Ontario post-secondary schools to study how students get around

A contingent of 10 universities and colleges in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is launching a three-year research program examining how their students get around.

The researchers will examine how the roughly 600,000 students who attend post-secondary schools in the region use transportation.

The colleges and universities that have partnered with Metrolinx and the City of Toronto stretch as far west as McMaster University in Hamilton and as far east as Ontario Tech University in Oshawa.

The research expands and builds on a previous study from the four universities in Toronto in 2015.

Ryerson University says this is the largest study of its kind to date.

Transport affects academic performance

Lead researcher Raktim Mitra says the program will provide important insights for urban planning.

“With such a large footprint, our universities and colleges are an important stakeholder in city-building, because our students create a significant demand for transportation, including transit,” he said. “And we understand that their transportation experiences and challenges have some impact on their academic performance, their well-being and whatnot.”

Mitra, an associate professor at Ryerson’s School of Urban and Regional Planning, said the study will help the universities understand what that impact is, and how to ensure students are on a level playing field.

The study will also allow urban planners to factor students into their decisions, Mitra said.

“Through the data and our partnership with Metrolinx and the City of Toronto, we’ll be able to identify key areas for improvement in transportation infrastructure that will improve this transportation experience for our students,” he said.

Study set to begin Oct. 1

The study is multi-phased, Mitra said, but the first and “most significant” is a massive survey of students that will take place between Oct. 1 and Nov. 15.

He said he and his fellow researchers are hoping the study will provoke a discussion about the role that schools play in transportation planning.

“It’s more than just a research project,” he said. “Instead, we are looking at it as a partnership between academic institutions, researchers like us, professionals, as well as the students.

Through these partnerships, together we’re trying to identify key problems and trying to promote a debate around this important issue.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2019.

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