Loy Norrix students, Tayvon Davis and Jeremiah Nelson, board the bus at the 2:45 stop to head home. With the new agreement, KPS students will ride for free beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.
In the summer of 2018, The Foundation for Excellence was given 70 million dollars to fund projects for Kalamazoo. A portion of this fund is going towards transportation for high school students enrolled in Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS).
The Foundation for Excellence is pairing with Metro Transit and the Kalamazoo Public Library to bring free, public transportation to high school students who attend KPS to help give them opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, cultural events and one of the most-prominent reasons, employment.
“They [The Foundation for Excellence] identify transportation for kids basically as a stumbling block for being able to get to things. In addition to being able to get to cultural events, they can also get to and from school in order to help out with families who have to deal with after-school activities and eliminate any transportation problems,” said Kathy Schultz, Planning and Development Manager for The Foundation for Excellence.
This project will be implemented in the 2019-2020 school year. During registration for students over the summer of 2019, they will be given an ID which will serve as a school ID, library pass, and bus pass in Kalamazoo. The IDs will look and feel the same, but there will be technology inserted into the ID that corresponds to the fare boxes in buses. There are no limits on the usage of the passes. Students can ride as many times as necessary for 7 days a week.
“Norrix, Kalamazoo Central, Phoenix, and the alternative learning program are the four buildings that we are starting off with. If this plan is successful for the 2019-2020 school year, the project will expand to include middle schools within KPS as well. We are in the process of
purchasing five thousands cards that will be programmed with technology prior to registration in the fall,” said Schultz.
KPS has been chosen as the pilot for the project because most KPS students live in Kalamazoo, and students enrolled in KPS have easy access to the Metro Transit bus system.
“KPS is an initial startup. Most of the kids here live in Kalamazoo. It’s a group that we can point to a couple buildings and say here’s a pass, here’s how to ride, and then we’re able to provide education to students,” said Schultz.
Students all around Kalamazoo will be granted with free transportation year-round and stress will be relieved from parents of students who frequently need rides. Students will now be able to attend after-school activities and events without worrying about finding a ride.
Since this plan will not be in effect until next school year, current seniors will not be granted with free transportation for their 2019-2020 school year.
“I feel like this is great for everyone because of the high amount of poverty that we have in Kalamazoo so everyone should be able to get free transportation instead of buying Lyfts, Ubers, or taxis,” said senior Aaliyah Goodman, who relied on public transportation before recently purchasing a car. “If I were here next year, it would be a lot less of a hassle and you wouldn’t have to find $1.50 for the bus or buy bus tokens at the bus station.”
This project to give students more opportunities for free transportation is set up to help students be successful and help all students of KPS to participate in extracurriculars and school events.