Perhaps it's time the University reconsiders the mandatory nature of their U-Pass. Bardia Boomer/Fulcrum
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For the first time in over a year, all full-time U of O students who do not meet the University’s exception criteria are required to purchase a U-Pass. For many of the students who are just learning about this, I’ll explain what it means and why it’s ridiculous.

The U-Pass is the University of Ottawa’s mandatory student transit card, which grants eligible students use of both the STO and OC Transpo systems. City buses and the new light rail train all accept the U-Pass and allow students to use them from the beginning of the fall term to the end of the winter term. For a more comprehensive overview of the system, click here to visit the University’s U-Pass page.

While the U-Pass might be mandatory, since the fall of 2020, students have been given the option to opt-out of purchasing the $446.96 pass for a number of reasons, including transit restrictions from the lockdowns. But this year, that isn’t an option.

The cost of the pass is automatically added to any full-time student’s tuition and cannot be removed unless a student fits narrow eligibility requirements. Otherwise, all students taking more than 4 courses per semester are required to pay.

I understand that there are students who benefit from having a U-Pass. Many students rely on the transit systems to commute around Ottawa and having the ability to do so at a reduced cost is definitely advantageous for them. However, I also understand that many students have no need for a U-Pass. And these students are just paying an extra $450 on top of an already expensive tuition bill for something they will get no use out of. Clearly, there’s a discrepancy here.

As a student in 2019, I took the bus a total of two times. If my math checks out, that means I paid a total of $223.48 per ride. That’s too expensive to ride a bus in what is arguably one of the most walkable cities in Canada.

It’s also worth discussing the hoops that students jump through to either get or renew their U-Pass. At the beginning of the semester in Montpetit Hall, there is the U-Pass line that might take any student an hour or two to get through. And once they reach the front of that line, they better cross their fingers that the card renewal machine doesn’t glitch out. Sure, this is a mild complaint about the whole process, but I feel compelled to express it here because I was a victim of a glitchy machine.

Without a doubt, the U-Pass is useful for some students. It’s a pass that offers affordable travel to students who may live too far from campus to walk. But it remains perplexing to me that all full-time students are required to purchase a pass that some may never use. A pass that adds a large sum to an already expensive tuition bill. There must be a way to find balance here.

Perhaps it’s time the University reconsiders the mandatory nature of their U-Pass.


  • Matthew is a fourth-year student studying philosophy and political science at the University of Ottawa. This is his first year as the Fulcrum’s Opinions Editor, and he looks forward to hearing opinions from all his fellow students.