Empowering youth through free transit

Empowering youth through free transit

This resource is also available in French. Click here to access the French version.

In a culture built around the automobile, in the midst of an ever-worsening climate crisis, it’s not hard for today’s youth to feel disconnected from their communities and anxious about the future. 

When the City of Kingston, Ontario, introduced free bus passes for Grade 9 students a decade ago, they didn’t realize how the program would grow, nor the positive ripple effects it would have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building a better future for the city’s youth and improving social equity. These benefits inspired Dan Hendry, a leader in the Kingston program, to partner with environmental charity and crowdfunding platform Small Change Fund to launch Get on the Bus.

Get on the Bus is a national movement to inspire a youth transit revolution across Canada by building a network of communities that are investing in youth transit education and free youth passes. Get on the Bus provides resources, support and connections to help communities launch their own youth transit programs.

The movement is growing: many Ontario communities (Belleville, Burlington, Oakville, Orangeville) as well as Grand Prairie, AB, Halifax, NS, and Victoria, BC all have free youth transit programs. Get on the Bus is working closely with several other communities to support additional free youth transit programs across the country.

A key emphasis of the Get on the Bus movement is the importance of training youth how to use their pass and the bus. “Think of the last new thing you did without training, it probably caused anxiety,” says Hendry. “Providing training to the students reduces barriers.”

By reducing barriers and increasing freedom, free youth transit empowers the next generation to participate in their communities. It enables youth to move around a built environment that wasn’t set up for those without a vehicle – to meet friends, participate in extracurriculars, get a job and volunteer in their community.

“Families go through a major transition in high school as the kids are growing up. Teaching them to use public transit ties into that shift in perspective and fosters lifelong transit use, while providing youth with a critical life skill,” says Hendry.

To learn more about bringing the youth transit movement to your community, reach out to dan@smallchangefund.ca.