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Moving the student body: A symposium on student mobility in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

Moving the student body: A symposium on student mobility in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area

The symposium was the final dissemination event of research results from the Partnership Development Grant StudentMoveTO: From Insight to Action on Transportation for Post-secondary Students in the GTHA (2018-21). This 3-year SSHRC funded research and partnership program, led by Toronto Metropolitan University Professor Raktim Mitra, focused on an improved understanding of the travel behaviour of 600,000 post-secondary students in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), Canada. Launched in 2019, the study was a collaboration of ten universities and colleges. More than 15,000 students provided input to inform the findings between September, 2019 and April, 2022. While the survey at the heart of StudentMoveTO was completed in the fall of 2019, before the COVID-19 ended on-campus instruction for the most part during 2020 and 2021, the project pivoted to a strategy of taking on board the experiences from various phases and intensities of lockdown through qualitative research structured around a set of focus groups and interviews during 2020 and 2022.  

At the opening panel at York University on June 3, the lead researchers of the project recounted how the research produced first-of-its kind publicly available data and insights that can generate a conversation about the links between post-secondary student transportation and wellbeing, and inform future transportation and land use policy and planning in the Toronto region that addresses the transportation needs, preferences and challenges of young adults. Speakers at the symposium reported how this research created resources, contributed to teaching and collaborative research capacities for post-secondary institutions across the region and across North America and enabled new learning on young adults’ travel behaviour to inform policy and practice in transportation planning and governance.

A partnership panel, including representatives of transit agencies, a politician, an academic administrator, a student and a campus sustainability planner, discussed the many results presented by the research team and weighed their significance for university life and planning.

At an intensive research workshop on the second day of the symposium at Toronto Metropolitan University, on Saturday, June 4, researchers presented 14 empirical papers that covered a wide range of topics related to the core concerns of the StudentMoveTO project. The presentations will be the basis of publications in the months to come and will be an important resource in future transportation planning in the region.

Prof. Patricia Wood
Professor of Geography (Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University) and Faculty Affiliate of the City Institute.

“The StudentMoveTO program has generated insights that will help advance planning and advocacy for post-secondary students and their everyday transportation needs. What we have learned, post-pandemic, is that public transportation is still incredibly important, and must continue to be accessible. This study will help inform stakeholders as they look for ways to improve the transportation systems in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.”

______________________________Raktim Mitra, Principal Investigator, School of Urban and Regional Planning, Toronto Metropolitan University

"Our in-depth interviews, during a difficult time of COVID-19 restrictions no less, revealed a world of mobility related issues that post-secondary students in the GTHA face as they are striving to coordinate school, live work and entertainment in their lives. These issues are usually hidden from sight when one looks at student life purely from the point of view of the learning environment in the classroom or the lab. Our findings will provide a plethora of insights for leaders in institutions of higher education and policy makers in the transportation field alike."

_______________________ Roger Keil, Co-Investigator, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University, and Faculty Affiliate of the City Institute.