Students board TTC savings train

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By Caroline Pelletier

Ryerson students will save at least $10 on monthly passes starting in 2003 after the TTC approved a new deal for students last Wednesday at City Hall.

“This has been really meaningful during a chaotic time on campus. This is something that just makes sense to students,” said RyeSAC president Darren Cooney. “It’s a tangible victory that people can see at the start of every month.”

RyeSAC has been involved in a coalition of student governments from the Toronto area that lobbied the TTC to accept the proposal.

With the TTC fare increase set to take effect in January, a monthly Metropass will cost $98.75. If bought through RyeSAC, a pass under the new deal will go for $88.75. If RyeSAC sells more than 500 passes, the price will drop to $87.

TTC Commissioner David Miller had been working on getting a student deal since his election in 1994. He called Ryerson’s involvement instrumental, especially after the University of Toronto decided to pursue a deal that would be exclusive to only its students.

Ryerson’s insistence that there should be a pass to apply to everyone led the TTC to seriously consider the deal, said Miller. “It probably wouldn’t have happened without the support of students in general and Ryerson in particular.”

The plan, which was unanimously approved by TTC commissioners, will start in 2003, on a date to be decided later. It will not only apply to post-secondary institutions but also to large companies that want to sell passes to employees.

Under the Volume Incentive Program, post-secondary institutions would be allowed to sell the discounted passes to students on condition that they commit to the program for a year and sell at least 50 passes each month.

Individual students, however, won’t have to commit to a year but will be able to choose whether or not they’ll buy the pass each month.

“It’s a great victory for everyone that uses transit,” said Andrew Noble, RyeSAC student advocacy coordinator. “I don’t think we’ll have a problem getting people to take advantage of it.”

RyeSAC’s approach to lobbying the TTC was multi-pronged, said Cooney. It gathered over 800 signatures on a petition, and collected at least 80 individual letters written by students. RyeSAC also encouraged students and members of their families to call the TTC directly to voice its desire for a student deal.

“It was a kick in the butt,” said Cooney, “and it really jumpstarted RyeSAC.”

At the meeting on Wednesday, Cooney and Noble spoke before TTC commissioners.

Cooney pointed to ads the TTC is currently running which claim that by taking the subway, students could save enough to afford the cost of tuition. “I’d like for that ad to come true,” he told the commissioners.

Student representatives from the University of Toronto, York University and George Brown College also spoke, pleading with TTC staff to accept the deal.

Miller then read out loud from a letter Noble had written in a proposal for a post-secondary student transit pass.

Noble had pointed out that General Motors offers $1,000 to university graduates toward the purchase of a car, but the TTC didn’t offer any discounts at all. He warned the TTC that if they didn’t change that situation, that “as soon as it’s possible, students will purchase a car and say goodbye to public transit as voters and as riders.”

Commissioner Howard Moscoe was enthusiastic about the plan at the meeting. “The conservative TTC has taken a bold step,” he said. The TTC’s new motto should be “The Bolder Way,” he said.

Moscoe suggested institutions could further subsidize the pass so there would be no minimum price.

While Cooney said RyeSAC funds could always be re-allocated to do this, Noble said it might be risky. “We might take money from [students who are] cyclists and walkers, and from people who pay a lot of money for rent so they can avoid taking the TTC.”

RyeSAC has yet to approach Ryerson’s administration for possible funding because they wanted to wait until the TTC committed to a deal.

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