By Jesse Scaccia
Aug. 1, 2016
If you’re 17-years-old or younger and live in Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, or Virginia Beach, getting around just got a whole lot cheaper. Starting immediately, Hampton Roads Transit is offering unlimited free rides on the bus, ferry, and the Tide to locals up until their 18th birthday.
“We did a survey last year, and we found that 2% of our riders are 17 and younger,” said Tiffany McClain, public outreach and ridership coordinator for HRT. “This is an effort to increase ridership in that age group, and to teach young people in Hampton Roads how to use transit so they can become more independent and be more involved.”
In a region painfully car-centric in design, this mass transit education is a necessary step.
“They can take the skills they learn here at home, and if they go away for college or move away, they’ll know how to use mass transit,” said McClain.
As of now, the “Student Freedom Passes” will expire on December 31. HRT hopes to continue the program next year, if there is enough interest.
According to McClain, HRT looked at cities with similar programs like Tempe, Arizona, and Montgomery, Maryland where, she said, those cities saw increased student involvement in after-school activities.
HRT could use the boost in ridership. As of June 30, 2016, ridership on all modes are down to 15,170,484 for the year, as compared to 16,229,576 at this point a year ago, and 18,654,438 in 2013.