The Point: Program reminds students and parents of public transportation option 

Riding the bus just got easier, with free bus rides for any youth 18 and under and students at Cal Baptist University, La Sierra University, Moreno Valley College, Mt. San Jacinto College, Norco College, Riverside City College and UC Riverside. Funded by a state grant, the program begins August 1 and is expected to last until next July.

RTA officials hope the free rides will propel declining ridership caused by the coronavirus pandemic. May ridership was down 67 percent compared to the same month a year ago.

To ride, students at participating colleges will use a free mobile ticketing app. Youth 18 and under will need to show valid ID to the driver. Once aboard, they can ride anywhere RTA buses go, anytime they operate.

The opportunity is provided through a Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) air quality grant that provides public transit funding assistance for projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve mobility.

This isn’t the first time that college students and area youth can ride the bus at no cost. Since 2006, RTA has partnered successfully with area colleges to provide unlimited rides to students who use their ID to ride. Last year, RTA buses logged 1.4 million student boardings, up six percent compared to the previous year. Starting next month, these popular student-ride programs will be funded, at least temporarily, by the new state grant instead of by student fees or by the colleges themselves.

RTA has also had plenty of success attracting youth riders, thanks largely to a promotion that offered 25-cent rides during summer and winter school breaks. The program pushed ridership among middle and high school students to new levels. Last year, RTA buses carried a record 214,000 youth boardings, a 10 percent increase from the previous year, and 25 percent higher than two years ago.

RTA has taken strong steps to maintain service and public safety during the coronavirus pandemic, including routinely disinfecting buses, rear door boardings, requiring employees and customers to wear masks and practice social distancing while onboard. Learn more about RTA’s COVID-19 safety measures.

Although there is uncertainty about schools returning to session this fall, RTA is offering this service to help as needed. For questions about this service or RTA’s safety measures, please call 951-565-5002.