MayorYouthThe Mikva Challenge Mayoral Youth Commission worked tirelessly to research the most pressing issues facing Chicago youth. They conducted interviews with students from diverse neighborhoods and communities to discover that transit cost, particularly to and from school, was a common theme. This led them to design a “free fare” pilot program and pitch it to the mayor of Chicago. Here’s the story:

Problem: A majority of Chicago public high school students are low-income and also ride the CTA to get to school. Many youth cannot afford even the student reduced-fare cards, creating a negative impact on their school attendance. Studies have shown that low attendance is correlated with an increased likelihood of dropping out.

Solution: Provide free transit fare cards to low-income students to boost their attendance. Target CPS high schools where the majority of students qualify for free- or reduced-lunch, CTA ridership is high, and principals are committed to implementing the program.

Impact: The Mayor approved a pilot program in 5 schools in 2012. Council members worked through the year to gather results of this pilot and found that the fare cards increased student attendance by 5 percent! The group too this data and new plan to the mayor and convinced to expand the pilot to 10 more schools.

Press Release from the Mayor’s Officer announcing the Free Fare Pilot

“500 High School Students to Get Free CTA Rides.” Chicago Sun-Times

“High schoolers to get free CTA rides to class” Chicago Tribune