WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — DC Metro Transit Police is set to crack down on fare evaders to stop the system from bleeding money from those who don’t pay.
There are concerns among some that students who use the system to get to and from school might end up violating the policy and face fines or even arrests.
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s “Kids Ride Free” program provides a smart card to ride on all transit systems in DC. There are more than 26,300 students who have the cards for this school year, according to the mayor’s office.
Yet, some parents have been complaining online that there aren’t enough transit cards available to all the students that need them and use the transit system.
Every student in DC public or charter schools has access to the cards since taxpayers provide the funds, but the fear among parents is that some students who don’t have their cards for free rides and jump the turnstiles would get cited, fined and at worse, arrested.
Evan Yeats, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 4, said he’s heard from scores of parents who are worried about their children — especially those of color — being arrested.
“There are kids that are not paying their fare and we’re saying that we should remove the barriers for that,” Yeats said. “We should make sure that every kid has the card they need.”
Yeats said Metro needs the money with the crackdown and taxpayers front the money to get these kids to and from school. But the “missing link is making sure that the kids have the cards in their hands” to use the system.
“Our distribution system has failed year after year. We’re distributing half the number of “Kids Ride Free” smart trip cards now than we were two or three years ago,” he said. “We’re getting worse at it. That’s not a good situation for anybody involved.”
In a statement, Deputy Mayor Paul Kihn said, “We will continue to work with our schools to encourage students to claim their ‘Kids Ride Free’ card and to use it each and every time they ride public transit in the city.”
A spokeswoman for the transit police said that “while the District does fund free rides for public school students, they are required to have their card when traveling on the system.”
“The program is administered by DC Public Schools and students have been reminded that they need to have their cards to ride Metrorail and Metrobus,” said spokeswoman Sherri Ly. “All customers should tap to ride, including those with special “Kids Ride Free” fare cards, as not all children in the region have those benefits.”