Riding the bus can be seen as a scary activity for some kids, but an initiative run by the City of Kingston and area school boards is trying to change the stigma. Referred to as a transit orientation initiative, it’s called the Transit High School Bus Pass Project.
To start, students are given a bus pass once they start grade 9 and are taken on a bus trip, just to see how it all works. Dan Hendry with the Limestone District School Board has taught hundreds of these classes and says it gives students key information they may need while taking city transit.
“It teaches etiquette, it shows how transferable the skill set is if you go to other cities, and it shows how to get along in public,” Hendry said. “I think there’s a cultural part of it; people have to learn. You know, I was uncomfortable when I was a boy and I think we’re trying to get rid of that and make it a positive situation.”
Students can take what they learn from the program and apply it right away when they ride the bus. Hendry teaches them about transfers, proper etiquette with the elderly and other important points during the class. The initiative has been in place since 2012, and since then, has put bus passes in thousands of students’ hands. Most notably, officials say it’s helped increase city transit ridership more than 70 per cent — something that Hendry says is garnering national attention.
“I’d say about 20 municipalities said, ‘How are you doing it? You’re changing your public culture.'”
The idea is to help inspire youth to continue riding the bus, even after they finish high school. The City of Kingston even received a Sustainable Community Award from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Alex Cool-Fergus with the FCM watched the education program in action this week, and she says the idea is to bring the concept to other cities so they can do something similar.
“We’re trying to document it and understand what the whole process is so that other municipalities can take the same model or modify it for their own area,” Cool-Fergus said.