Kids ride free on Ride On bus

Will Cohen

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Photo by Will Cohen

Students wait at the Ride On stop outside of Georgetown Square. A significant amount of WJ students use the bus for after-school transportation, which is already free with a student ID.

A cost-efficient, convenient transportation option for many MCPS students are the Ride On and Metrobus systems. In past years, the buses were free from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. during the school week, a policy that many students capitalized on, yet still limited those without access to a car before school and on weekends. As of July 1, 2019, both bus systems now allow MCPS students to ride free any day at any time with a Youth Cruiser SmarTrip Card.

In order to obtain a free SmarTrip Card, students must fill out an application and bring it, along with a proof of age and Montgomery County residency, to an MCPS high school or county library. Many WJ students, especially underclassmen, have an opportunity to utilize the program and save money this school year.

“I think people are aware of the SmarTrip Card. Everyone I have seen get on the bus has had one or had a student ID,” freshman Spencer Morrison said. “I have never had a problem with the bus hours, I normally only ride it in the afternoons.”

In previous years, students experienced lax payment policies on some buses, but more stringent policies with other buses and drivers. As a result, some students have been turned down and opted not to take the Ride On, either resorting to a more expensive Uber or not having a mode of transportation.

“I lost my student ID one year so I couldn’t ride for free until I found it,” senior Michael Clempson said. “l had to beg people for coins so I could take the bus home from school.”

Proponents of a cost-free youth Ride On argue that the current system limits low-income students from pursuing opportunities. Also, they believe walking is not always a viable or safe option, which many students are forced to do after free Ride On hours end.

“Every student should have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of which school they attend or their household wealth,” Montgomery County councilmember Evan Glass said in a newsletter to his constituents. “There’s no reason a student should be walking in the cold or rain because they couldn’t afford bus fare. No student should ever miss out on a job or internship because they didn’t have a reliable way of getting home.”

WJ students concur that a cost-free system promotes independence and initiative amongst MCPS students.

“People who can’t drive or don’t have cars now have a way to get around places without their parents driving them around. It teaches responsibility,” senior Chase Seabreeze said.

Effective Oct. 1, 2019, students must present their SmarTrip Card to bus drivers in order to ride free. If you or a friend you know takes the Ride On or Metrobus frequently, make sure to pick up your card to take advantage of this new program!