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‘Kids Ride Free’ SmarTrip change impacted thousands of DC students

Passengers wait to board a Red Line train at Metro Center on Feb. 16, 2017. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON — Up to a few thousand D.C. students either did not go or struggled to get to school in the first week of a new SmarTrip card requirement for free bus and rail rides, data obtained by WTOP suggested.

A number of parents complained that schools did not have enough SmarTrip cards for their students, who needed them in time for the Oct. 1 changeover.

In the last week of September, the final week DC One Card student IDs could be used to ride Metrorail or Metrobus, Metro recorded 287,322 Kids Ride Free trips, according to data obtained through Metro’s equivalent of a freedom of information request.

In the first week of October, when a special SmarTrip picked up at a student’s school was required, that number dropped to 262,346 bus and rail trips. 

The D.C. government and Metro said they worked together to address any issues, and continued to distribute SmarTrip cards after the Oct. 1 deadline.

The DC One Card had sparked its own complaints due to problems getting the cards to work or confusion about the requirement for tens of thousands of public, charter and private school students to tap them to ride.

When comparing the final week where the ID card could be used with the first week where it could not be used, the drops were most significant on Tuesday and Friday, when there were about 6,000 fewer trips each day, although there could have been additional factors at play besides the transit pass changes. There was little change on Thursday.

Kids Ride Free trips account for about 4 to 5 percent of Metro’s daily ridership.

On Oct. 1, the number of bus and rail trips each dropped by about 1,000 from the week before, and Metrobus operators recorded about 11 percent more unpaid fares than the week before. Other days though, there were fewer or a similar number of unpaid fares recorded as the week before.

The data show a total of 287,864 unpaid trips taken by all Metrobus riders the last week of September and 289,778 unpaid trips taken by Metrobus riders in the first week of October. That is almost the equivalent of an entire average weekday of Metrobus fares.

Take a look at the numbers based on Metro data:


Last week with DC One Card allowed Mon. 9/24 Tue. 9/25 Wed. 9/26 Thu. 9/27 Fri. 9/28 Sat. 9/29 Sun. 9/30 Week total
Kids Ride Free Bus 32,381 35,069 34,129 31,407 34,740 10,457 7,213 185,396
Kids Ride Free Rail 16,341 17,101 17,747 17,448 20,015 8,286 4,988 101,926
Total 48,722 52,170 51,876 48,855 54,755 18,743 12,201 287,322

First week with SmarTrip required Mon. 10/1 Tue. 10/2 Wed. 10/3 Thu. 10/4 Fri. 10/5 Sat. 10/6 Sun. 10/7 Week total
Kids Ride Free Bus 31,250 31,086 31,644 32,091 30,387 8,067 5,951 170,476
Kids Ride Free Rail 14,771 15,306 16,581 16,851 17,471 6,225 4,665 91,870
Total 46,021 46,392 48,225 48,942 47,858 14,292 10,616 262,346

Bus fare evasions recorded by operators Mon. 9/24 Tue. 9/25 Wed. 9/26 Thu. 9/27 Fri. 9/28 Sat. 9/29 Sun. 9/30 Week total
45,773 47,377 46,626 43,608 46,978 32,625 24,877 287,864
Mon. 10/1 Tue. 10/2 Wed. 10/3 Thu. 10/4 Fri. 10/5 Sat. 10/6 Sun. 10/7 Week total
50,331 45,643 46,267 44,418 44,049 31,195 27,875 289,778


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