Chart of the Week: Student transit use remains at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels

In DC, public school students can ride the Metrobus or Metrorail for free under the Kids Ride Free program, as there is no school bus service (except for transportation provided to some students with certain special educational needs).

In January 2022, student ridership on public transit, as measured by free rides for children, was 11% of pre-pandemic levels (September 2019), according to data from the Deputy Mayor’s Office for Education. Performance monitoring data for FY21 and FY20.

Relatively low usage from August 2020 to June 2021 is expected, given that the majority of students learned virtually throughout the 2020-21 school year, and this low use by students corresponded to the general public’s use of metro and bus services. Kids Ride Free trips increased slightly at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, marking a return to in-person school for many students. However, student attendance remains low, even lower than that of the general public.

It’s unclear why Kids Ride Free ridership is down. One reason could be that Kids Ride Free card distribution was lower in the 2021-2022 school year, at 38% of pre-K-12 enrollment (year-to-date in June), compared to 58% of enrollment for the 2019 school year. -20. Another reason could be that fare evasion, which was on the rise before the pandemic (about 15% of Metrobus rides in fiscal year 2019, for example), could continue to increase.

Or preferences might be lower for public transit due to increased violent crime during the pandemic, Concerns related to COVID-19, or reductions and interruptions in service.

Kids Ride Free trips show how much students use public transit to get to school in DC, where the median walking distance to school is 1.5 miles — and even further for students from wards 7 (2.2 miles) and 8 (2 miles). ).

These distances mean that many students attend schools that are too far away to walk to and rely instead on public transport, private cars or bicycles. Declining student ridership on public transportation could partly explain the history of higher absenteeism rates that some schools experienced during the 2021-2022 school year, which in turn has a impact on student performance.

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