Capital Metro’s Kids Ride Free program has emerged from a temporary pilot program over the summer to a full-fledged permanent program allowing free rides for K-12 students on the system’s buses and MetroRail services.
The agency said late last week that students can ride any of Capital Metro’s services for free using a valid ID, though Capital Metro is working on creating rider cards for students.
The program also includes MetroAccess, which provides services for the disabled.
Capital Metro said that more than 600,000 free rides were provided during the trial period months of June to October, while Capital Metro board member and Austin City Council Member Delia Garza lauded the program, saying it would help many parents with transportation to school.
Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz said in May that the original goal was to encourage families to explore Austin and continue learning during the summer months of the pilot program, but overwhelmingly positive feedback and the number of riders encouraged the agency to extend the pilot through early December before adopting it as a permanent program.
Capital Metro said the Kids Ride Free program has not only helped students get to school, but has helped with transportation to jobs and volunteer programs. Additionally, young people are becoming more familiar with public transit.
“It’s so important to get children on our public transit soon,” Garza said. “The quicker that we can show young people that Capital Metro is efficient and can get them to where they need to go the quicker we help to alleviate some of our congestion issues.”
Capital Metro’s service area includes the cities of Austin, Leander, Lago Vista and Jonestown but not Cedar Park. The agency said it expects the program to cost upwards of $250,000 in lost fare revenue annually.