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City extends use of Barrie Transit buses for school field trips

Barrie North and St. Peter's secondary schools chosen to take part in new pilot program
2019-09-17 Barrie bus station RB
Buses arrive and depart from the Barrie Transit Terminal on Maple Avenue on Sept. 17, 2019. Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday

The wheels on the city bus will keep going 'round for elementary students to get out of the classroom for field trips.

And some high schools will be getting their fair share, too. 

Council has approved continuation of the Barrie Transit field trip pass program for elementary students during the school year. The city will also begin a similar one-year program involving two local high schools.

"One of the great things our transit department has been doing is reaching out with these new types of passes and ways of encouraging young people to use transit," Mayor Jeff Lehman said at Monday night's council meeting. 

"The more we do these things, the more we introduce young people to our system."

And it's crucial, he said, because something like the field trip pass program could make or break any chances for students to get out of the classroom. 

"The cost of a bus can be prohibitive for a field trip," Lehman said. "There's limited funds everywhere in education and, of course, the cost of a schoolbus can be a big reason why a field trip doesn't happen.

Beginning Nov. 1, anyone under 13 years old will be able to ride city buses for free with the new transit pricing, Lehman noted. 

Coun. Robert Thomson said the field trip pass program falls in line with the city's ideas for sustainability. 

"It's been a great program and I didn't want it to go unnoticed," Thomson said. 

To help offset costs of the Barrie Transit field trip pass, the city will see increased federal and provincial funding through the gas-tax program, which is awarded based on total transit ridership.

The pilot program, which operated between December 2018 and June 2019, was developed to find new ways to integrate services and to better serve the city's younger riders.

It began as a partnership between Barrie Transit and the Simcoe County Student Transit Consortium, which provides busing for both the Simcoe County District School Board and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.

The initial program involved 10 elementary schools.

With the extension of the program, field trip passes will be made available to all elementary schools from participating school boards located within the city limits. This could include more than 40 schools.

Participating schools will be provided with three field trip passes, which will be valid for unlimited travel for up to 30 students and five adults. Multiple passes can be combined to accommodate additional students, teachers or chaperones.

With the initial program being deemed a success, high schools will also now have the same opportunities. 

Secondary schools were determined after reviewing city routes, accessibility, access to city facilities, capacity and other safety concerns. Following discussions with officials at the bus consortium, Barrie North Collegiate and St. Peter’s Catholic Secondary School were selected as the pilot participating schools.

Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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