Tyler Brown, Regional District of Nanaimo transit select committee chairman, wants to explore free bus passes for secondary students in the Nanaimo area. (News Bulletin file)

Nanaimo region asked to consider free bus passes for students

Tyler Brown, RDN transit committee chairman, hopes to explore fully subsidized bus passes for youths

Nanaimo organizations that service youths hope the Regional District of Nanaimo transit select committee chairman’s plan to explore free student bus passes will bear fruit.

Tyler Brown, also an RDN director and City of Nanaimo councillor, is expected to introduce transit-related notices of motion at a regular board meeting Dec. 10, including one examining fully subsidized transit passes for high school students.

The notices would direct staff to compile a report and possible initiatives that would be applicable to the RDN. It is based on a model from Kingston, Ont., which saw ridership double within 10 years, according to Brown.

“It had a system that wasn’t performing or functioning well and they made a series of changes,” said Brown. “One of the significant changes was fully subsidizing transit passes for their high schools, Grades 9-12. But it wasn’t just that. It was sort of contextualized with a really robust education program around transit for those students as well.”

The idea is something both Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools and Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre support.

In an e-mail, Charlene McKay, school board chairperson, said free bus passes are in line with district priorities.

“The board of education recently wrote a letter of support for our Youth Climate Action Network (previously Green Network) students, who are advocating for free transit passes for youth,” McKay said. “While many of our secondary students take school buses driven by our CUPE members, many others utilize public transit to get to and from school each day rather than commuting with their parent or guardian.”

McKay said she hopes consideration will be given to support students’ vision of greenhouse gas emission reductions as well as through support of free or subsidized youth transit passes.

READ ALSO: RDN looks to provide year-round busing

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Ruby Barclay, aboriginal centre youth advisory council coordinator, said free bus passes “would make a world of difference” for Tsawalk Learning Centre students as it would offer avenues of safety, increased accessibility to resources and would benefit vulnerable students, especially those experiencing poverty.

“We have some great resources located all over Nanaimo,” said Barclay. “They’d be able to go and access medical resources, they’d be able to go and access wellness resources, they’d be able to access community-based resources, those kind of different things in the community and also be able to go and access recreation and different parts of Nanaimo in terms of being able to access nature … the rec centre, skating, the mall, shopping, there’re so many different things that having to pay for transit creates a barrier for them.”


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