Students Get Month's Free Bus Passes
Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard
"Try before you buy" is the advertising maxim the Lane Transit District is hoping will persuade some teens to catch the bus this school year - even though, for the first time in a half-dozen years, the rides won't be free.
Concerned about the loss of state funding for a program that allowed middle and high school students to ride the bus at no cost, LTD will provide free bus passes to students in grades six through 12 for the month of Sept ember only. Come Oct. 1, students will have to pay to ride the bus; they can choose from one-month or three-month passes, or pay the daily fare.
For student convenience, the passes can be bought at any public high school in the Eugene, Bethel and Springfield school districts, as well as at Cascade Middle School in the Bethel district.
A handful of private and charter schools - including Network Charter, Northwest Youth Corps and Looking Glass Riverfront in Eugene and the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield - plan to buy group LTD passes for all of their students in grades six through 12 to assure that they have consistent transportation to and from school, LTD spokeswoman Lisa Van Winkle said.
The Lane Education Service District is looking into providing LTD bus passes for developmentally disabled students enrolled in its Life Skills and Transitions programs, she said.
The Eugene School District, meanwhile, will provide LTD bus passes to high school students who qualify for free- or reduced-price school meals, live within the attendance area of the school they're attending, reside more than 1 1/2 miles from the school, and don't receive school district-provided bus transportation.
The Eugene district has about 2,000 high school students who live more than 1 1/2 miles from their school, and about one-third of them qualify for reduced or free lunches, district spokeswoman Kerry Delf said.
The annual cost to provide such LTD service is about $200 per student, with 70 percent of that bill to be reimbursed via a pupil transportation grant from the state Department of Education, Delf said.
Eugene's free LTD bus pass service will be available to high school students only, not middle school students, she said.
Roughly 5,000 students in the Eugene district will continue to get to and from school on a traditional yellow school bus, Delf said. They include elementary school students who live more than 1 mile from their neighborhood school, middle school students who live more than 1 1/2 miles from their neighborhood school, and high school students who live more than 1 1/2 miles from the nearest LTD bus stop. Some students also receive bus service as part of their special education program.
LTD's Van Winkle said the thinking behind offering free bus service to students for the month of September is twofold: First, LTD did not learn about the loss of funding for the popular Student Transit Pass Program until mid-June, and thus was unable to warn students and parents before the end of the school year last spring. …