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Council to consider program to replace school buses with city transit

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At their final meeting before a summer break, Barrie city councillors will consider a plan that could reimagine how many youths get to and from school.

On Wednesday, councillors will consider a direct motion from Councillor Clare Riepma calling for a pilot program to be established between the City and the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) for free passes for select youth.

As part of ongoing conversations, the school board and Barrie Transit officials have selected an area between Big Bay Point Rd. and Yonge Street as the site of the pilot program.

"Councilor Nixon and I particularly, and we've never understood why we have yellow school busses and blue city busses running in the same area," Councillor Riepma said to CTV News. "Both of us have busses running. Can we not be a little bit more efficient by working together?"

If approved, staff estimate the pilot program would include approximately 80 students from Innisdale Secondary School. They would be provided free transit passes through the City's digital transit app HotSpot and use city transportation to get to and from school.

Using the mobile app, staff would be able to accurately track usage to gauge the program's success and potentially extend it to other neighbourhoods if it proves successful.

"If it's to be successful, we're hoping for a large number of students to take city busses, take us up on our offer for free tickets and find their way to school that way and home again," the Ward 1 councillor said. "If that works, then the school board is going to save bussing money."

Riepma hopes that such a program will encourage students participating to utilize public transit long-term.

"I'm hopeful that everybody will think it's a good idea, and we'll move ahead," Riepma said.

The direct motion, accompanied by a memo from staff, will be presented to city council directly, bypassing other committees, for a potentially quick approval on Wednesday.  

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