Will St. Catharines idea for free student transit passes be extended to Niagara Region?
Published July 19, 2022 at 9:56 am
The possibility that St. Catharines students could get free transit passes in the future may just get pushed to a larger stage.
At tonight’s (July 19) meeting of the new Niagara Transit Commission, St. Catharines regional representative Mat Simcoe will be bringing forth the idea that free student passes – an initiative that’s worked very well in Kingston – could be something equally applied to the future Niagara-wide transit system.
When St. Catharines Council recently brought up the notion of greener electric buses for the city, Ward 4 councillor Karrie Porter piggybacked the Kingston initiative into the discussions.
Both Porter and Siscoe are fans of the free student passes, noting that Kingston ridership increased 20 times with the move, meaning more cars were coming out the roads.
At the moment, St. Catharines Transit Commission received $98,500 from the federal government for a study examining the benefits of converting its fleet to battery-powered electric buses.
Presently, most of the city buses are fueled by diesel though on occasion you can see a handful drive by with the slogan, “Breathe easier, it’s a hybrid.”
The move to electric is expected to save up to about $900,000 a year in fuel costs alone and potentially as much as $50,000 on maintenance for each bus.
Porter, who bills herself as “The Ward 4 Councillor who wants everyone to ride the bus,” was dealing with the potential switch to electric but also offered up, “The City of Kingston increased transit ridership 20 fold, simply by offering students under 18 a free transit pass and partnering with school boards to teach Grade 9 students how to take the bus.”
Before long, Siscoe decided the idea needed a larger stage and posted, “I’ll be bringing a motion to ask staff to report back on the Kingston High School Transit Pass Program.”
“A program like this is a great first initiative by the new Transit Commission to increase ridership and an important step toward creating lifelong transit users. New future users will increase revenues, allowing transit to expand future subsidization of low and fixed-income riders.”
Siscoe, who also has his hat in the ring for St. Catharines Mayor as Walter Sendzik gets ready to step down, added, “When I first got elected, I was quoted… as saying I would happily steal any good idea to move the City forward. This is a great idea to steal.”
Earlier Porter had noted that China has 420,000 electric buses and growing in hundreds of cities. Finland just put in another order. London, UK is electrifying its fleet. So is Toronto. Oslo’s public transport is on track to be 100 electric by 2028. “No city can just switch without significant long range planning.”insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising