How to increase bus ridership by 70% in your city?
Bus ridership in Kingston, Ontario jumped by more than 70% between 2012 and 2017. That’s a big increase! And the story about how it all happened is pretty great. As we are trying to include more inspiring stories from the field in our sustainability videos, today I’m excited to bring my friend Dan Hendry along for the ride. He was part of this success story…
That’s me…Dan Hendry, well it’s a drawing of me. I’m from Kingston and I’m here to tell you the story about how we are changing public transit culture. In 2012 Kingston’s City Council recognized the benefits of youth using public transportation and decided to allow ninth graders free access to Kingston Transit. This was the beginning of a great initiative. There was just one little problem…. most high school students didn’t know how to board a bus let alone what route to take.. Students needed an introduction to this brand new world. This was the start of the Kingston Transit & Limestone District School Board’s transit orientation project.
Now, every September we take a Kingston Transit bus to each high school and teach every Grade 9 student how to use public transportation. We give them their free bus pass that day. So, what is this teaching students? A lot. I always start with the students in front of the bus. I show them how to use the bike rack. It may seem like a simple thing but without a safe no-stress opportunity to learn how – many new riders won’t even try. Then we get on the bus. We meet the driver and we learn about bus etiquette, the routes, and describe the newfound freedom this will offer them. I also tell them about the social, economic, health and environmental benefits. With a lot more confidence and a pass in their hand, students feel more comfortable on the bus and they are more apt to use it now and in the future.
After we started with Grade 9’s in the first year, another grade was added to the program each year. Today, Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 ride free in the city of Kingston. In our pilot year Grade 9 students took about 28,000 rides on public transit. In 2016, Kingston high school students made nearly 600,000 trips. High school students alone now represent about 10% of bus ridership.
A university student completed her master’s thesis on this program and found that Grade 12 students, on average, use the transit pass three times more frequently than Grade 9 students. The research study concluded that the transit pass is an important stimulant for travel independence for high schools students, and that the program could be applied to other mid-sized North American municipalities.
The Kingston High School Transit Pass Program has proven to be an effective behavioural change tool; it fosters the growth of future PAYING riders; it’s helped increase total ridership by 70%; and it is teaching everyone how sustainability is everyone’s responsibility! Thanks for watching this video. I hope you found it helpful and inspiring. If you want to help us create more free videos, please subscribe and consider becoming a patron by making a pledge of $1 or more by clicking on the Patreon button. Thank you and see you in the next one.