March 7th, 2024

Students on a Peterborough Transit bus as part of a Grade 8 Transit Quest orientation in advance of March Break. The Grade 8 students learned how to use a transfer pass and safely sit on the bus, and increased their awareness about the different tools to navigate the system. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP)

Students on a Peterborough Transit bus as part of a Grade 8 Transit Quest orientation in advance of March Break. The Grade 8 students learned how to use a transfer pass and safely sit on the bus, and increased their awareness about the different tools to navigate the system. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP)

By: Ashley Burnie, Program Coordinator at GreenUP

As March break approaches, teens and parents often find themselves with different priorities. Teens may anticipate a week of freedom and fun with friends. Parents and guardians may be finding themselves balancing work responsibilities with the increasing independence sought by their children. Children, we’ll note, who might rely on them as part-time chauffeurs.

Too young for part-time jobs or volunteering but too old for most day programs, Grade 8 students are left to fend for themselves. This leaves them (and their parents) with the question, “What to do?”

Grade 8 Transit Quest is a program that emerges as a solution to this question. Spearheaded by the City of Peterborough and coordinated by Active School Travel Peterborough, this initiative offers free Peterborough Transit passes to all Grade 8 students in the city throughout March break. In 2024 this falls between March 8 and March 17.

To encourage exploration, Transit Quest participants also receive a destination passport, which features a collection of free or discounted activities. They can visit local businesses like the Boardwalk Board Game Lounge, Lift Lock Escape, Zap Attack Laser Tag, Busy Brushes Pottery Painting, and other local favourites like the Peterborough Sport & Wellness Centre, the Peterborough Public Library, the YMCA, the Peterborough Museum & Archives, and the Art Gallery of Peterborough.

“Peterborough Transit is excited to work with GreenUP to educate youth about the countless benefits of public transportation,” says Adam Beauclerc, Acting Transit Safety and Training Supervisor at Peterborough Transit.

“By working together, we’re not only fostering a generation of informed commuters but also nurturing a sense of environmental responsibility and community engagement among young riders.”

Over 120 students participated in a series of transit orientation workshops as a part of Grade 8 Transit Quest, a GreenUP Active School Travel program with Peterborough Transit aimed at inviting Grade 8 students to ride the bus for free for the week of March break. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP)

Over 120 students participated in a series of transit orientation workshops as a part of Grade 8 Transit Quest, a GreenUP Active School Travel program with Peterborough Transit aimed at inviting Grade 8 students to ride the bus for free for the week of March break. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP)

Grade 8 Transit Quest introduces adolescents to the Peterborough Transit system at a pivotal stage when youth often naturally move toward independence. The program and increased access to Transit absolves parents from chauffeuring duties, and enables youth to access social, employment, and volunteer opportunities independently.

Adolescence is an influential period for embracing public transit. When embraced, we can predict future transit usage and reduced car dependence for this age range. A 2018 study of youth transit users in Kingston, Ontario, suggests public transit provides a meaningful alternative mode of transportation for youth and influences behavioural change for a more sustainable future.

Peterborough Transit hopes to see the same outcomes. Beauclerc continues, “By introducing students to the world of transit early on, we’re laying the groundwork for lifelong habits that promote sustainability and reduce congestion on our roads. Plus, we’re fostering a sense of independence and autonomy as youth gain the confidence to explore their city safely and efficiently.”

Public transit promotes safe travel and encourages healthier lifestyles by integrating physical activity into daily routines. Transit users attain a significant portion of their recommended daily physical activity through commuting, even with just a short trip to a bus stop. This is often referred to as multi-modal travel. Those who use transit will walk or bike more often, leading to increased quality of life and lower stress.

Public transportation not only benefits youth but also the environment by curbing air pollution and traffic congestion. Transportation emissions often account for up to 30% of a personal carbon footprint, and an even bigger portion of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

GreenUP’s program director Natalie Stephenson and active school travel program coordinator Ashley Burnie with Peterborough Transit driver Sue during a Grade 8 Transit Quest orientation before March Break. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP)

GreenUP’s program director Natalie Stephenson and active school travel program coordinator Ashley Burnie with Peterborough Transit driver Sue during a Grade 8 Transit Quest orientation before March Break. (Photo: Jessica Todd / GreenUP)

We need to increase the use of alternative modes like efficient public transit. It is imperative to reduce emissions and alleviate road congestion. Not only does this equate to cleaner air for everyone, but less cars on the roads means our streets are safer for all road users.

New for 2024, Active School Travel Peterborough and Peterborough Transit are piloting a series of transit orientation workshops. With the support of Peterborough Transit, a bus is deployed to local schools, where Grade 8 students learn about using transit in a low-pressure environment. The orientation covers topics such as: boarding, navigating the system, asking for transfers, etiquette, safety and more.

“Through hands-on activities and real-world experiences, we’re equipping students with the knowledge and skills to navigate public transit confidently and responsibly,” notes Beauclerc. “From understanding the environmental impact of sustainable transportation to mastering route planning and fare systems, this will empower youth to embrace public transit as a convenient, cost effective and eco-friendly mode of transportation.”

Grade 8 Transit Quest offers an opportunity to embrace sustainable and independent mobility. By distributing transit passes and educational materials before the March break, Active School Travel Peterborough facilitates seamless participation. Together, we foster a generation of environmentally responsible and empowered young commuters. For more information about Grade 8 Transit Quest, please reach out to ashley.burnie@greenup.on.ca.