Dear, Mayor Tory, Minister Mulroney and Minister Alghabra,
On behalf of the Toronto District School Board, I am writing to ask that you provide funding support to the Toronto Transit Commission to expand free TTC rides to high school students as part of their 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.
This past summer, the TDSB worked closely with the City of Toronto to provide recreational spaces for youth in areas of Toronto that have historically been plagued with gun violence. It’s paramount that we continue to work together on more initiatives like this that benefit our most vulnerable communities, such as helping low-income students attend specialized programs.
Currently, 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).
For the reasons mentioned above, we are asking that you provide funding support to expand free TTC rides to high school students. Please consider this ask as soon as possible. The Toronto Transit Commission is scheduled to approve the 5-Year Fare Policy and 10-Year Fare Collection in February 2022.
As always, I am happy to continue this conversation at your earliest convenience.
Chair, Toronto District School Board
Cc: OPSBA, Minister of Youth