Brampton bolsters transit use, expands youth program offering free trips in the summer
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Brampton bolsters transit use, expands youth program offering free trips in the summer

Families across Brampton struggling like so many others to keep up with runaway costs for groceries, housing and other basic needs, will get some relief this summer.

The City wants to make transit and local recreational activities more accessible for youth, with Council approving recommendations from staff in the Transit and Recreation Divisions to expand the Explore Brampton Youth Pass Program. It first launched as a pilot in 2022, allowing those aged 12 to 16 to have free access to Brampton Transit and select drop-in recreation programs from Canada Day until Labour Day.

A staff report was approved Wednesday, resulting in the expansion of the program to 2,500 passes from 2,000 previously. The pilot was implemented on March 30, 2022, with 1,000 initial Explore Brampton Youth Passes whose holders could access an array of drop-in programs, such as swimming, skating and certain sports activities. 

Now, Recreation and Transit staff have successfully expanded the pilot to a permanently established program, and the City “could see a cost impact of less than approximately $75K ($50K in Transit & $25K in Recreation revenues) related to the initiative and that the “financial impact would be absorbed within the departments’ 2024 Operating budgets.” 

There are more than 25 community centres in Brampton. According to the city’s 2021 Census data, Brampton’s population of 656,480 had the lowest average age among Canada’s largest cities, with almost a quarter of residents, 24.4 percent, who were 19 or younger. 

Less than half of youth in the municipality, 43.6 percent, aged 12-17 are physically active, data from 2019 on the Region of Peel’s website shows. A 2018 ParticipACTION report highlights how for adolescents, regular physical activity can have health benefits to the brain and body, can reduce anxiety and stress and can improve self-esteem and attention spans. 

The staff report states “Brampton is one of the youngest cities in Canada with more than 130,000 youth within the ages of 14 and 29,” highlighting that many of these young people “travel using public transit, especially those attending high school and post-secondary institutions.” It cites data from 2016, which show that 45 percent of youth aged 15 to 29 get around using public transit, and states “youth desire more events, but also more day-to-day activities, with lack of activities and boredom mentioned a significant number of times when asked what youth are least proud of in Brampton.”

A 2016 Public Health Ontario report titled Evidence Brief: Barriers to physical activity for children and youth in Ontario, highlights different barriers to physical activity for young people. Some are found at the community level and involve the built environment, such as a lack of yard space, poor highway and transportation design and a lack of recreational infrastructure. 

Even if recreation spaces are available, a “lack of transportation to get there” can be another barrier for youth staying physically active. Large thoroughfares such as the wide boulevards and highways in and around Brampton can also have the effect of hemming youth into neighbourhoods bounded by busy traffic corridors.


Brampton’s suburban design has the effect of cutting young residents off from access to recreational activities and other forms of exercise. 

(The Pointer files)


The main goals of the Explore Brampton Youth Pass, the staff report explains, are to “[e]ngage youth early in recreation centres that support lifelong healthy habits… [a]ttract more youth to ride transit to increase the overall modal split for transit in the city,” and to “[p]rovide youth the opportunities to feel safe and comfortable travelling on public transit and explore seeing various locations in Brampton.”

It also shares the goals of eliminating transportation and program costs to increase access to recreation centres and “[f]oster positive and collaborative relationships with youth groups, community agencies and schools to ensure a collaborative approach to supporting Brampton’s youth.”

In 2019, youth 13 to 19 years old accounted for approximately 17 percent of Brampton Transit ridership (5.5 million rides annually), the report states, highlighting that before the pandemic over the past decade there was a more than 300 percent increase in youth rides on Brampton Transit.

“In the summer of 2019, Recreation sold approximately 23,000 drop-in tickets to youth ages 10 to 17, which included skating, swimming, shinny, fitness day passes, and sports,” but there was a “significant drop in attendance of youth engaging with local recreation centres as they reach teen years,” with roughly 76 percent of the drop-in session sold to children from 10 to 13 years old, and 24 percent sold to teens (14 to 17 years old).

The pilot has been successful, with the report declaring the “foundation to further engage youth in Brampton through the use of local transit and the use of recreation programs” has been set.

According to a 2023 Statistics Canada health report, the “COVID-19 pandemic had a detrimental impact on the physical activity and screen time of youth, in particular among girls.”

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, half of Canadian youth met the physical activity recommendation,” then the percentage fell during the first year of the pandemic, slightly recovering in 2021. For boys, it found the percentage meeting the physical activity recommendation rebounded in 2021/2022 after first dropping from 2018 to 2020, however the percentage of girls meeting the physical activity recommendation had no rebound in 2021/2022 after dropping from 2018 to 2020.

Youth programming at recreation centres that are accessible by public transit can be especially important in car-centric places like Brampton. Ongoing high inflation could be setting in permanently for certain living expenses, which could force families to cut out recreational expenses in order to meet more immediate needs.

The expanded program will hopefully prevent this. 


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