Free CTA Rides: Students Get No-Cost Commute To First Day Of School

Chicago Public School students likely have lots of worries when they head off to their first day of class, but thanks to the Chicago Transit Authority and Sun-Times Media, how they get there won't have to be one of them.

The media group partnered with Chicago's transit system for the second consecutive year to sponsor free rides on the CTA for students and their guardians commuting to the first day of school, CBS Chicago reports. The ride program is in its second year, and thanks to a $150,000 contribution from Sun-Times Media, will be applied to buses and trains citywide when school kicks off Sept. 4.

When the free ride program launched last year, CPS saw record-breaking first-day attendance, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, and CTA President Forrest Claypool estimated that 170,000 students took advantage of the option. School children make up more than 25 million rides annually.

Students 12 and older can already receive discounted rates for public transportation, from 5:30 a.m. through 8:30 p.m. on school days, according to the CTA.

That window was extended by 30 minutes this year to accomodate the longer school days implemented across the district, WGN reports.

But even the reduced rate, which costs students a dollar per ride, can be prohibitive for some.

WBEZ reports that at Wells Community High School on Chicago’s West Side, the administration has been using discretionary funding to give out free cards to students with a demonstrated financial need and exemplary attendance. While they can't prove a correlation, the school says attendance was up 7 percent when they passed out fare cards last year.

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