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Philly school district earmarks $34M for student transit passes

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(The Center Square) – Free mass transit passes for Philadelphia students appear to be in the works again this year.

In a meeting scheduled for April 24, the School District of Philadelphia will vote on a $34 million contract with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, to provide student fare cards for kids in junior and senior high schools.

This is in addition to the millions the district pays for various modes of transportation amid an ongoing bus driver shortage across the state.

The contract runs through June 30, 2025. The program covers costs for roughly 63,000 students to use up to eight times between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. each school day. Children in grades 7th through 12th who live 1.5 miles or more from school can use the pass for trollies, regional railways, buses or the subway.

In a district staff report to the Philadelphia City Council, officials said “the availability of dependable, secure public transportation for eligible students measures the success of the contract with SEPTA. In addition, success is measured by SEPTA’s ability to provide the resources that allow students access to the public transportation network.”

The district will also pay $36 million to parents to drive their children to school instead of using district transportation.

The parent flat rate program allows pays $3,000 a year or $300 a month for transporting children to school. Alternatively, families can choose to drive their students in the morning and use bus, van, or cab services in the afternoon for $1,500 a year or $150 a month, according to the district’s website.

These amounts are per household, not per student.

District bussing is offered for students from first through sixth grade, living 1.5 miles or more from their designated schools. The total cost of pupil transportation was $200 million in 2023, according to documents.