at the University of Ottawa and I find it pretty outrageous that after 5 years of paying full price for transit, after buying a car, moving closer to my school, and paying for a parking pass I am expected to pay for other students to have cheap transit which they should be entitled to anyways.
    I imagine that since many students live on residence or within walking distance to the school that others agree. Having access to cheap transit should not be a privledge we beg and pay for it should be the standard.

  2. I don’t think that I should be paying for a service I will never use. It seems unfair that they just peg the cost of this pass onto every semestre of tuition. We should have the right to choose not to get this service.

  3. You can opt out of the pass, can’t you?

  4. You cannot opt out. I actually find it outrageous that the student executif comitee spend so much time and energy to fight for fees to drop when they turn around and force us to pay a 6-7% increase. I don’t know how anyone will take them seriously after a stupidity like this.

    Increasing mandatory fees for the benefit of the student body is one thing, increasing fees for the benefit of a very particular group of students shouldn’t even be considered.

  5. I live outside of the City of Ottawa-Carleton, and have two children who will be attending Carleton. Both will require vehicles to drive into the City as OC Transpo does NOT provide service to our area. Both my children will be forced to pay this fee for a service they will never use. This is extremely unfair, as tuition fees are high enough!

  6. This is ridiculous! I’m going to Carleton part time and working full time… My wife is going to Carleton part time and stays home with our son. We don’t bus to school as our schedules simply do not allow it and where we live it would take us hours to get to school and then hours to get back… On top of that, my wife would have to bus (and I guess pay for an extra bus pass for our son) to get him to a sitter and then bus to Carleton and then bus to pick him up before taking yet another bus to get home. From both places they’d have to walk quite a distance just to get to a bus stop that would take them anywhere close to where they’d have to go (it’d be real fun in the winter). Obviously, I got a annual parking spot at Carleton just to make it possible for us to attend which i’m already dishing out money for. Now, in addition to our regular tuition and stuff we pay for we never get to use I’m going to have to pay an additional $600/year so that someone will save … $100 or so off their bus pass for a year!?!?! Like I have money to spend considering i’m supporting a family of 3 on my paycheck trying to get school done too… Who negotiated this deal?? Did anyone ask me, or other students? I’m now considering not going this semester… demand my money back for parking… I really hope there is a major backlash for this…

  7. Totally agree Jenn. The U-Pass is good for lots of students, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of others who don’t use OCtranspo. This is unfair. There should be more options of exemption, for example, for students who live on campus or nearby and those have pay parking services.

  8. I will add my voice to those of people who think it doesn’t make sense for us to have to pay this fee. We can opt out of our dental and health insurance fees, so why not this one too? Seems to me like they should figure out what percentage of the Universities’ population uses the bus and have an option for opting in instead. I certainly would have voted against the current plan but I graduated last August and took a year off before returning to studies. Now I’m going to pay $290 a year to walk to school, when the pass could only possibly (and even then doubtfully) benefit me in the summer, when I’ll be on a CO-OP term. Yet, it’s not available in summer.

  9. Exemptions should be made for students who either drive their own vehicles to school or live close enough that they walk. Students who drive already have to spend extra money for gas/insurance/maintenance/parking. Students who live close enough to walk pay extra for their rent. These two groups are being forced to pay for something they neither need nor require. It would be interesting to see if this all stood up in court. Just a suggestion: enough of you could form a class action suit and take the university to small claims court over recovery of your expenses. The limit for small claims court in Ontario is $25,000 which means that up to 86 claimants could participate to recoup their $290 fee. It would set a precedent if you win the case. The odds are in your favour of winning against the University since the plaintiff usually has the advantage.


  10. Sorry. Turns out that the Ontario Small Claims will not allow class action lawsuits within their courtroom. Still, all it takes is for one person to challenge them in a Small Claims court setting. A win would set a precedent for everyone else. Unfortunately it will cost you $100 to recoup the exta $290 paid out for the full year for each of you but at least it would be a victory and help everyone else behind you that would have to pay for something you get absolutely no benefit of. I really think that an honest judge would see how unfair this was for two groups of students and in a sense was really discriminatory in its nature.


  11. This is absolutely ridiculous. There should be an opt out option for people who already buy the insanely-priced parking spots. I spent $1200 for a year-long pass to lot K… I will never use a bus at all, and I REALLY don’t need to spend the extra 290, when I’m already trying to pay off my tuition and books.

    Our council is retarded. I don’t understand how this passed to be a mandatory thing, when medical and dental insurance isn’t.

  12. Actually, can I sell my upass? I know a few part time students who don’t get it, who wish they could. If they’re just handing these things out without putting the numbers to your picture on it, I’m selling it.

  13. Thank you everyone!!! I would be all for a class action lawsuit! I am already filing a complaint in writing to the student union. I pay parking, maintenance, gas, insurance, and I don’t need the extra expense!!! I jumped ship and bought a car because of OC’s own incompetency and bullshit, and now they are saying that I am “making transit accessible to others who might not have it otherwise”… By forcing me to buy something that I’m not gonna use, they are only gonna push me further away from thinking of using their service again.

    @Rebecca: No, that’s the thing! It is not transferable, I asked because I wanted to give it to my brother who WOULD use it!

  14. I don’t think it’s the university’s problem…but it’s OC Transpo’s problem. They are the one that decide on the cost and whether you can opt-out or not.

    Although tuition costs are rising, the U-Pass is an additional charge to the bill and something that majority of the students want. Unfortunately for the students…OC Transpo wants to gain profits at all students’ expenses.

  15. this is ridiculous,
    ottawa u should give us an option to opt out or not.

  16. I just finished my undergrad at Carleton in the spring, so this issue does not even directly affect me, but I find it ludicrous that this has passed. I wonder who are these counsellors? Do they drive or take the bus? Have they ever paid tuition fees and felt stress over buying meals when their budgets grew tight?

    I’m absolutely on side with a civil action suit. This topic came up over breakfast this morning with my parents are I became so outraged that I brought up a lawsuit myself.

    Apparently students still have a part in this… there is a vote on campus which is necessary to pass the legislation. Or are they counting the votes they took in Feb? It’s beyond me how even fellow students would vote in favour of this pilot U-pass program. If they take into consideration the greater university population, they would realise immediately that those who require bus passes are selfish in this endeavour.

  17. I’m all in favour of providing students with a cheaper yearly bus pass, IF THEY WANT IT. It is unreasonable to assume that the more than 20,000 students who fall outside the exemptions actually want and need to pay 290$ for something they won’t use. I don’t even mind that you’re in by default, but there should definitely be an opt-out possibility, for whatever reason. For all the uOttawa students: go visit your legal-aid clinic next to Leblanc residence, they could probably help with legal counsel.

  18. Civil suits? What kind of grounds do you think there are for legal action? Did you not vote in the referendum Amanda?

  19. Josh: If interracial marriage had been put to a referendum in the 60s, it would have lost. If gay marriage had been put to a referendum 10 years ago it would have lost. Today, apparently, when you put the rights of poor students who don’t ride the bus up for a referendum it loses, because students who want cheaper bus passes are so selfish that they can’t be bothered thinking about who is getting screwed by their actions.

    Human rights–including the rights of low income students not to have to pay $290 to subsidize a bus pass program–should never be subjected to the tyranny of the majority.

  20. It is unfair for the students who doesnt travel by bus.
    Why would i pay for the something when i am not going to use the transport service.
    There should be an option for students who would like to buy it or not!

  21. All right, whoever is in for a class action lawsuit if you want to e-mail me at g_berestetsky@hotmail.com with your info (up to you if you want to give it) so that I can see what I can do — that way at least I’ll have some names. Someone’s gotta do something about this! Or if someone else wants to take over you’re welcome to as well! Let’s not just sit there and take it.

  22. In protest of the UPass… do NOT pick it up!

    Also, please sign up for a class action suit by emailing:


  23. Just to clarify, I am not a lawyer, but I want to consult one (or legal services on campus) about the feasibility of a small claims case / lawsuit.

    Seems like a lot of people are upset about having been forced to pay for something they will never use. Great for drunken nights, maybe, when you don’t want to drive, but a little overkill… I am a first year student so I didn’t even get any say in this.

  24. This is absurd!

    I never take the bus (and I will never need to either) because I live on campus. I already pay a hefty monthly rent (think $818) just for the privilege of living on campus, precisely so that I won’t need to take the bus.

    Why the hell isn’t there an opt-out option?! Was the council drunk or something when they decided to pass this program?

    I’m all for starting a class action lawsuit. Who’s in so far?

  25. Hey all you students:
    Ottawa campuses are known hotbeds of socialism and censorship. Now your student body is getting a prime dose of what socialism is all about. Perhaps you should take this into consideration when casting your votes in the upcoming municipal elections. If you vote for Watson, you will get (as students) more of this treatment in the years to come. Not only that, once you enter the local work force, you can expect the same kind of McGuinty-style socialism through tax oppression. So please vote for anyone but Comrade Watson. In the meantime, enjoy your u-pass social project.

  26. “The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity, but the one that removes awareness of other possibilities.” – Alan Bloom

    We at ÉPRÉ-SCRF (student coalition for referendum fairness) have been working hard to ensure students’ freedoms and economic liberties are protected at the SFUO. In spite of their large numbers, the SFUO has been unwilling to cooperate or accommodate the needs of students who don’t want the U-Pass. In fact, they have already begun to take measures to ensure the U-Pass becomes permanent without addressing the student body as a whole.

    This sort of tyranny will last until enough people insist that it stop. That said, it is asking a lot for the administrators of the group – just two people – to take a stand against this injustice. We have exhausted all avenues for justice at the University of Ottawa, and now it is time to take our battle for referendum fairness to court.

    At our own cost, the administrators of this group have received two independent legal opinions from two high-profile firms about the merits of a lawsuit against the SFUO. Both evaluators have told us we have a solid case and a strong chance of success.

    In order to be taken seriously, we estimate we will need a minimum of 10 people to be a part of the lawsuit. (We only have seven more to go). We will be pursuing the case in small claims court at a total cost of $200. With 10 people on board, the cost would only be $20 per person. (The more we have, the lower the cost!). We would sue for the joint cost of our U-Passes, court costs, and other associated damages that the SFUO created. Thus it is possible you will get the $20 refunded as well as the U-Pass’s cost.

    Again, the only work necessary on your part would be to sign the court documents and to be present in court the day of the lawsuit; the only financial obligation would be to pay your share of the $200 fees.

    Please contact epre-scrf.fps9z@ncf.ca and join with us. Your confidentiality will be assured, and your name will not be shared with anyone until we have signed the small claims court documents. We already have three people signed up, and we’re looking for seven more to join us before November 25th. If we don’t have the numbers by this date, this group will be shut down, and the admins’ efforts will be forever halted.

    Please consider how your silence will be interpreted by the student federation; they will take it as consent to continue to hurt students with their bus pass scheme.

  27. I just want to add to this list of complaints that I know there are MANY students at Carleton U that DO NOT want/need/will use the U-Pass. I am part-time so it is not affecting me this year, however I have been full-time for the past few years and will be next year and this whole thing enrages me! It is completely unjust to expect some students to be so much extra money so that other students can save money! Everyone should be entitled to freedom to budget their own expenses according to whatever benefits their individual life circumstances. The city/OC Transpo/Universities have no business making transportation decisions without giving students the option. I cannot believe there has not been bigger movement against this unjustness as of yet. If I am correct, approx. 30% of Carleton students voted against it(not surprising considering many live outside of the city and the areas that buses service) which is a very significant portion of the student population. I have no idea the numbers from the Ottawa U vote, but the only thing that really matters is that all students deserve the autonomy to choose for themselves. Furthermore, the student federations at both schools are acting very irresponsibly by their blatant support of the U-Pass as it stands and these actions are alienating large sections of the student populations they are supposed to be representing!

    I just heard about the Ottawa U students small claims court case and I am so excited about this effort!!! I hope it makes a difference for everyone and the U-Pass project is altered for next year so that any students may opt-out. But, if more action is required to stop this unfairness, I want to help in any way I can and I am positive that many other students from Carleton and Ottawa universities will support this argument!