The Empty Seat Program was introduced to allow students to apply for transportation where school bus routes have been established and empty seats are available on the bus, even if they reside, or their daycare is located, within their school’s walk zone. OSTA is responsible for managing all applications, approvals and assignments for empty seats (courtesy seating) for OCDSB and OCSB students.
To apply for access to an empty seat on a school bus for the 2023/2024 school year, parents/guardians are encouraged to complete the online form. A paper form is available by contacting your school; they will send all completed forms to OSTA.
Students who are in the walk zone due to distance to the school, attending a cross-boundary school or any other logistical reason can apply for an empty seat. By mid-October of each school year, OSTA will be reviewing applications received for access to empty seats on school bus vehicles servicing individual schools. OSTA will be placing greater emphasis on student need, than on other factors. Applications are not reviewed on a “first come, first served” basis.
For students in a joint custody arrangement who’s two homes both qualify for transportation, please refer to the variable transportation/joint custody application information.
Students with special needs, short or long-term medical accommodations should refer to the Accessible Transportation Policy T21 to request a seat on a vehicle.
While empty seat applications are accepted all year-long, parents/guardians applying for transportation during the annual October review period must submit their applications no later than Friday, September 22, 2023.
By mid-October of each school year, OSTA will be reviewing the empty seat applications. Please do not call or email before mid-October as it slows down the process.
Yes! Please submit one empty seat application per student in your household.
Note: OSTA will only assign one seat per student per household.
Yes! Please submit one empty seat application per student in your household who is not receiving transportation. On the form, under ‘Special Circumstances to Consider’, it is important to check off ‘Sibling(s) on Bus’. OSTA does prioritize eligible siblings on the same bus route.
Yes! Parents/guardians of students requiring transportation to two homes due to joint custody can apply for access to an empty seat; however, we encourage you to review OSTA’s variable transportation policy, procedure and application forms before applying.
Visit our website for more information on Variable Transportation for Students in a Joint Custody Arrangement and Having Two Homes.
If your child is attending a brand-new school, opening in September 2023, the school’s name will not appear on the empty seat online form until OSTA opens the Parent Portal in mid-August 2023. Parents/guardians should wait until the Parent Portal opens to verify transportation information, then complete the empty seat form online should your child not receive a seat.
It is important to remember that OSTA will be placing greater emphasis on student need, than on other factors. Applications are not reviewed on a “first come, first served” basis.
By mid-October of each school year, OSTA will be reviewing the empty seat applications submitted by the September deadline. A list of completed schools will be posted on our website. Parents/guardians are encouraged to check the website regularly. Once your child's school is listed, please check the Parent Portal to confirm the decision.
If transportation has been assigned, you will find the route number, stop location and pick-up/drop-off times on the parent portal. Please note that in some cases, due to seat availability, your child may only receive transportation for a portion of the day (morning or afternoon only). If no information is available, it indicates that the student has been put on a waiting list.
For the October review, OSTA does not contact individual families. It is the responsibility of the parent/guardian to check the parent portal. Please do not call or email about Empty Seats before mid-October as this slows down the process.
We do our best to accommodate transportation for the entire day, if requested; however, in some cases, due to seat availability, your child may only receive transportation for a portion of the day (morning or afternoon only). In these instances, the student will be waitlisted for the remaining portion of the day. All the transportation details can be found by visiting the Parent Portal.
If your child’s school has been posted, then all available seats have been assigned. Please check the Parent Portal to see if your child has been approved. If there is no busing information then your child has been put on a waiting list. We will continue to assign seats throughout the year as they become available.
OSTA will continue to assign seats throughout the school year as they become available. Students not assigned to a seat during the October review period will be put on a waiting list, in addition to the new students who have applied after the September deadline. Waiting lists are reviewed no less than once per month until the end of the school year.
The waiting list may be re-prioritized based on student needs of late applicants, and is NOT a “first come, first serve” basis.
Parents/guardians of students on the waiting list will be notified directly, by email, of any NEW seat assignments for their children. Those who have not been contacted will remain on the waiting list until the next review period. OSTA continues to prioritise seat assignments based on its guidelines, regardless of when the application was received.
No, only valid bus stops that are currently being accessed by eligible students will be used.
Students approved to access empty seats will meet the school bus at established, regularly-scheduled bus stop locations. School bus stops will not be added, relocated, nor will special routing be authorized.
OSTA will be placing greater emphasis on student need, than on other factors. Applications are not reviewed on a “first come, first served” basis.
OSTA staff will make decisions based on certain criteria and may confer with the Principal to better understand individual family situations.
It is important that parents/guardians check the appropriate box within the application, under ‘Special Circumstances to Consider’.
- Applicant has an eligible sibling on the same bus route;
- Distance from school, giving priority to those living the farthest distance from school, and the age of the applicant, giving priority to the youngest applicant;
- Grade level of student, with the first priority given to Junior and Senior Kindergarten students;
- Child care needs;
- Compassionate requests due to special family circumstances;
- Students on a cross-boundary transfer;
- Availability of empty seats on any given route.
Due to the ongoing driver shortage, if a route is placed on the long-term cancellation list or a redesign of the route is required, students on the empty seat provision will not be taken into consideration. OSTA will not move ineligible students (those riding due to an empty seat application) to a new route. Priority will be given to students eligible for transportation.
Students using an empty seat are not eligible for the Single Ride Voucher program in the event their route is cancelled or eliminated.
Parents/guardians of students in this situation will be contacted directly, by email or phone, by OSTA.
Please contact your child’s school for a paper form. Once complete, they can submit to OSTA on your behalf.
If the student was not placed on a waiting list, parents/guardians continue to be responsible to find their own means of transportation to and from school.
Active transportation is recommended to get to and from school as much as possible. walking and rolling the whole way, or part of the way (Walk-a-Block), will reduce traffic around the school.
We have many great programs and resources designed to help students who are walking, rolling or being driven to school. Visit our active transportation page to learn more about OSTA’s Walking School Bus, Walk-a-Block maps, Walk & Roll Meetup, Walking Route Maps, and Pedestrian Safety Tips.