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More Mpls. Students Using Metro Transit In Pilot Program

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- High school students in the Minneapolis public system won't be hopping on those iconic yellow school buses for much longer. The district is phasing that traditional transportation out.

"After school, if you miss that one yellow bus that leaves for the after school activities, then you can't participate or you can't get home," Changing School options coordinator Courtney Cushing Kiernat said. "With Metro Transit, if you have a Go To card, you can take the bus home when it suits your schedule and your academic needs."

Currently, 900 students are in the pilot program, which allows students to ride city buses or light rail to school. Next year, the district will expand the program to half of its high schools, about 2,500 kids. Then, in 2013, all of the schools will participate.

The change won't immediately save the district any money. The savings will come once the program is fully rolled out and the district can adjust start times and the amount of gas and rides it needs with its school buses.

Minneapolis Schools say the cards will be monitored daily, to make sure students are only using them for academic-related programs, like tutoring, sports and clubs.

The cards will be handed out each quarter and allow students pre-paid rides from 5 AM to 10 PM, in accordance with the city's curfew.

"This provides more opportunities for students to be involved in their academic experience than the yellow buses," said Cushing Kiernat.

Students agree, crediting the program with allowing them to get more educational opportunities.

"Some of my friends, they ride the school bus and they can't stay after for College Passport and other activities. They always go home and they don't like it," Fartun Ahmed, a Roosevelt High School senior said.

"The students who have To Go card, we can come whenever we want. We always come early to school. I stay until 5:30 and I use my Go card because there is no school bus that takes you home that late. It's useful."

Sophomore Chee Hang agrees.

"When I came here last year, they didn't have the To Go cards. It was hard for me to get transportation, so it was rough." Chee said.

Unlike school buses, which take you only to and from school, students need to learn the Metro Transit bus system. They told us, with working parents, it's difficult to get a lift.

"My parents are always busy and they work. If I need a ride downtown to the library, I can use my Go To card and get their easily and faster," Chee said.

Another plus, families don't have to pay for parking or worry about getting lost when driving somewhere new.

Metro Transit has been planning for these changes with the district. Next fall, it'll add two new lines between Northeast and North Minneapolis and will adjust some current stops to accommodate the school start and end times. It will also work with the district and police to make sure all riders -- teenager and adults -- feel safe and are responsible when riding with one another.

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