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Political push for more consultation with LTC before green lighting free bus pass pilot project 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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A pair of city councillors want a feasibility study completed before deciding the location and parameters of a pilot project to provide free bus passes to high school students.

On Tuesday, city council will consider a motion by Coun. David Ferreira and Coun. Corrine Rahman that backs conducting the pilot project “in principle,” but seeks more information in the form of a feasibility report before choosing a school, methodology and source of funding.

The motion comes less than a week after council’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee recommended directing Civic Administration to reach a draft agreement with the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) and the London Transit Commission (LTC) to launch a pilot project giving free bus passes to grade nine students at Clarke Road Secondary School this September, and to grade nine and grade 10 students next September.

Ferreira admits consulting with London Transit and performing a route/ridership analysis might result in a different school being chosen as the test site, and could jeopardize launching this September.

“Obviously a September launch would be important to me, but doing the work right is important to me as well,” explained Ferreira. “Would it delay a September launch? It most likely would.”

On Friday, LTC General Manager Kelly Paleczny told CTV News London that several of the bus routes serving the Clarke Road Secondary School area are already at or above capacity during peak periods when students travel to and from school.

Encouraging more students to ride those routes could displace passengers who currently pay full fare.

Paleczny said that while boosting ridership is a goal for London Transit, the immediate need is to expand routes, improve service and increase frequency for existing riders.

On Friday, Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis said the feasibility of a pilot project would be part of the work performed by Civic Administration, TVDSB and LTC if they are directed to develop a draft agreement.

Lewis said an analysis of existing ridership must consider both the time of day and the specific locations along a route when buses exceed capacity.

Ferreira and Rahman’s motion states:

That Civic Administration in collaboration with the London Transit Commission, Thames Valley District School Board be directed to initiate the development of a memorandum of understanding for a multi-year pilot project to provide annual transit passes to secondary school students, including:

  • The current post-secondary student annual transit pass agreements between the City of London, Western University and Fanshawe College and the current children under 12 ride free program be considered as templates to establish the framework for this pilot program
  • The Civic Administration be directed to report back to council with a feasibility report including recommended routes as decided by all parties, shared goals, metrics, costing, methodology for tracking results and an appropriate secured source of financing for the pilot program

"Look into what routes, and which schools in the area would be most appropriate to conduct such a study,” added Ferreira. “And I would like to see how any future expansion would be included in this too. I think we should be looking into that right now."

There is already a subsidized bus pass for students aged 13 to 17.

On Tuesday, council will consider the new motion along with the original recommendation by SPPC to seek a draft agreement with TVDSB and LTC for a pilot project.

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