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'Later is better than never': Deputy Mayor responds to LTC report on free bus passes for high schoolers

Passengers disembark from a London Transit bus. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London) Passengers disembark from a London Transit bus. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)
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Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis remains optimistic about launching a pilot project giving free bus passes to high school students despite a report to the London Transit Commission (LTC) that casts doubt on council’s timeline.

”Obviously, I would prefer this year, but later is better than never,” Lewis told CTV News after reading the report by LTC administration.

In April, city council directed staff to develop a draft agreement with the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) and London Transit Commission (LTC) on a two year pilot project giving free bus passes to Grade 9 students at Clarke Road Secondary School this September, and to Grade 9 and Grade 10 students next September.

However, an LTC report responding to the council direction warns, “the number of program elements need to be clarified, coupled with the time and resource requirements to put them in place, it may be prudent for the parties to consider a later start date.”

 

Uncertainties listed in the report

  • objective of pilot project
  • funding model / fare replacement
  • impact on ridership
  • start date
  • student behaviour on buses
  • sharing bus passes

Lewis acknowledged the pilot project may require more runway to get off the ground, but that launching mid-year would be a mistake because student travel patterns would already be set.

“So whether it’s September of this year, or September of next year, I think what’s really clear is that it’s possible, and we should be investigating this further,” the deputy mayor added.

Lewis and Coun. Peter Cuddy brought the initial motion to council seeking a pilot project.

“Is the uptake going to be enough for secondary students to make this worthwhile or not? That’s why we need a pilot project,” said Lewis.

He believes all of the challenges can be overcome including the long-term costs if the pilot project proves successful.

Free passes could be the subject of an application for municipal assessment growth funding.

“It wouldn’t be needing all the funding all at once. It would be a very phased approach to doing this, but we have to start somewhere,” Lewis said.

The London Transit Commission will consider the report during its meeting on May 29. 

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