Free rides for Portland high school students

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by By RANDY NEVES, Kgw.com

kgw.com

Posted on August 26, 2009 at 6:39 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 6 at 1:22 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- High schoolers in Portland will get free transit on TriMet buses, MAX trains and city streetcars as part of a new YouthPass program, approved Wednesday by City Hall.

Commissioners said all 13,000 high school students would have a chance to reach classrooms each day with the $2.5 million program, funded by Business Energy Tax Credits.

PPS is also shifting its existing transit budget of $800,000 into the program, according to officials. It's been three decades since the district has used yellow bus service to get kids to school.

Special new student ID cards will also serve as free transit passes, TriMet said.

Isabel Burri says her 11-mile trip to Open Meadow Alternative School was a huge burden last year.

"That's like $30 out of my pocket (each month) and I come from a big family and we're low income," she said.

Open Meadow Executive Director Andrew Mason said his school used a significant portion of its capital budget to make sure at-risk students could actually make it to the classroom.

"A monthly bus pass for the year amounts to something close to $1,000 for a student. So that's a lot of money, particularly for a family in poverty," said Mason.

City Hall's approval of YouthPass will allow Open Meadow to spend more money on teaching and materials, Mason added.

A city report concluded the YouthPass program will be easy to fund via energy tax credit sales.

In the event those credits fall short, tax payers would subsidize the YouthPass program, the report said.

If successful, the program could be extended to elementary and middle school students as well.

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