Push to make free rider program permanent for kids before it expires

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A free option for kids to get to and from school is now at risk of expiring at the end of the school year.

Right now, the MyRide2School pilot program serves nearly 7,000 Duval County students, specifically those in the Moncrief and Westside areas.

Kipp Academy, second-grader Harmony Colson takes advantage of the program. She’s accompanied by her father, Andra Colson.

“By me being a single dad, opportunities are kind of limited,” Colson said. “It’s not far from where we’re living, and it comes directly to the school.”

The pilot program started in January and allows students to ride the bus free of charge during school hours, Monday through Friday.

RELATED: Middle, high school students can ride JTA buses for free starting Jan. 4

“It’s just an inexpensive way to travel right now, due to the gas crunch,” Colson said.

Data shows others are taking advantage as the price at the pump goes up. According to JTA, in Jan. ridership for the program was at 4,485. In Feb, that number climbed to 6,870. This month, it was at 6,667. As of Apr. 22, more than 5,000 students have used the service.

David Cawton, the spokesperson for JTA, said over average 400-500 students use the service each week. “For us, it does a couple of things,” Cawton explained. “It removes a financial barrier. It provides another option for families, and it’s also introducing a new generation to public transportation.”

The program is set to expire at the end of May, but there’s a strong push to make it permanent.

“Any time we introduce a significant change to our fairs—in this case eliminating a fair-- we have to do an analysis,” Cawton said. “[This is] to make sure we’re not only doing the most good for communities, but we’re not putting anybody else at a disadvantage by doing so. That analysis is set to wrap up this summer.”

Cawton said they’d like to expand the program to include free ridership for students during all bus hours and weekends too.

There are 34 JTA bus routes that have stops at or near local schools.

Students and parents are encouraged to visit schedules.jtafla.com or contact JTA Customer Service at (904) 630-3100 with questions.