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Santa Cruz METRO extends free bus ride program for children

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION-TV)- A popular program in Santa Cruz has been expanded.

The Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District is extending a free ride program that allows students from kindergarten to 12th grade to ride METRO services within Santa Cruz County.

Transit officials said the program was suppose to be a one-year trial run but it was extended.

Metro said they've seen a 400% increase in youth ridership. 

“We heard that from parents as well that their kids aren’t interested and getting their driver's license," Metro Planning & Development Director John Urgo said. "I even talked to one parent in Watsonville last week that purchased a car for his daughter in high school and it’s just been sitting in the driveway. She’s just not interested in driving it.”

Riders in grades 9-12 will be asked to show their student id to the driver. High school students without a student ID can sign up for a free Metro Youth Cruz Free ID online.

“I live in the Central Valley Sacramento there’s a free program there too." Zane Herd a frequent Metro rider said. "I used to be a youth out there too. We would get a ticket coming from low income communities to take the public transportation, but it’s nice they have the program here too in Santa Cruz.” 

For many students and families, transit services are their only option for transportation.

The goal is to encourage young people to ride the transit and reduce their carbon footprint.

“We just see more and more young people riding the metro around town and what we heard from parents is the freedom that is given to them to not have to drive their kids around." Urgo said. "Their kids aren’t reliant on a car or their parents."

Metro aims to reach both parents and teens to spread the message, "riding the bus is secure, easily accessible and comes at no cost." 

To get a Free Youth Cruz free ID without a student id you can visit one of Metro’s customer service booths in Santa Cruz or Watsonville, Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.

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Briana Mathaw

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