Stu­dents to re­ceive Metro SmarTrip cards

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - — Perry Stein

D.C. stu­dents will be­gin us­ing SmarTrip cards this sum­mer to ride pub­lic trans­porta­tion free — a change that city lead­ers said is in­tended to make board­ing the re­gion’s trains and buses more ef­fi­cient for the Dis­trict’s 92,000 pub­lic school stu­dents.

For years, tra­di­tional pub­lic and char­ter school stu­dents have used DC One fare cards — which serve as an all-in-one stu­dent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, li­brary card and Metro pass — to board pub­lic tran­sit.

But stu­dents, ed­u­ca­tors and city lead­ers have com­plained that those cards are com­pli­cated to ac­ti­vate, re­sult­ing in peo­ple not us­ing them prop­erly.

Be­cause the Dis­trict doesn’t have school buses, stu­dents ride pub­lic tran­sit free. Still, they have to tap their DC One cards to board Metro trains or buses so the city can mon­i­tor how many are us­ing the sys­tem, which helps the agency qual­ify for more fed­eral fund­ing.

“There was a bar­rier that re­sulted in kids not prop­erly ac­ti­vat­ing their cards, or not know­ing they had to ac­ti­vate them, which in­ad­ver­tently led to stu­dents just flash­ing them,” said Ahnna Smith, the city’s in­terim deputy mayor of ed­u­ca­tion. “Our goal is to get kids to school safely and on time ev­ery day.”

Pri­vate school stu­dents who live in the Dis­trict also re­ceive free tran­sit cards to use on buses. The re­vamped Kids Ride Free pro­gram will cost the city $12.2 mil­lion next year, which in­cludes the cost of the SmarTrip cards.

City lead­ers say that 32,000 stu­dents ac­ti­vated their DC One cards this aca­demic year. The of­fice of the deputy mayor of ed­u­ca­tion said it sus­pects that not all stu­dents who used pub­lic tran­sit this aca­demic year prop­erly ac­ti­vated their DC One cards, so it es­ti­mates that more than 32,000 stu­dents will use the SmarTrip cards.

The new cards will look sim­i­lar to the Metro’s standard SmarTrip cards, but they will have a sticker des­ig­nat­ing them as stu­dent passes.

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