Last spring, DCAYA set our sights on ensuring adequate access to transportation supports for District youth, advocating for both adjustments to the popular Kids Ride Free program and additional funds to cover its expansion. Our efforts stemmed from concerns raised within our membership that in addition to long and sometimes dodgy commutes to school, some of the District’s most vulnerable students still couldn’t afford to get to and from their classes. Specifically, youth pursuing their education in alternative settings—both because many are older than 21 and because their classes are intentionally held during nontraditional hours—could not access free bus rides to school through Kids Ride Free.
Hearing a myriad of concerns from youth, parents, educators and advocates, the Mayor and Council moved swiftly last budget season to expand Kids Ride Free to rail in addition to the bus. For youth ages 5-21, this was a huge win that translated into shorter, safer, and more convenient trips to school for traditional students. Furthermore, for students in alternative education settings through age 21, the expansion to rail was successful in removing Kids Ride Free’s availability restrictions during the day. As a result, youth 21 and under who are pursuing GED preparation classes can use Kids Ride Free to travel between work and school, access childcare during the day, and ultimately balance the many competing demands on their time as they pursue their education. All things considered, Kids Ride Free has proven highly effective at removing one of the most pervasive barriers to sustained educational success for District youth.