INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Local students are taking advantage of city transit. Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) wants its thousands of high-schoolers to get to and from school in a new way.
It’s part of a partnership between IPS and IndyGo.
Delisa Scott and her friends used to ride the yellow school bus, but this year they have a new ride. We rode along with them on their way to Crispus Attucks High School and all of the teens agreed that public transportation for them was more convenient and quicker. Not only that, Scott says it gives her an option on what time she can head to school and it makes her feel safer.
“When it’s six o’clock in the morning it’s very dark and I walk to the bus stop by myself and it’s far away,” said Scott.
The IndyGo and IPS pilot program gives students a free bus pass that they can use seven days a week through the school year. Right now, it serves as an option to the yellow bus service for all high school students, grades 9-12, at Crispus Attucks, Shortridge, Arsenal Tech, George Washington and KIIP Legacy high schools. Herron, Riverside and Purdue Polytechnic already use IndyGo services.
“A lot of our kids already use that mode of transportation, I just don’t think they had thought about using it to come to school,” said Kiyana Davis, the Family and Community Engagement Liaison.
In two years once the pilot program is complete, IPS hopes all 5,000 high-schoolers are using public transportation not only to get to school but from extracurricular activities and jobs.
“If a kid misses a bus, they could miss school. Now, it’s if you miss the bus you get on the IndyGo. It’s the expectation you get to school, one way or the other,” Davis said.
“We don’t want to rip the rug from anyone, we want to give our students an opportunity to get on IndyGo to experience it and to get comfortable with it,” said Carrie Black, the Communication Manager for IPS.
This launch is not just for the students. IPS also offered limited free rides to parents. The plan is to reinvest the money saved by eliminating yellow buses back into classrooms.
“It is no secret, we are trying to save money. We are trying to stretch the budget. So, we know we need to save about $111 million over the next several years in transportation alone,” said Black.
IPS and IndyGo worked closely with other cities to see how their programs have worked and what would best fit Indianapolis.
“We were just talking with Denver Public Schools and they’ve been doing this for at least 10 years and have had little to no problem,” said Black.
With thousands of teens soon riding city transit, safety is top priority. According to the IPS website, all buses are equipped with audio and video surveillance. There’s also emergency call boxes and uniformed and undercover officers on buses, monitoring bus stops.
“A lot of times we preach to kids you need to be more responsible, be a self-advocate,” said Davis. “This helps them step that up for them. Real world responsibility into the school.”
The first year of the pilot program will cost $75,000. The second year will cost $160,000.
IndyGo and IPS are offering travel training events across the district to help inform families on what to expect when riding public transportation. For more on the upcoming events, click here.