Student experiences with Kingston Transit

‘Most of the buses won’t get you to class unless it’s 10 minutes late or half an hour early’

Thousands of students use buses each year.

When Trisha Singh was in second year, she lived near West Campus. Living further away from the main campus compared to most upper-year students, the HealthSci ’25 student walked 20 to 25 minutes each day to get to her classes and meetings.

Despite living near West campus, Singh preferred walking to main campus over busing.

In an interview with The Journal, Singh said she would only use the bus when she was running late or it was cold. In most circumstances, she preferred the walk to main campus.

Singh gave a number of reasons for her preference for walking, ranging from inconvenience of buses often running late to the low frequency of certain bus routes.

Among Singh’s chief concerns was safety.

In an interview with The Journal, Singh detailed an incident with another passenger that left her feeling shaken when bussing to campus.

“Someone came onto the bus, sat next to me, grabbed my arm, and said ‘what’s your name?’ He was leaning into [my] space and looking down at my phone,” she said. “I didn’t feel comfortable texting my friend about what was going on.”

Singh described a second incident, where a man tried to get on the bus without paying. When the bus operator refused to let the man board, a 20-minute stand-off between the driver and passenger began.

Besides the fact the situation significantly delayed the bus, Singh noted concerns with the man’s agitated and aggressive behaviour towards the bus driver. She recalls trying to not frustrate the man further.

Singh was surprised she had these unusual experiences when considering her relatively low bus use in Kingston.

“This is just two occasions, but it’s a lot considering I don’t use the bus very often,” Singh said.
“I think it says a lot that as a young woman in Kingston, I feel safer walking home at night than catching the bus.”

A Vancouver resident prior to attending Queen’s, Singh found she preferred busing over driving
in Vancouver.

According to Singh, Vancouver’s Translink system—the public transit system across the Metropolitan Vancouver area—is much more accessible due to the greater number of bus stops. However, Singh attributes these strengths to a higher demand for public transport in Vancouver compared to Kingston.

Every year, Queen’s students, both undergraduate and graduate, are provided universal access to Kingston transit routes through an agreement with the AMS and SGPS.

The agreement, more commonly known as the ‘Bus-It’ program, is a long-standing contract with the City of Kingston. The agreement ensures students continue to have universal access to transit at a fraction of usual the cost—students currently pay $122 annually whereas a regular adult pass is $80 per month.

Each academic year, students pay a slate of ancillary fees with their tuition, which covers several expenses. The mandatory transit fee aims to support Kingston’s transportation services.

On average, approximately 11,000 students have their student cards validated in late August through September, according to University Registrar Tracy Al-Idrissi. Throughout the academic year, around 600 additional students will validate their cards.

To validate their identification card, students either pick up a sticker, or choose to have it mailed to them.

Validation stickers are specific to the current year and are affixed to the back of the card. To use the bus, students present the backside of their student card to the bus driver to access transportation.


Singh is one of three Queen’s students who explained their challenges navigating Kingston Transit to The Journal.

Having attended high school in Kingston, Pranay Soma, HealthSci ’25, is a self-described Kingstonian. Throughout his education, he has relied on the Kingston transit system.

“[The bus] is my main use of transportation to get to classes,” he said. “It takes about 20 minutes to get there and back. So it’s a huge part of my life, especially my university life.”

Based on his experience, Soma finds the Kingston public transit system to be efficient. He appreciates the frequency of buses during busy times, and finds the inside of the buses to be “pretty clean and well-maintained.”

Soma also appreciates the electric buses, which were introduced in July 2021.

Despite a mostly positive experience navigating Kingston’s transit system, Soma identified some shortcomings—most notably the lack of alignment between class schedules and bus schedules.

He finds the time in between buses creates awkward gaps in his schedule.

Although he believes that he makes it work, Soma commented on how he usually arrives to classes approximately 20 minutes early because of the way the bus schedule aligns with his class schedule.

Soma expressed frustration with the handling of bus cancellations.

“Sometimes, buses just don’t show up. On Google Maps and Apple Maps, you can see the timing of the bus, but you can’t see if a bus is cancelled and just won’t come,’ he said. “If they could at least inform [you of the cancellation] so you can get on an earlier bus, that would be very helpful.”

Soma also indicated mixed views with respect to the ‘Bus-It’ program. While he appreciates that he does not have to purchase his bus pass through the City, he is concerned that the mandatory Student Activity Fee may lead to many students paying for a service that they have no need to use.

Jawahir Al Bayati, HealthSci ’25, expressed similar frustrations with the timing of transit services.

“I don’t find that it works with most students’ schedules. Most of the buses won’t get you to class unless it’s 10 minutes late or half an hour early,” she said.

Al Bayati owned and regularly used a car in Kingston until May 2023. When she still drove a vehicle, Al Bayati said she used the buses to get to campus during paid parking hours.

Without her own car, Al Bayati has started walking or biking to avoid cramped buses.
“If you ever get on the number two [bus] or any of the other buses that go directly to campus, they’re always overcrowded. You can’t sit anywhere, you can barely breathe,” she said.

Al Bayati, lived in London, ON, prior to attending Queen’s. She commented London buses experienced less overcrowding, which she attributed to London buses running more frequently.

Al Bayati expressed frustrations with the number of route transfers required to get to certain locations in Kingston. Getting to Walmart from main campus was easy with a car—the same journey on the bus is unnecessarily prolonged.

Jeremy DaCosta is the Director of Kingston’s Transit Services. As a frequent bus commuter himself, he feels he’s better equipped to understand the student busing experience.

“The main message is if any passengers, not just students, at any point [SIC] has any concern about their own safety on the bus, absolutely approach the bus operator,” he said in an interview.

According to DaCosta, 25 to 30 per cent of all transit riders are students.

He said Kingston Transit Services are happy to welcome students as passengers.

He stated there are no current trends of unsafe incidents occurring on Kingston transit.

“One of the biggest challenges we face, which is a nice challenge to have, is [that] when students are here, the buses tend to be very full,” DaCosta said.

Effectively managing the student population during periods of “peak loads” becomes a challenging task as ridership significantly surges both before and after classes.

When asked about specific safety measures in place on Kingston buses, DaCosta pointed to several examples.

Anytime a Kingston bus is on the road, supervisory staff are at work at Kingston’s Transit Control Centre to assist in the event of an emergency and dispatch emergency providers to a bus’s location.

Buses are equipped with video cameras on both the interior and exterior of the bus. DaCosta explained these cameras record audio so any incidents are seen and heard through the control center to ensure all situations addressed appropriately.

In terms of getting law enforcement involved with bus disturbances, DaCosta said it depends on the circumstances.

“It may be the case that we would simply dispatch a supervisor to that location as well. It will depend on whether we think it requires assistance from other emergency response providers to assist us with that,” he said.

“We are in contact quite regularly, with the AMS in particular, to talk about the needs of students, and what route changes might be requested or required,” DaCosta said.

He specified under the agreement Kingston Transit has with the student associations, there are three routes that are provided during the academic year—a direct route to the train station,
a route runs between Main and West Campus, and a late overnight service runs until 2 a.m.

“Those routes are a direct reflection of the feedback we’ve received from students and the feedback we’ve received from the [AMS] about the types of needs and that students have as it relates
to transit.”

As June approaches, DaCosta prepares to step down from his current position, but anticipates Kingston Transit will embark on their next five-year service plan in the upcoming fall, which entails engaging with the student population to discern the needs that must be addressed.

It’s important if students feel unsafe, they’re reporting their concerns to the city,
DaCosta explained.

If the city doesn’t receive information on negative transit experiences, they’re
unaware of any concerns, making it difficult to ignite change.


Bus-It, City of Kingston, Public Transit

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to


  • I am an alumni and used the bus system in Kingston all the time. These students seem to be a bit entitled to expect the bus to run on their schedule. Who cares if you are at class 20 minutes early, you got there and you saved $518 a year vs the cost of monthly passes.
    As for the busses being crowded during peek times that is part of life whether you are a student or not.

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