HS Students Get Free Ride on Metro
Youth Mobility Fund Launches Bus Pass Program
Steve Brown with the City of Kalamazoo Foundation for Excellence remembers how his world opened up when he got his first car.
“I got a third-generation Buick when I turned 16,” he said. “Suddenly, I could go do stuff. I could just live a life and start to teach myself how to exist in the world. To have access to the whole city is pretty empowering.”
Knowing the freedom that comes from being able to get around by yourself is one of the things that has him convinced the new Kalamazoo Youth Mobility Fund will make a huge difference in the lives of Kalamazoo Public Schools students.
Launching this fall, the program will allow every KPS high schooler with a current student ID to access unlimited rides on the Metro bus system in Kalamazoo. The process will be simple, according to Kathy Schultz with Metro: Students will receive new ID cards, when they get on the bus, they tap it on the fare box scanner, show their picture to the bus driver and take a seat.
The new IDs will use radio frequency ID (RFID) technology. The cards will contain only one piece of information — that the card is part of the Youth Mobility Fund.
“I think the Youth Mobility Fund is a great opportunity to reduce barriers for our students,” said Loy Norrix High School Principal Chris Aguinaga. “Now students can have better access to athletics, after-school activities, tutoring, and even work. This truly is a blessing for all of Kalamazoo.”
Brown said the impact of the program won’t be known for some time. It will take time for the program to ramp up, for students to learn how to use the bus system, for programs to start promoting bus use, and for families to realize how it might impact family life.
Brown said, for example, that parents might find their lives are freer, now that students can make appointments or get to activities on the bus.
The fund was announced in January. There was a limited test of the system this summer with students enrolled in the MyCity work program. Schultz said MyCity participants logged more than 4,000 bus rides (although that number does not calculate how many of those rides were transfers).
This is the second enhancement added to KPS student IDs over the last year. Since 2018, all KPS school IDs also can be used as library cards with the Kalamazoo Public Library.
Brown said this project is a perfect fit for the Foundation for Excellence, which is uniquely positioned to create programming and projects in structural areas of the city. “It aligns perfectly with our mission of youth development, of a connected city, and of environmental responsibility, which all come from the Imagine Kalamazoo strategic vision,” he said.
Community leaders consistently cited transportation and mobility issues as one of the top 3 major roadblocks to youth improvement in the city of Kalamazoo, Brown said.
“People expect kids to know what’s possible,” he said. “But as the mayor (Bobby Hopewell) says, ‘If there’s a wall, and you can’t circle the wall, you don’t know what’s behind the wall.”
FAQs about the Kalamazoo Youth Mobility Fund
What is the aim of the program and who is involved?
The goal of the initiative is eliminating fares on the public transportation system for KPS students in grades 9–12. The intention of the program is not to supplement or replace KPS school buses but to create new opportunities after school, on weekends, and when school is in recess, as well as to aid students in attending school in unusual circumstances.
How does it work?
An eligible young person (current KPS students in grades 9-12) boards a Metro bus with their valid student ID, taps the ID on the farebox, presents the front of the ID bearing their photograph to the driver, and then takes a seat. The ID cards will be preprogrammed with only one piece of information: that the fare is paid for by the Youth Mobility Fund. No individualized, personal, or other data will exist on the card.
Questions about riding the bus can be directed to Metro at (269) 337-8222 or on-line at kmetro. com.
What about accessibility or taking your bike?
Yes, the Youth Mobility Fund provides for Metro Connect service to certified riders. All Metro fixed route buses carry two bikes on their rack. If racks are full, then the bus cannot take more, so riders with bikes need to be prepared to wait for the next bus.
What about behavior and rules of conduct?
Metro wants all riders to feel safe and comfortable while using public transportation. If you are a rider, you are required to follow 16 rules of conduct available at www.kmetro.com/ riding/rules-conduct. Please note that all Metro buses are equipped with video recording devices. Riders may be recorded while traveling on Metro buses.
What resources are available to further assist young riders?
More information on the Youth Mobility Fund is available on Metro’s myStop mobile phone app and the Out of School Time youth program finder offered by KYDNetwork on their website www.kydnet.org. A dedicated webpage is available at Metro’s website www.kmetro.com. The city’s 311 call service will have information to be of assistance.