By Veronica Holt, Clarion Managing Editor
Beginning on October 1, 2019, all students of the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) are able to ride any part of the Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT) for free. SacRT provides public transit throughout Sacramento County, and with the new sticker on school I.D. cards, students can ride the busses and light rail system without charge. The change comes as part of an effort between the City of Sacramento, SacRT, and SCUSD (and other school districts) to provide unrestricted access to public transit for over 100,000 students within the county, according to the SCUSD website. The goals of this initiative are to increase access to all facets of regional transit, provide equitable transport to schools and outside activities, decrease air pollution, and expand the awareness of public transit across the region.
Roughly $1 million is being allocated for the program by the City of Sacramento. This money is drawn from the revenue gained after the passing of Measure U which increased city sales tax from one half-cent to one full-cent. On its approval, Councilmember and SacRT Board Director Jay Schenirer stated, ”It will make a big difference in the lives of young people and their communities… This is an important investment in our neighborhoods, in our young people, and in our economy.” SacRT estimates that they could provide 1,000,000 new trips to the county’s students per year.
Several California cities have already adopted programs such as this, and have yielded promising results. They implemented a similar initiative in Merced, where monthly ridership increased by 20,000 riders (note that Merced County Transit only offers routes via busses.) Additionally, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has announced that students will be able to ride the DASH bus system for free. Other California counties, like San Francisco and Alameda, have instituted programs that alleviate some of the cost of public transit for low-income students. All of these programs look to curb gas emissions, traffic congestion, and transportation unreliability while encouraging transit accessibility, ridership equity, and eco-friendliness.
Presently, the City of Sacramento is making important strides towards the promotion of public transit. The impacts of this new program in Sacramento remain to be seen. However, given the success of other urban transit initiatives, prospects look promising for the future relationship between SacRT and its students.
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