D.C. Council proposals would increase students’ access to free transit

All District students would be able to ride Metro buses for free under legislation proposed Tuesday in the D.C. Council.

The measure is meant to ensure that transportation expenses aren’t keeping kids from attending class, said council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), who introduced the measure with colleagues Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3).

Chronic truancy is a widespread problem in the District. At four high schools last year, more than 40 percent of students missed a month or more of class.

“We know that a lot of children aren’t making it to school because they have to pay,” Bowser said. “Even though we don’t have a school bus system, I think that you should be able to get to school for free.”

The measure would apply to students in traditional, charter and private schools who ride buses on regular school days.

Currently, students are eligible for subsidized fare cards that allow unlimited travel on public transit for $30 a month. The proposed legislation would continue that subsidized access for Metrorail. It would also maintain free student access to Circulator buses.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) has also proposed to increase access to free public transit as part of a major education package he unveiled Tuesday.

Catania’s bill would offer free transit only to students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, a common measure of poverty. For those students, Metro buses and rail trips would be free.

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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