The City of Kingston's Transit High School Bus Pass Project is the 2018 co-winner of the transportation category of FCM's Sustainable Communities Awards. The initiative also received FCM's inaugural Inspire Award for the project that best demonstrates creativity and innovation, as decided by a live vote of delegates at FCM's Sustainable Communities Conference.
Watch the video and read the case study to learn more about this project. Download our guide below to get started on a similar project in your community.
How can a community encourage teens to use a sustainable, active mode of transportation to get to school, work and recreational activities? The City of Kingston, ON, and the local school boards found that giving high school students free bus passes wasn't enough to address this challenge. The solution? They introduced a transit orientation program, and now the students are on board with riding the bus.
Transit orientation generated 20-fold increase in bus trips
The City and school boards work collaboratively by providing a bus orientation program to high school students. The orientation familiarizes students with the transit system, teaches them about the environmental benefits of public transit and the cost savings compared to owning and operating a car, and shows them how riding the bus increases their freedom to travel to school and other activities.
The result? Students took nearly 600,000 trips on public transit between September 2016 and August 2017 alone—a staggering increase from 30,000 trips in the project’s first year.
Project succeeded in increasing travel independence for youth
Students said the transit pass helped them feel more independent and let them participate in more activities-such as volunteering, work, and sports. A study of the program, conducted by the University of Waterloo, showed about half the students' bus trips were to activities outside school hours, and that students tended to take the bus more often as they got older and gained experience using transit. Following graduation, students continued to use the bus to travel within Kingston.
The study concluded that the program is an important stimulant for students' travel independence that could be applied in other mid-sized Canadian communities.
Environmental and economic benefits seen in the broader community
Students, parents, the environment and the community all benefit from this initiative. Students acquire a life skill that gives them more freedom and helps them remain physically active. Parents save the time and money spent driving their children and reduce the environmental impact of using the car. And the transit system has more riders during off-peak hours, bringing the buses to life for the whole community.
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FCM's Sustainable Communities Awards recognize and celebrate sustainability leaders and trailblazers in municipalities of all sizes across Canada.