The Alameda County Transportation Commission has launched a pilot program to provide transit passes to county middle and high school students to get to and from school, after-school programs and jobs, county officials announced Friday.
Commission members approved the three-year program in a unanimous vote last Oct. 22 and implemented it at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year last month.
School officials often cite the cost of transportation to school as a barrier to school attendance and participation in after school activities and jobs for middle and high school students.
In recognition of this, Measure BB, the 2014 voter-approved Alameda County transportation sales tax, included funding to test a variety of pilot transit pass programs throughout the county, transportation officials said.
The Student Transit Pass Pilot Program aims to reduce barriers to transportation access to and from schools, improve transportation options for middle and high school students and build support for transit in the county.
Oakland City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who chairs the transportation commission, said in a statement, "The program just started and we are already seeing a positive impact. Many of our families now don't have to worry about the burden of the transportation cost of getting their children to school, which can really help attendance."
She said schools with free universal pass pilot programs can take students on educational field trips that wouldn't have been possible otherwise.
Kaplan added, "The long-term vision is to remove the burden of transportation costs to get to school and after-school activities and jobs and to build the next generation of transit riders."
The transportation commission launched five different types of pilot programs at 11 schools throughout Alameda County: in Berkeley, Livermore, Oakland, San Leandro and Union City. The Livermore schools participating are East Avenue Middle School and Livermore High.
Four of the five pilot programs include free or reduced price transit passes while the pilot programs being tested at two Berkeley schools are testing the impact of increased transit information and training on students' transit use.
Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L. Karen Monroe said, "It is collaborative efforts like this that help address the pervasive issues obstructing the well-being of so many of our students across the county."
Transportation commission officials said nearly 1,500 students at the three Oakland schools that are part of the pilot program have obtained free passes so far.
The transportation commission selected schools for the pilot program based on criteria that included need, the high presence of regular transit service within a quarter-mile of the school and readiness.