Sacramento Regional Transit Offers Free Rides for K-12 Students

The Sacramento Regional Transit District, Sacramento’s main transit agency, announced plans to give all K-12 students in Sacramento free rides. The program is set to run for one year from Oct. 1, 2019 through Sep. 30, 2020. During this time, all Sacramento area students—Folsom, Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova, and other parts of Sacramento County—will be allowed to board busses and light rails at no cost. RydeFreeRT, partially funded by the Measure U sales tax and the school districts participating, was supported by SacRT board member and council member Jay Schenirer to combat chronic absenteeism. 

A survey among Sacramento City Unified schools found that 1 in 4 students missed school due to transportation issues. The RydeFreeRT program can potentially be beneficial as the California bill mandating a later start time becomes active. 

“If school starts later, then it would be harder for kids whose parents work to find a ride to school, potentially increasing the amount of students who miss school due to transportation problems,” says senior Ezra Silverburg. “If kids had an alternative option to get to school, like public transportation, then they would be able to attend school.”

 In addition, SacRT hopes that if they can get kids riding at a young age, they will have a greater chance of riding public transportation as adults. However, Rio students may not be ready to ride public transportation due to raising concerns about safety. 

“There are many scary people and strangers that I don’t feel comfortable with who ride the bus and light rail,” says senior Shantal Ocampo. “If there were more security people enforcing the rules I would feel a lot safer.” 

However, this is difficult due to a lack of funding. Currently, the California transportation funding bill generates 6 billion annually, which dedicates no more than 10 percent for public transportation. 

“The failure to invest in our public transportation should be a national embarrassment,” said freshman Kiko Martin.

Sacramento has grown by nearly 200 thousand, yet our public transportation funding has not kept up. 

However, after taking on over 600 comments on how to improve their service, SacRT initiated the following changes: Added fare inspectors and security on most trains, emphasized cleaning of trains and light rail stations, and announced plans to buy low-floor trains over time so that riders do not have to climb. Overall, the program aims to improve the quality of life for all—spending less time in traffic—and having a positive impact on the environment. To receive your free transit pass, visit Bonnie Bjorgum in the main office and ask for a sticker that will be placed on your student ID card. 

Alternatively, if you do not want a sticker to be placed on your student ID card, you can visit 1225 R st., Sacramento Regional Transit’s Customer Service Center to receive your sticker on a special RydeFreeRT card. SacRT hopes to expand awareness and value of public transportation, improve school attendance, and eliminate obstacles for youth getting to and from enrichment opportunities.