Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Springing Toward Equitable Transit Access

This week we're bringing you an update and call to action on our developing transportation advocacy. Please be sure to reference the end of this blog post for ways you can get involved in advocating for expanded transportation supports this budget season!

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.

Yet, students ages 22-24 still lack this access to citywide transportation support that their younger classmates enjoy. Many of these older, alternative education students have sought to re-engage in their education after withdrawing from traditional high schools—a process that requires perseverance and a near constant juggling of nonacademic demands. Significantly reducing the cost of transportation for these students would remove a barrier that persists across many of the sectors engaging with these youth: employment, childcare, juvenile justice, healthcare, etc. And while many providers step up to help offset the cost of travelling to their programs, many lack the sustainable funds to guarantee transportation support to access these critical wraparound services.

In order to best define and support our budget ask, DCAYA is working with our education partners through Raise DC’S Disconnected Youth Change Network to survey youth on their outstanding transportation needs. Here’s a snapshot of what we’re seeing so far.

Of respondents ages 22-24:

  • 62% of reported missing classes 3 or more times a month because they could not afford transportation. 37% of youth in this age range reported missing class even more frequently due to the cost of transportation—7 or more days a month.
  • 75% have taken a longer and cheaper route to school over a shorter but cheaper option with some frequency.
  • 75% reported spending 40 minutes or more traveling to and from school everyday. 37% reported spending even more time traveling to and from school, between 60-80 minutes a day.
  •  87% reported that without transportation support from their programs, it would either be difficult or impossible to continue attending their current classes.
  • 87% reported that they use transportation supports to meet some of the other needs they face as reengaging students, including employment, child and family care, and English language classes. Half of the 22-24 year olds surveyed have children.

The demand is clear. We must find ways to better support our youth who have overcome pervasive barriers to their educational success by eliminating or significantly reducing the prohibitive cost of transportation for DC students. Over the next month or two, DCAYA will continue to fine-tune our budget ask based on the feedback we receive from youth and our members. In the meantime, here’s how you can get involved:

1. Testify At Performance and Budget Oversight Hearings. It’s important that Council hears from you and your youth about the ways transportation costs affect student persistence and success. Ahead of the development of DCAYA’s budget ask, we ask that you prepare testimony and work with your youth to provide examples of the need for expanded transportation support for youth 16-24. Please contact DCAYA Policy Analyst, Amy Dudas ( if you plan to testify at one of the following hearings.

Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)
Performance Oversight: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 10 am in Room 412
Budget Hearing: Monday, April 18, 2016 at 10 am in Room 412
Sign up here or call 202-724-8061

Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education
Performance Oversight: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 10 am in Room 120
Budget Hearing: Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at 10 am in Room 120
Sign up here or call 202-724-8061

District Department of Transportation
Performance Oversight: Monday, February 29, 2016 at 11 am in Room 412
Budget Hearing: Friday, April 8, 2016 at 11 am in Room 500
To testify at Performance Oversight contact: Nicole Rentz, or 202-724-8062
To testify at Budget Hearing contact: Aukima Benjamin, or 202-724-8062

2. Circulate DCAYA’s Youth Transportation Survey. If you’re a provider offering education to youth 16-24, whether through an alternative education LEA or GED-focused community-based organization, you can help feed up information on the transportation needs of your youth by circulating the Youth Survey to as many of your students as possible*. The survey is available in English and Spanish, and it is accessible on mobile devices. The Youth Survey is 19 questions long and should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete. The deadline to complete the survey is Friday, February 5th.

*The DME has circulated a transportation survey for adult students. If you have already asked your students to take the DME’s survey, please feel no obligation to circulate our youth survey as well. After talking with the DME, they agree that if you haven’t circulated either survey, please use the DCAYA Youth Survey.

Amy Dudas is the disconnected youth and workforce development policy analyst at DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. She’ll be collaborating with youth providers this spring to share analysis from the Youth Transportation Survey and develop a robust transportation budget ask.  If you have any questions, or would like to get involved, please contact her at

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