Bus-It program fee renewal presents expanded routes & improved service times

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Proposed fee increase would allow for North-South bus stops, late-night service in University District

Kingston Transit system has seen a 10 per cent ridership increase per year for the past three years.
Credit: 
Supplied by Wikimedia

As referendum voting approaches, the AMS is requesting a fee increase for the Kingston Transit Bus-It program. If passed, this would allow for expanded routes and improved service times based on student need.

Beginning in 1974, this program is a partnership between the AMS and Kingston Transit that allows Queen’s students universal access to the city’s buses for a discounted price. Every three years, the fee is reviewed by the two organizations and changes are brought to the students for a referendum vote.

In 2015, a $20.75 fee increase was approved at referendum. This year, the AMS will be requesting a $23.75 increase to accommodate significant changes in the bus routes available to students.

According to AMS Director of Communications Craig Draeger, the AMS conducted an intensive online survey throughout August and September to hear what students wanted from the transit deal. In an interview with The Journal, Commissioner of Municipal Affairs Stefano Hollands detailed the proposed changes based on the results from 537 survey respondents. 

Through the acquisition of a second bus on the Q17 route — one that serves downtown, main campus and West campus areas — late-night service will increase from every 30 minutes to 15 minutes after 11 p.m. 

Moreover, the updated program will add North-South bus stops for the first time ever in the University District. In the expanded Q17 route, bus stops will be placed along Alfred St. at Johnson St., Brock St. and Princess St.

Graphic supplied by AMS Communications

The Q17 route will also allow access to the Williamsville corridor on Princess St. — an area occupied by mid-to-highrise apartment buildings like 655 Princess St. — for the first time ever. The route will extend from the Williamsville corridor to as far south as Kingston General Hospital.

With hundreds of Queen’s students living in 655 Princess St. and more developments on the way, Holland believes transit access to this area is imperative.

“The rationale for lobbying for this route is that you have an entire block at 655 Princess St., across the street you have a 10-storey development that’s being proposed and already at Nelson St. and Princess [Patry Inc. Developments] is developing another 5-storey building,” Hollands said. “[It’s] very important that we get that transit infrastructure in place to match the demand that’s anticipated.”

With the improved route, students living at 655 Princess St. will be able to get to main campus in minutes. On top of this, students living north of Mack St. between University Ave. and Victoria St. will now only need to walk north to Princess St. to access the same buses. Moreover, Hollands said increasing service to this area promotes a safelate-night transportation option for students.

The updates will also affect the Q20 bus route, which currently loops around main campus and services the Isabel Bader Centre as well as West campus. According to Hollands, the City has been able to place express buses to service the Bader, while the re-routed Q20 service will now run along Union St. instead.

Graphic supplied by AMS Communications

“As classes are expanding more on West Campus and Queen’s also bought St. Mary’s of the Lake [Hospital], this is really going to help service those areas,” Hollands said of the service.

While Hollands acknowledged the fee increase may “seem substantial at first,” Queen’s students will still retain the lowest transit fee among all Ontario universities. If passed, the annual fee will total $90, making Bus-It the only university transit fee in Ontario to remain below $100 per year.

The fee is also 87 per cent less than Kingston adults pay for their yearly bus pass, which costs $678. On Jan. 22, the AMS will be launching an official informational website about the fee, which will include route maps, program highlights and a fee comparison breakdown.

Graphic supplied by AMS Communications

“We really want to make sure that students have a strong basis of information behind the campaign,” Hollands said of the website. “The more students are able to learn, the more they can see that this is an amazing transit deal.”

Jeremy Dacosta, Manager of Kingston Transit, said he collaborated with the AMS on this project to “better understand what services students would like to see from their public transit.”

“Kingston Transit has a long-standing relationship with the AMS as it relates to the Bus-It program — we have what is, I believe, the longest running partnership of its kind in Canada,” Dacosta said. “We think its important for students to continue to support it so they have uninterrupted universal access to public transit 12 months of the year.”

The Bus-It fee will be included on the AMS referendum ballot, available for voting on Jan. 29 and 30.

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