Colten Rockford hopes he has made some important strides toward making transportation for youth more accessible before starting his next chapter as a first-year student at UBC this fall.
His policy work with the Town of Gibson’s initially began with an interest in taking on some exciting extracurriculars for his university application but quickly evolved into serious advocacy work.
“It actually started all the way back in grade 11. When I heard about this awesome opportunity to join the Town of Gibson’s council as the alternate youth representative,” explains Colten. “It seemed like a great opportunity to make a little change in the community, so I took it on. We had noticed that one of the main issues, first of all, is the lack of frequency of our buses. But then also how we want youth to be able to have better access to our public transportation. So on that idea, we led with the goal of bringing to the SCRD a delegation on making public transportation free for students throughout the Sunshine Coast.”
The Sunshine Coast has had an enduring challenge with public transportation. The transit system is not able to service the entire Lower Coast, and frequency challenges make it difficult for many folks to rely on public transport for getting around. In addition, the cost of bus passes can be prohibitive for low-income individuals and families. In multi-children households, where there may be a single parent or both parents who work, budgets are tight, and school pick-ups and drop-offs can be difficult.
“What we’d like to see, especially with making public transit free for students across the Sunshine Coast, is first and foremost access to transit, especially because, as a youth, we don’t get to choose our own financial situations. Youth are largely dependent upon our parents and don’t have full control of their financial situations,” says Colten.
“We are completely dependent, so we would like to see as it means of reducing poverty among youth and getting them better access to school and access recreation and jobs.”
So what’s next with this proposal, as Colten starts to get ready to move to Vancouver and start school this fall?
“So as a result of our delegations to the SCRD, it was received quite well, and they are working on some next steps to implement this at the regional level,” Colten explains.
“The goal is that this will be considered during the 2024 budget hearings for the SCRD, and possibly at that point, it could be adopted or put into possibly a trial phase or something along those lines.”
There is still much work to be done, and Colten hopes other youth will be eager to get involved and take on advocacy work in the community.
“For anyone who is a young person who might, you know, read the story and kind of be curious about what that experience was like, I’d say it’s been really rewarding. To see how if I set my mind to a project like this, I can actually start the ball rolling for a potential impact that would help the community, and that feels great,” says Colten.
“I would say that it definitely can be nerve-wracking at times because you’re just practicing through these public speaking experiences and working with new people. But it gets better, and you start to get more comfortable with it, and you realize that everyone there ultimately does want to help you, and they’re here to help you succeed.”
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