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Open Access Research article

Mode shifting in school travel mode: examining the prevalence and correlates of active school transport in Ontario, Canada

Bonny Yee-Man Wong1*, Guy Faulkner1, Ron Buliung2 and Hyacinth Irving3

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Physical Education & Health, University of Toronto, 55 Harbord Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2W6, Canada

2 Department of Geography, University of Toronto at Mississauga, 3359 Mississauga Road North, Mississauga, Ontario, L5L 1C6, Canada

3 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 250 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2S1, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:618  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-618

Published: 3 August 2011



Studies examining the correlates of school transport commonly fail to make the distinction between morning and afternoon school trips. The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence and correlates of mode shift from passive in the morning to active in the afternoon among elementary and secondary school students in Ontario, Canada.


Data were derived from the 2009 cycle of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS). 3,633 students in grades 7 through 12 completed self-administered questionnaires. Socio-demographic, behavioural, psychological, and environmental predictors of active school transport (AST) were assessed using logistic regression.


Overall, 47% and 38% of elementary school students reported AST to and from school, respectively. The corresponding figures were 23% and 32% for secondary school students. The prevalence of AST varied temporarily and spatially. There was a higher prevalence of walking/biking found for elementary school students than for secondary school students, and there was an approximate 10% increase in AST in the afternoon. Different correlates of active school transport were also found across elementary and secondary school students. For all ages, students living in urban areas, with a shorter travel time between home and school, and having some input to the decision making process, were more likely to walk to and from school.


Future research examining AST should continue to make the analytic distinction between the morning and afternoon trip, and control for the moderating effect of age and geography in predicting mode choice. In terms of practice, these variations highlight the need for school-specific travel plans rather than 'one size fits all' interventions in promoting active school transport.