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Bus pass deals extended for LU, Con College students

The city has extended its U-Pass agreement for local post-secondary students through 2024, when student unions say they may seek changes.

THUNDER BAY – The City of Thunder Bay has reached agreements with student unions at Lakehead University and Confederation College to extend the student transit “U-Pass” for an additional year.

The agreements will extend the U-Pass deals through August of 2024, the student unions confirmed to TBnewswatch.

The program offers students heavily discounted access to yearly transit passes, while guaranteeing the city significant revenue through a bulk purchasing agreement.

Students at Lakehead will pay $215 for the U-Pass in 2022-2023, while students at Confederation will pay $230.

That compares to the $660 a year students would pay for unlimited transit access through youth monthly passes.

Full-time students pay for the pass as a mandatory ancillary fee, while those who live outside of the transit service area can opt out of the program and receive a refund.

Farhan Yousaf, executive director of the Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU), said the one-year extension was agreed to in part due to the upcoming municipal election, and a move from student cards to an electronic system.

Looking ahead to negotiations for the next U-Pass agreement, Yousaf indicated LUSU will seek changes allowing students who commute by car to opt out of the fee.

“LUSU's ask is that not all students be forced to pay for the bus pass,” he said. “We are pushing for opt out for those who purchase parking passes annually.”

It’s an ask the city has previously resisted, though Yousaf expressed optimism that could change.

The one-year extension agreement has not yet been formally signed, he noted, but is tentatively agreed upon.

On Monday, Thunder Bay's city council provided an approval related to U-Pass negotiations, though details were not made public as the item was discussed in closed session.

In a statement, transit manager Brad Loroff welcomed the extension.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to continue working with our partners at [LUSU] and [SUCCI] on extending the Universal Bus Pass agreements for an additional year,” he said by email. “We will continue to work collaboratively on ways to evolve our service and any future changes to the UPass program.”

Ronnie Kasana, president of the Student Union of Confederation College, Inc. (SUCCI), suggested the organization may also seek changes, but said it's too soon to identify what those will be.

He called the U-Pass crucial for students to access not just school but other opportunities.

“I believe it’s a very significant service to all of our students, because they commute with city transit to college, to their work, and for other purposes as well.”

There is no date set yet to begin negotiations for the next agreement, he said.

The city secured steep increases to the per-student cost of the U-Pass in its last round of bargaining in 2017, with the cost for Lakehead students roughly doubling over the life of the current agreement.

Ian Kaufman

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