Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, the PGCPS has faced a major bus driver shortage, leaving many students without any transportation to get to school.
Cost and functionality are a major struggle in trying to get to and from school everyday. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority provides a “Kids Ride Free” program to a very select group of students in the DC area. The requirements to become eligible for this program are being a resident of the District of Columbia, age ranging from 5 through 21, while also being enrolled in an elementary or secondary public, charter, private or parochial school located within the District of Columbia. This requirement excludes not only students of Maryland schools, but also students of DC schools that live in Maryland.
When asked about what started her use of the Metro, Isabelle Strauss-Riggs, a junior, tells me she “did not have a morning bus at the beginning of the school year” and the bus she currently takes “arrives at school over halfway into first period which would lead to [her] failing.”
Unfortunately not all students have the ability to receive rides from their parents, which puts them into a difficult situation. Having access to the Metrorail and Metrobus at zero cost would be beneficial to many students. Strauss-Riggs told me that her weekly total for transit is about $13.25. For the average highschool student that’s a lot to be spending on getting to school. Students and families should not have to be financially responsible for making sure their children get to school on time.
According to the “2021 WMATA Comprehensive Annual Financial Report”, Prince George’s County was the second largest contributor to the shares of the jurisdictions’ operating subsidy at 21.7%. This percentage is determined by population density, average weekday ridership, and number of stations in each jurisdiction. So if the Prince George’s County population contributes so much to the WMATA system, then why doesn’t our county provide assistance to students? It’s clear we make up a large portion of the weekly Metro riding?
Now truthfully, it is up to our County Council to decide how funds should be spent towards transportation. But as students, we should take responsibility of our right to have our voices heard, and speak out about the things that will benefit us too.