Most of the students in the Montgomery County Public School system (MCPS) don’t have cars. But, like most Americans, we have many places we need to be that aren’t home. Whether it’s going to Rockville to work with the Board of Education or getting to school a little early to take a test, there are dozens of circumstances when we need to get somewhere outside of the hours of 2 pm to 8 pm, the current operating hours. Those are the times when we have to fork over two dollars that we might not have or solicit a ride from a friend.
My name is Zoe Tishaev. I go to Clarksburg High School. I’m pretty fortunate, because I live outside the two-mile radius MCPS stipulates is necessary to have access to a school bus service. Brian Kramer goes to Northwood, a school with the second-highest Free and Reduced Price Meals (FARMs) rate in the county, standing at a staggering 52%. He lives just inside the radius, 1.8 miles from his school. He’s not as lucky. Every morning, he hands over $2 just to take a five-minute ride on Route 9 to get his education. A month of this is a $40 setback. Over the course of 180 school days, he spends $360 just to get to school every morning. Both of us come from low income families. For us, that’s a lot of money.
Clarksburg’s roads are narrow, sidewalkless, and unfriendly to people walking, so students are forced to take rides from parents who might be late to work. This causes mass congestion along Frederick Road, a nightmare for any student commuter or late staff member. Cars end up completely backed up along Foreman Boulevard and parking is nearly impossible. The Ride On Route 75, meanwhile, services much of this congested area. If students were permitted to take the RideOn in the morning for free, I believe we would see immediate traffic relief.
This dire need is echoed across throughout county. Watkins Mill High has several students that live within the two-mile radius forced to walk, while the 64 runs every 30 minutes and could provide an easier route to school for many students when walking or biking simply isn’t a viable option.
We are growing into a time where our reality clashes with our education. We’re taught that cars are bad for the environment, that 27% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused from transportation. We’re taught that driving might just cause our demise, and that we should look to other means of transport. Yet when we try to do so, we are rejected at the fare box and told to hand over money that we have not yet earned, for most of us are not yet employed.
We’re discouraged from taking internships or opportunities that would require us to travel on the weekends, for we are turned away then, too. We can’t stay for activities that run past 8 pm, which, unfortunately, is most evening events in the world of advocacy.
An expansion of Kids Ride Free is not a luxury, but a necessity for combating climate change, granting social mobility, and guaranteeing opportunity for the youth.
Note: The Kids Ride Free Program provides free rides on all of Montgomery County’s Ride On bus routes and 24 Metrobus Routes. The free rides are available from 2-8 pm to those under 18 (or older if still in high school). The Montgomery County Council is debating expanding the program to be free at all times. The final budget action is expected next week. The video below from councilmember Evan Glass further explains the issue.