On September 9, student unions from Carleton University and the University of Ottawa succeeded in lobbying the Ottawa City Council to rescind the age cap on student discount transit passes. Previously, students over 28 years of age paid the adult rate – a policy student groups viewed as discriminatory against older students.
Union members presented a petition with 2,400 signatures demanding that City Council recognize that students face financial barriers, regardless of their age, and that the policy be reversed.
Ottawa City Council voted unanimously to rescind the ruling. Each student over 28 is now eligible to purchase OC Transpo student passes – which equates to about $200 in savings a year.
Erik Halliwell, President of the Carleton University Student Association, told The Daily that convincing the non-student population to understand and support the student cause is the key to reversing discriminatory policy.
“Doing your best to make it a public issue is going to really help you in your fight. Councillors need to feel the heat sometimes in order to change,” Halliwell said.
In Montreal a student must be under the age of 25 in order to purchase student fares, while a student bus and subway pass in Toronto is only available to students between the ages of 13 and 19.
Montreal student unions are gearing up to take the issue to the City this year – in hopes that Montreal will follow Ottawa’s example.
SSMU VP External Sebastian Ronderos-Morgan told The Daily that removing the arbitrary age cap in Montreal is already one of his top priorities.
“We are going to demand that there is accessibility to the Metro Transit System for all students, specifically when it comes to reduced fares for passes, on a non-discriminatory basis – and that of course refers to the age cap,” Ronderos-Morgan said.
He was enthusiastic about cooperating with student unions from around the city in order to lobby candidates in the upcoming municipal elections, including groups from Université de Montréal, various CÉGEPs, as well as the Post Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University (PGSS).
In an email to The Daily, Ladan Mahabadi, Vice-President External of PGSS, said that the External Affairs Committee is currently pursuing a plan to develop a total transit pass for full-time students at McGill, similar to the Vancity U-Pass program which provides students with unlimited Translink access for $23.75 a month.
“It doesn’t seem like there is any justifiable reason for the age cap, outside of financial limitations that the STM might have, but financial constraints shouldn’t dictate whether policy is discriminatory or not,” Mahabadi said.