CSI and Grand River Transit are exploring bringing a U-Pass program to Conestoga College. To help determine if we move forward with the project, CSI is hosting a referendum to see if the student bodies at campuses in Waterloo Region are in favour of a universal transit pass (or U-Pass)!

A U-Pass is an ancillary fee that would be automatically included in all full-time students’ (registered at a Waterloo Region campus) tuition that provides unlimited trips on Grand River Transit at any time, all year long, at a significantly reduced price. A referendum is a vote allowing you to make your voice heard and share your opinion on matters that impact a significant portion of the student body.

The vote for the U-Pass will run from Tuesday, October 10 to Monday, October 16. Eligible students will receive a voting link to their student email accounts. We want to make transit options more affordable for Conestoga students.

A U-Pass ensures that all eligible students have equal and affordable access to transit. Students will pay $118.97 semesterly for a 12-month unlimited transit pass. With the current cost of $918.00 per year for a College Pass, this would equal savings of $680.06 for transit riders.

Keep reading to learn more about GRT, the U-Pass, and the referendum. 

GRT U-Pass Referendum Town Hall

On Monday, October 2, CSI and Grand River Transit collaboratively hosted a hybrid informational town hall session to provide education to students about the proposed U-Pass Referendum program and vote.

Were you unable to join or tune in? Check out the recording below (please note the video may need a moment to load):

  • What is a U-Pass? 
    • A universal transit pass (or U-Pass) allows users to take unlimited rides on GRT buses and ION trains at an affordable price, all year long.
    • For registered MobilityPLUS users, the U-Pass allows access to MobilityPLUS service.
    • The U-Pass provides affordable transportation not only to school, but for other trips such as shopping, employment, entertainment, and to connect to out-of-town bus or train stations.
  • How much will a U-Pass cost? 
    • Currently, students pay $306 each semester but with a U-Pass students will instead pay a semesterly fee of $118.97 for two semesters, but receive 12 months of transit access. This results in an annual savings of $680.06

    • As long as 2 semesters of tuition and fees, including a U-Pass fee are paid, students receive a 12-month annual pass to include access to transit during a student’s off-term (academic break). 
  • Can I opt-out of this fee? 

    The U-Pass fee will be a mandatory fee included for all full-time students (not including online students) as part of their tuition. Opt-out exemptions will be available for students meeting any of the following criteria: 

    • You are a Conestoga College student who retains a valid Canadian National Institute for the Blind (“CNIB”) registration during the School Term.

    • You are a Conestoga College student who pays fees to Conestoga College but are taking all academic courses at an out-of-region (outside Waterloo Region) Post-Secondary Institution in the School Term.

    • You are a Conestoga College student who holds a valid Accessible Parking Permit issued by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario and are registered with Conestoga College Parking Services at the beginning of the School Term.

    • You are a Conestoga College student who pays fees to Conestoga College but are considered on professional or academic placement outside the Waterloo Region for the full School Term as part of your academic studies, which is not considered part of co-operative education. 
  • Can a non-eligible student opt-in to the U-Pass, if approved? 

    Students who are not automatically included in the U-Pass will be able to submit a request to opt-in to the U-Pass and may be approved on a case-by-case basis.  

  • I drive to school and pay for parking will I have to pay for the U-Pass? 

    Yes. All eligible students will be charged the U-Pass fee regardless of whether they drive and pay for a parking pass or not. 

  • How and where do I use a U-Pass?

    Your Conestoga OneCard would act as your U-Pass and can be used on any GRT bus or ION train. When boarding a bus, tap your OneCard on the farebox card reader. Before you board a train, tap your OneCard on the card reader, located on the ION light rail station platform. 

  • If passed, when will the U-Pass come into effect?

    If passed, the U-Pass program will be implemented September 1, 2024, conditional upon final approval by the Region of Waterloo. 

  • What is a referendum?

    A referendum allows you to make your voice heard and share your opinion on matters that impact a significant portion of the student body. 

  • Am I eligible to vote?
    • Students eligible to vote are required to have a “Home Campus” in the Waterloo region that is serviced by GRT. This includes Cambridge, Doon, Downtown Kitchener, Reuter, University Gates, Waterloo campuses
    • Students who do not have one of the above campuses listed as their “Home Campus” will NOT receive an email to cast a vote, thereby making them ineligible to vote in the referendum
    • Unsure what of your Home Campus? To determine your home campus:  
      1. Log into your Student Portal 
      2. Click on My Courses 
      3. Click on the View My Enrolment form 
      4. Once the form loads it will tell you the current semester (if you are an active student), your program, and home campus 

    Students eligible to vote must be active full-time students during the Fall 2023 term. 

  • How and when do I vote?

    A voting link will be sent to eligible student’s Conestoga email address on Tuesday, October 10. Students will click the voting link in the email to cast their vote. Voting will be open from October 10 until October 16. 

  • If I vote “YES”, what will happen? 
    • Conestoga College and CSI will enter into a new U-Pass agreement with GRT.
    • Conestoga College and CSI can choose to renew the agreement with GRT when it expires August 31, 2025 if the terms of the agreement and annual increase rate remain the same
    • You will be able to use your OneCard for unlimited rides on all GRT services (local and express buses, ION trains).
  • If I vote “NO”, what will happen? 
    • Conestoga College and CSI’s participation in the U-Pass Program will not occur.
    • If you use GRT, you will need to purchase GRT’s regular Monthly Pass and pay approximately $918.00 per year for unlimited rides (subject to change), a total of $680.06 more than the proposed U-Pass price.


If you are a Brantford Conestoga College student, you have access to a U-Pass included in your tuition during the Fall and Winter semesters that provides you with unlimited access to Brantford Transit.

Learn More About Brantford Transit


Guelph Transit currently provides a discounted rate for Guelph Conestoga College students of $2.25/ride until 32 total monthly rides, at which point riding Guelph Transit becomes free for the remainder of the month. This is the equivalent of $72/month.

Learn More About Guelph Transit

CSI is exploring other affordable and equitable transit fare options with Guelph Transit and will provide more information when available.