Grand River Transit (GRT) Universal bus pass (UPass)

GRT ION train and bus

Your Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) negotiates with GRT so we can have unlimited, safe and affordable access to public transportation across the Waterloo region.  

Eligible students can tap their Watcard before riding and enjoy both the bus and light rail systems. 

This program uses collective bargaining, by WUSA on behalf of all undergraduates, to save each student over $850 over the course of the school year. That’s a savings of over $3200 in a typical 4-year degree. For complete details on this non-refundable fee, check out our fees page

For bus/ION schedules, visit the GRT website. 

Don’t forget to thank your friendly bus driver! 

Eligibility - Who qualifies?

University of Waterloo students on transitAll full-time, Waterloo Undergraduates can ride.

These conditions affect your access to GRT’s systems:

  • Full-time students: You must be taking at least three courses (or 1.5 credits) to automatically be charged the U-Pass fee on Quest. 
  • New Watcard: Tap verification with a brand new WatCard should start working in 2 to 4 days. GRT’s data gets updated on a daily basis by WatCard on behalf of WUSA.  
  • Did you just become Fees arranged? Tap verification systems will take 2 to 4 days to update. 
  • GBDA: You were not automatically charged in case you live in Stratford full-time. You can buy into a U-Pass at the discounted rate at the SLC or DC Turnkey Desk
  • Not in the Region?: If you are studying in the winter term by means other than physically attending classes on campus, you are eligible to opt out of the program. You can opt out for the winter 2022 term below: 

    Winter 2022 Opt Out Form (Microsoft Forms)


Not taking 3 classes?

  • In-between two full-time terms? If you paid the U-Pass fee last term, you should have access. If you run into an issue with access, you’ll need to visit the WUSA Turnkey Desk and explain your situation.  

  • Registered with AccessAbility Services? You can purchase at the discounted rate in the WUSA Turnkey Desk. We’re working closely with AccessAbility Services (AAS) to try to automate this system through Quest while protecting your privacy! 

  • Do you have non-credit degree courses, seminars, or partial credit labs, field courses, or a need to access on-campus resources regularly? Exceptions can be made to opt you into the U-Pass program in some cases, email to inquire whether you can enroll into a U-Pass. 

If you do not meet the requirements of the program due to not enough classes, GRT EasyGO fare cards are available for purchase at both SLC & DC Turnkey Desks and at GRT ION stations.  

The cards themselves are $5, with a $10 load minimum. With this card, ride fares are reduced to $2.86.  

For other GRT fare options, follow this link: 


We have experienced some service hiccups with the GRT tap-to-ride systems in past months. Please let us know if this happens and we can make sure you are treated fairly.  

Feel free to also send the GRT your feedback here: 

Where to go?


Transit Hubs

The GRT system connects the Tri-Cities (Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge) together. GRT operates seven days a week and covers over 50 routes. The #7 (main line) and iXpress are the most popular bus routes, as they pass through many major centres around Kitchener-Waterloo. In addition, the ION Light Rail system runs from Fairway Mall through Uptown Waterloo to Conestoga Mall, connecting Kitchener to Waterloo. UW Station transit plaza coming soon to UW East Campus. 

Use Google Maps to see your transit options. Google Maps is synced with live GRT bus times. 

Places to explore

The following routes will get you to all the hot spots: 

  • Ion to Conestoga Mall 

  • Ion to Waterloo Park 

  • Ion to Uptown Waterloo 

  • 201 to Sobeys Columbia Plaza 

  • 202 to the Boardwalk 

  • 19 to St. Jacobs Farmers Market 

  • Ion to many notable places in Downtown Kitchener and the beautiful Victoria Park 

  • Ion to Centre in the Square for a concert 

  • Ion and short walk to Kitchener Memorial Auditorium 

...Or take your bike for a spin in a different part of town. All buses have bike racks, or you’re welcome to take it on the ION!


Will I be able to ride the bus/ION on a co-op term?  

WUSA’s agreement with GRT sets up payment only on your academic terms but allows use all year long. You remain U-Pass eligible for one off-term, summer for example, or the duration of your co-op term. This includes students on 8-month work terms. 

What should I do if my UPass doesn't work on the bus? 

If your Watcard fails to validate, it may be due to technical issues, or you may not be enrolled in the U-Pass program. Send an email with your student # to and they can explore further. 

Will my UPass get me on the ION? 

Yes, UPass holders will have full access to the ION Light Rail. Tap at the station before you get on the train. 

What does WUSA have to do with all of this? 

As students’ legal representatives at the University of Waterloo, WUSA negotiates the U-Pass contracts with GRT on behalf of all undergrads. The current system was put in place after initiating talks  with the Region of Waterloo. Prior to implementation of the U-Pass program in 2007, the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association held a referendum on a universal transit pass for full-time undergraduate students. To implement the results of this referendum, WUSA entered into two agreements. The first contract is with the Region of Waterloo (owners of Grand River Transit). This agreement lays out the process for the collection of fees and provision of services regarding the universal bus pass. The second agreement is between the WUSA, the Region of Waterloo and the University of Waterloo, which allows for WatCards to be used as transit passes and sets out rules for the confiscation of WatCards if misuse or fraud occurs.