On Wednesday, September 5, thousands of commuters from York Region learned that the VIVA Purple and Orange routes will no longer be going to York University. Students will now be forced to either take a YRT bus to Pioneer Village Station and walk 20 minutes to campus, or take the VIVA Orange to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre and pay an additional $3.25 to take the subway to York University station. For a student who commutes 5 days a week, this means taking a less time efficient route, and spending an additional $180 a month. Some students will be required to use GO bus services due to these service changes, costing them upwards of an additional $5 per trip, or $400 of additional travel expenses per month. According to The Toronto Star, this change is the result of a binding agreement made by York Region Council and the TTC in 2009. The purpose of this was to avoid “duplication of services”, under the assumption that by the time the TTC subway extension was completed, the various regional transit systems (TTC, YRT/VIVA, Zum) would be integrated under one fare system. This is clearly not the case today.

TTC, YRT/VIVA and Zum offered a “U-Pass” covering the entire GTA to York University for its students to solve this dilemma. With the U-Pass, the university would require that every student pay an additional $105 per month in tuition to cover the cost. This would have been cheaper than a monthly TTC or a VIVA/YRT pass, but the full cost would still fall on the shoulders of already indebted students, some of whom drive, take the GO bus or live on campus, and thus wouldn’t require the pass.

York University turned down this offer, believing it wouldn’t be popular among students. The TTC, YRT/VIVA and Zum then made the same offer to the York Federation of Students (YFS), the union which represents YorkU students. According to The Toronto Star, “YRT staff did meet with the York University’s Federation of Students who declined the implementation of the U-pass in 2018 and expressed their position was to wait and see what the Province would implement in regards to fare integration.” This is disappointing considering that the winning slate in the 2018 YFS election promised to “lobby for a YUpass”. Now that it has fallen in their laps, they immediately turn it down.

Charging all students $105 a month for a U-Pass is not a perfect solution. However, at the time it was offered, the YFS should have mobilized students to strengthen its position and demand free transit. While this may not have resulted in a free U-Pass, it would have at least served to lower the $105 cost.

The current YFS executive also ran on a platform of a one-day student strike in 2019. Free transit should be added to our list of demands for that strike. It is only through militant struggle, such as student strikes, that students can fight back against rising costs of living. Whether it is the skyrocketing cost of tuition, rent, or transit, these are issues that affect all students and which have been successfully resolved in other provinces and countries through militant student union leadership. Our student union needs to organize and lead us in the fight for better living and learning conditions.

YFS: organize a student strike in 2019!

Strike for free transit and free education!