Reply from Watson re U-Pass

Dear Eric,Thank you for your e-mail regarding the U-Pass program.

I appreciate your opinion on this matter, and want to make sure that you have a proper perspective on the background of the program, and the process going forward.

The current U-Pass pricing of $145 was part of the introduction of a pilot project in 2009-10. At that time, it was made absolutely clear that the price would eventually be raised to a price that is “revenue neutral” for the City of Ottawa. This means a price that provides a balance between revenues that OC Transpo received from post-secondary student riders prior to the program, and the increase in usage and revenue that was anticipated from the program. This is the "revenue neutral" concept that you have no doubt heard about.

Further, the price was supposed to be raised to revenue neutral last year as part of the 2011 budget, however your student federations were unable to properly coordinate the required referenda to authorize a more permanent program. That failure by your own student organisations was not held against you by City Council, but instead City Council acted as a good partner and gave you and all university riders a break and allowed you to have a second year at the special pilot rate. This accommodation was made on the express condition that there would be an increase in the fare for this year, a condition that your student federations agreed to in writing.

Now that the time has come for a long-term agreement, the student federations are unfortunately not acting in a manner that is consistent with our agreement of last year, and I fear are not giving students a clear picture of the decision to be made by students like yourself.

We have now indicated that the balanced price for the long term will be $180 per semester. Your university student federation will be holding a referendum, as they committed to doing, and you will have a chance to vote for or against a U-Pass at $180. You should understand very clearly that the alternative will be for students to pay the monthly student rate, which will amount to at least $300 per semester. You will have to decide which rate you wish to pay.

Pass Type Cost Per Semester
U-Pass $180
Student Monthly Pass Regular $300 ($75 x 4)
Student Monthly Pass Express $352 ($88 x 4)
Student Monthly Pass Rural Express $452 ($113 x 4)
Adult Pass Regular $376 ($94 x 4)
Adult Pass Express $464 ($116 x 4)
Adult Pass Rural Express $580 ($145 x 4)

The choice of whether or not the U-Pass program continues will be up to you and your student colleagues. We are offering you a fare that we believe is attractive and which offers transit service in a manner that is affordable to all involved, including the taxpayers of Ottawa. I am in favour of providing this beneficial treatment to post-secondary students, but, I am not in favour of adding to the burden of all taxpayers by having the U-Pass remain at the artificially low price of $145 per semester.

The future of the U-Pass is now in your hands, and the hands of your fellow students. If the referendum fails, students will be required to purchase monthly passes, which will be substantially more expensive that the U-Pass.

Thank you for your interest, and for your consideration leading up to the referendum.

Jim Watson
City of Ottawa



  1. I don't entirely disagree, but that's pretty snarky. That doesn't mention at all the benefits to the city of having more people on transit, and off roads.

    It also doesn't mention what the plan is for future increases in costs.

    All-in it reads as "Na-na ball's in your court. Take it or leave it" which doesn't have the ring of good policy to me.


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