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Kingston gets more youth riding public transit

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.

Photo of students attending orientation session standing in front of a bus.
Teaching Kingston students about the transit system and the independence it offers was a key to the project’s success. (Photo: City of Kingston, ON)

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.

The on-bus orientation program increased high school students’ transit trips from 30,000 to 600,000.

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.

Learn more about this project

Want to develop a similar project in your community? This spring, we'll publish a video of the project team's presentation at FCM's 2018 Sustainable Communities Conference, along with a guide.

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FCM's Sustainable Communities Awards recognize and celebrate sustainability leaders and trailblazers in municipalities of all sizes across Canada.

Page Updated: 09/02/2018