Sutter Funds Study of SacRT’s Free Ride Program for Youth
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) announced at in front of CK McClatchy High School that the public transit agency is waiving fares for youth in the SacRT service area beginning today. The program aims to decrease truancy and eliminate obstacles for young people to get to school, after-school activities, sports, clubs and jobs.
A research brief released in November 2018 that recounts the findings of a travel survey administered to students in three Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) schools found that about 1 in 4 students report missing at least one day of school in the six weeks prior to the survey because of transportation barriers.
“What we’re doing here is filling an important gap,” said Henry Li, SacRT General Manager/CEO. “We’re offering universal access all day, every day during regular service hours for all Sacramento area youth that live in or attend school in our service area. It is another way SacRT works to deliver clean, safe, and accessible transportation to all Sacramento residents.”
A grant from Sutter Health will fund a yearlong study to be conducted by an external evaluator, who will provide insight on the benefits of the fare-free transit initiative for youth.
“We know by conducting Community Health Needs Assessments that lack of access to basic services is among the top health indicators affecting disadvantaged communities,” said Keri Thomas, Vice President of External Affairs for Sutter Health. “Unfortunately for many that includes barriers getting to school and other life enriching activities for young people. This program can make a huge difference in changing that trajectory.”
Affordable student transit programs have been rolled out in numerous cities across the state and nation, including Tempe, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Portland and Stockton. If other communities are any indication, SacRT anticipates promising results with potential of providing nearly 1,000,000 new trips to area youth during the year.
“We’re providing an equitable investment in receiving an education,” said Jay Schenirer, District 5 City Councilmember and SacRT Board Director. “By eliminating transportation barriers, we’re increasing chances for more young people to succeed in school, career and life.”
RydeFreeRT waives youth fares on bus, light rail, and SmaRT Ride microtransit service across SacRT’s service area, which includes the cities of Sacramento, Folsom, Citrus Heights, and Rancho Cordova and parts of Sacramento County. Approximately 220,000 students in grades TK through 12, home-schooled students, and foster and homeless youth are all eligible.
“Free RT is a game changer for many hardworking Sacramento area students and families. The exciting new program will make transportation to and from school, work, and activities, much more reliable and accessible for thousands of students in the region,” said SCUSD Board of Education President Jessie Ryan. “Sacramento City Unified School District is proud to partner to launch a free ride program that will help reduce absenteeism and improve student success in our high poverty district.”
Students enrolled in schools in SacRT’s service area have already been issued their 2019-2020 student ID card, which displays a special sticker for free SacRT ridership. Youth not enrolled in school can receive a RydeFreeRT card at a Sacramento library or at SacRT’s Customer Service and Sales Center located at 1225 R Street (adjacent to the 13th Street Station).
Partners and participating school districts include Sacramento Public Library, Center Unified School District, Elk Grove Unified School District, Folsom Cordova Unified School District, Natomas Unified School District, Robla School District, Sacramento City Unified School District, Sacramento County Office of Education, San Juan Unified School District, Twin Rivers Unified School District, City of Citrus Heights, City of Folsom, and City of Rancho Cordova.
RydeFreeRT is set to run for one year with an extension planned depending on program success and is financially supported by the City of Sacramento, other cities and school districts within SacRT’s service boundaries, and a funding grant from Sutter Health for a ridership study. Parents and students interested in more information about SacRT’s fare-free youth program can visit www.RYDEFreeRT.com.