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By Sandie Benitah

Toronto schools try to get students a discount from TTC, again

Student leaders from Toronto colleges and universities are trying to make ‘the Better Way’ the cheaper way.Next month, representatives from Ryerson, York University, the University of Toronto and several colleges will meet with city officials at Ryerson to discuss the possibility of a Toronto Transit Commission student discount card.

The three universities met a month ago and gave the task of drafting a proposal to York and U of T. “All of our goals are the same: to make the university more accessible to commuters, to make it cheaper for students strapped for cash and [to make it] environmentally friendly,” said Agata Durkalec, 20, university affairs commissioner for U of T’s student council.

Ryerson has tried several times to get the transit discount, said Andrew Noble, RyeSAC’s student issues and advocacy coordinator. The last attempt was in 1997, when then-mayor Barbara Hall promised $23 in student savings if she was elected mega-city mayor. That plan would have been paid through a bank-debt system and would not have included weekend travel.

Durkalec said the TTC’s founding woes have hampered past attempts by several other schools. The TTC is one of the only transit systems in North America not receiving government subsidy. If the proposal goes through Noble said the discount card would be paid for through student fees, without the option of opting out. “There is no particular financial advantage for the TTC to [give] a student discount,” Noble said. “The only advantage is receiving a bulk payment.”

He added that the cost of the deal would have to be low enough to get student approval in a referendum and high enough to make it worthwhile for the TTC. But Durkalec said it would be hard to get that option approved by students, since a general levy would include people who don’t use public transit. Durkalec said students making proposals will ask for the financial help of school administrators and city council.

She also said the TTC will save money in 2002/2003 with the double cohort, when two years of high school students graduate at the same time, since fewer students will be eligible for high school discounts. Students in secondary school now pay $80 for a monthly metro pass, compared with $93.50 for the adult fare. The proposal will ask the TTC to put the money saved from the younger students towards a university discount.

Noble said he can’t imagine the possibility of a discount card before government-related issues with the TTC are solved. Still, he is optimistic the plan could be put into action within the next few years. TTC spokesperson Marilyn Bolton admits funding would be one of the major barriers. On Tuesday, Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman said the economic fallout from the terrorist attacks on the United States could mean cuts to transit service.

But Bolton is hopeful that the meeting between the universities and colleges and city officials will bring some ideas and possible solutions. “Something that didn’t work once might work now, but first we have to hear all that is presented to us,” she says. The meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 22, is open to everyone and will start at 9 a.m. at Oakham House.

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