CHICAGO (CBS) -- CHICAGO (CBS) -- CTA officials said Wednesday that free rides on the first day of classes for Chicago Public School students and the parents who accompany them will become an annual event.
CTA officials said they provided nearly 171,000 free rides Sept. 6, although the transit agency cannot tell how many were students and how many were parents.
The cost to CTA was between $65,000 and $75,000 after donations from seven corporate sponsors, lined up quickly in the weeks before classes began.
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CTA President Forrest Claypool said that in the future he hopes to attract enough sponsors to underwrite all costs related to the program.
"That would obviously be the ideal scenario," Claypool said. "We had a very limited window this year."
He credited the Chicago Public Schools and its deputy chief executive officer, Barbara Lumpkin, for attracting the sponsors in the six to eight weeks before schools opened.
Both Claypool and CTA Chairman Terry Peterson said that the boost in attendance to 94.7 percent, from 92.9 percent a year ago, showed that the strategy worked.
The day of free rides had two purposes. One was to get more students to school and the other was to introduce parents to teachers.
Claypool said both were accomplished, and said the benefit to students who will not have to play "catch up" helps the students, and stretches scarce education funding.
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