Citizens lobby for school passes

Burnaby Now

Alfie Lau

School field trips are in danger of becoming a thing of the past, according to two local citizens who are trying to get a low-cost group transit pass for schools and daycares.

Schula Leonard, a Burnaby librarian and Sharon Freeman, a Burnaby teacher, are part of a group called the TripEd Committee. The group wants TransLink to OK a low-cost annual group transit pass that would cover students, teachers and support people on educational field trips.

“I’ve been a teacher for more than 20 years and I have seen transportation become a barrier to kids going on field trips,” Freeman said. “Science World offers free admission to classes to go there but we are seeing classes that can’t afford to travel there.”

As an example, Freeman said a class of 30 students taking public transit from Vancouver to Science World would pay $105 in transit fees, not including teachers or adult supervisors.

A similar size group from Burnaby would pay $150 – a two-zone transit ride – while a group from Surrey would pay $210 for their three-zone ride.

“We are proposing a $10 annual fee transit pass,” said Freeman, who pointed out that a program in Kamloops and Kelowna already exists where classes can board buses for free if they’re going on field trips.

Leonard said the value of field trips cannot be measured.

“Field trips citizenize people,” she said. “When kids are able to see the landmarks and learn first-hand about the things around them, I think that makes them better citizens.”

Leonard said in her experience as a Burnaby librarian, she’s seen the numbers for storytime decrease as low-income families can’t afford to transport their children even to the local library.

“If you take that a step further,” she said, “there are children who’ve never left Burnaby, children who haven’t been to Stanley Park and they haven’t seen the ocean.”

Leonard said the other benefits of the low-cost transit pass would be a decrease in greenhouse gases as future generations embrace public transit and an increased appreciation for the need to have better public transit options.

“We want our future generations to value public transit,” she said, adding that low-income families are the ones who use transit the most and will be hurt the most by any decrease in public transit services.

Burnaby councillors, while sympathetic to the cause, said the timing of the request could not be worse.

Mayor Derek Corrigan told Leonard and Freeman that the city would send a letter of support to TransLink and have the city’s transportation committee look at other ways the city can help them get their low-cost transit passes.

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