By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Durham Region Transit has unveiled two new initiatives aimed at boosting youth ridership this summer.
“The past three years, the [youth] ridership we’ve served is declining,” says Vincent Patterson, general manager of Durham Region Transit (DRT). “We are dealing with somewhat smaller cohorts, but it doesn’t stop us from wanting to try.”
According to a report released earlier this year, youth ridership was down by 97,000 trips, or 7.4 per cent, in 2017.
The first pilot project will allow youth ages 13 to 19 who load a monthly pass on a Presto card in July to receive their August monthly pass for free.
Secondly, throughout July and August, children 12 and under will be able to ride for free when traveling with an adult holding a monthly pass.
“We hear of families considering going to downtown Oshawa for events in the summer, and as a group, it is not appealing to do that with everyone having to pay,” Patterson says. “Why not reward our loyal customers with an incentive.”
While these offers will only be available this summer, Patterson says the programs could be extended depending on customer reception.
“We will track the success and level of usage,” he says.
With the emergence of ride-sharing companies such as Uber, public transit services have challenges never faced before.
As the youth of today are more technologically inclined than ever, Patterson says it’s imperative to promote services in a way that truly connects with the demographic.
“Specifically, we are pushing it a lot on social media,” Patterson says.
DRT is also looking to increase its promotion throughout local school boards.
“We’ll keep pushing it through various schools that we are serving, and we will make as much noise as possible,” he says.
Earlier this year during budget deliberations, several councillors lamented the dissolution of a partnership with local school boards in 2013 as the main reason for the drop in youth ridership.
However, Patterson says this is not the case.
“It’s completely [an] apples and oranges [comparison]. Both the fare structure and service model have changed completely [since 2013]. It’s really hard to compare.”