Youth, schools, and communities all stand to gain from a public transit initiative in Kingston, Ontario that is empowering young riders, making (pre-COVID) field trips less costly and more climate-friendly, and encouraging life-long transit ridership.
Describing a “simple but powerful model to transform public transportation,” Green Teacher explains that the Kingston initiative hinges on “two systemic changes”: actively teaching students how to ride the bus, and, subsidizing transit to make it free for students until they graduate from high school.
The program’s originator, Dan Hendry, laid out the details in a TEDx talk in Ottawa in October 2019.
Encouraging transit use not only engenders “independence, responsibility, and confidence” in young riders, it also prevents their socio-economic situations from becoming a barrier to things like volunteering, part-time work, extracurricular activity, and offsite learning. For the schools, meanwhile, increased transit use means “less congestion around school sites,” more opportunities for student engagement in the community, and field trips that are healthier both for school budgets and for the environment.
Normalizing transit “as an efficient, green, and reliable mode of transportation” benefits the community too, writes Green Teacher, as “increasing ridership on public transit reduces the number of single-occupant vehicles on the road.”