By Alessia Grunberger
Taking the bus around Montgomery County is about to get a whole lot easier for kids and teens.
Starting Monday, all children younger than 18 will be able to take Ride On and 24 Metrobus routes for free. It’s all covered under the Kids Ride Free program, which Montgomery County Councilman Evan Glass (D) — a frequent public transit rider — fought to expand during this budget cycle.
Glass hopes the newly expanded program will make reliable transportation more accessible to the county’s youth.
“Every student should have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of which school they attend or their household wealth,” Glass said. “There’s no reason a student should be walking in the cold or rain because they couldn’t afford bus fare. No student should ever miss out on a job or internship because they didn’t have a reliable way of getting home.”
Currently, the Kids Ride Free program allows students to get free Ride On and Metrobus access weekdays between 2 to 8 p.m.
“That means there are students who pay to take the bus in the morning to go to school,” Glass said. “And if they are going outside those hours, and especially on weekends, they have to pay their own way.”
Kids take the bus to go to school, work and care for their families. Having to pay for public transportation, according to Glass, is an equity and access issue.
At a Montgomery County bus stop, Glass asked kids about their access to transportation. Many of the people he spoke with said they rely on their parents to get them to school in the morning.
“My mom works in the morning, so she has to drop me off at school — which makes her 30 minutes late for work,” Meschac, a sophomore at Gaithersburg High School, told Glass. “So getting a free ride in the morning will make me be able to give her more time [to go to work].”
Ozi is a senior at Gaithersburg High School. She and her mother also have a similar problem.
“Sometimes she drops me off before school, so she’s a little bit late to work,” Ozi said. “And [getting free transportation] would help a lot.
The cost of expansion: $1 million. Glass said expansion is necessary and shouldn’t be a financial hardship.
“Ridership is not at capacity as it is, and so by moving this service forward, we can increase capacity with the level of ridership we already operate,” Glass said. “So it wouldn’t be a real financial hardship.”
The expanded Kids Ride Free went into effect Monday.
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