Dear Councillor Robinson,
On behalf of the Toronto District School Board, I am writing to ask that the Toronto Transit Commission expand free TTC rides to high school students as part of the upcoming 5-Year Fare Policy and 10-Year Fare Collection Outlook.
Students and teachers reported a reduction in low-income students’ in Grade 9-12 enrolling in specialized programs such as French Immersion, Extended French and Gifted programs in 2019. The same can be said for elementary students in Grade 6-8 taking Gifted and French Immersion programs in 2020. We feel strongly that these valuable programs should be open to all students and that financial challenges, such as transportation, should not be a barrier. While it is not possible for us to transport these programs to students, we can work together to remove barriers like the cost of TTC fare.
As you know, the TTC provides free rides for children 12 years and younger. However, students have expressed discrimination from fare enforcement based on race and age — saying they were challenged about their age as many young people do not have or carry identification.
It is also important to note that studies show that using transit at a younger age can encourage life-long use of transit, influencing behavioural change for a more sustainable future (Lachappelle et al, 2016). In Kingston, Ontario, a program is providing free transit passes to high school students, along with an on-bus orientation session to teach students how to ride the bus. This work has helped increase overall transit ridership by 73% since 2012 (Federation of Canadian Municipalities, 2019).
With these factors in mind, we hope that you will seriously consider this request and include in your final plans for both the 5-Year Fare Policy and 10-Year Fare Collection, prior to final approval in February 2022.
I will also be reaching out to the Mayor, Ontario Minister of Transportation and Transport Canada to advocate for funding support for this important step to support our high school students.
As always, I am happy to continue this conversation at your earliest convenience.
Chair, Toronto District School Board
Cc: OPSBA, Federal Minister of Youth