CTA To Again Provide Free Rides On First Day Of School; Kills 11/Lincoln Bus Extension

CHICAGO (CBS) — For the seventh consecutive year, CTA will provide free rides on the first day of school to Chicago Public School students and parents accompanying students.

All students and accompanying adults will receive free bus and train rides on Tuesday, Sept. 5, according to a joint statement from Mayor Emanuel’s office and the CTA.

The “First Day, Free Rides” program, which launched in 2011, provided about 128,000 free rides to students, parents and guardians last year, according to the CTA.

“Convenient and reliable transportation is an important factor in a student’s success in the classroom,” Emanuel said. “Thousands of Chicago Public Schools students rely on public transportation to travel to and from their classes, and by providing free rides on the first day, we can get them started on the right note.”

CTA Chairman Terry Peterson said doing so pays benefits beyond the $140,000 estimated cost because of the additional school aid that derives in part from strong opening day attendance.

Proponents also say that being in school on the first day is an important step toward guaranteeing continued attendance and minimizing dropouts.

The transit agency will also offer 75-cent fares for elementary and high school students between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday when school is in session.

Beyond school hours, elementary students between ages 7 and 11 pay reduced fares of $1 on the bus and $1.10 on the train. Passengers 12 and older pay the full fare of $2 on buses and $2.25 on trains.

CTA is still actively seeking sponsors for the “First Day, Free Rides” program. In recent years the Chicago Sun-Times has been primary sponsor, but it recently changed ownership.

The CTA’s board also voted to discontinue the trial re-extension of through service on the 11/Lincoln bus. CTA officials acknowledged the community’s vocal support for the service and said merchants and community organizations utilized creative efforts to try to get people aboard, but said the 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekday service attracted only 500 riders a day, far short of the 1,500 rider goal.

Officials said that they had received numerous requests to extend the hours to cover the morning rush period, but said ridership targets would then be 1.960 with a projected ridership of 990.

The test through-routing cost CTA more than $900,000.

Board member Kevin Irvine, a frequent user of the extended service, said it “breaks his heart” to see it discontinued, but said the financial realities left him no choice but to accept its termination.

The last day for the extended service will be Sept. 1

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