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As of now, the Montgomery County Council has a plan in place to expand the Kids Ride Free program. However, they must wait to see if Montgomery County allocated enough money to allow expansion.
Currently, the Kids Ride Free program allows students 18 and under to ride the Ride On buses for free with a student ID on weekdays from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Expanding Kids Ride Free would allow students to ride the bus for free any day and any time,” Montgomery County Council Member Evan Glass said. “Right now the transportation for students is inadequate as many have jobs after school and cannot ride the bus for free home.”
On most days the fare on Ride On buses are two dollars one way, meaning that a student that has a job that gets off at nine must take two dollars out of their paycheck. This is a large amount as this means students are losing 10 dollars a week on bus fares.
“The Kids Ride Free program also ignores the fact that some students need to ride the bus in the morning to get the school if they live too close to school to receive a MCPS bus, but too far from school to walk,” Glass said. “Ride On bus 38 passes WCHS and has approximately 830 daily riders and while the busiest bus is Ride On bus 55 which has 6,500 daily riders. While this shows that the area around WCHS has less daily riders, there is still a need to expand the Kids Ride Program here.”
On and around WCHS’ property there are four bus stops with each having a large conglomerate of students. With a student ID they can all ride the bus for free. However, if there is a half day they must pay to ride the bus.
“We found that last year there was 821,877 trips in which a students showed their student ID to a bus driver to get a free fare,” Glass said. “Also, students that live in low-income areas are twice as likely to rely on public transportation, this shows their is a huge need to expand this program.”
To expand this program would cost approximately one million dollars, which is the problem now. Once the funding comes through, the Montgomery County Council will be able to expand this program.
“My first day as a Councilmember I took the bus to work and I had to ride two buses and it took 90 minutes long,” Glass said. “My second day in office I met with MCPS students and one of their top concerns was transportation and how it is inadequate to get to jobs.”
While this problem is less prevalent in the WCHS area, there’s still a need here and in other areas in the county.
“When I had to get to my job on a half day, I had to take money out of my paycheck to pay for my bus fare as the Kids Ride Free program doesn’t start until 2 pm,” senior Brittany Weaver said. “It was very frustrating.”
Overall, there’s definitely a need to expand this very important program as while it helps student currently, it could do so much more.
“By expanding this program, it is helping students get to and from school and jobs, as well as helping students support and care for their families,” Glass said.