JTA free ride program for Duval County, college students expands to year-round availability

Duval County students, from middle school to college, can now ride JTA buses for free at any time throughout the year. All students need to do is come to one of three dozen bus stops to catch a ride at any time of day.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County students, from middle school to college, can now ride JTA buses for free any time of the year.

This began as pilot programs, and more people are using them.

News4JAX has learned 549 students took advantage of the program Tuesday, which is the most for a single day.

David Cawton with Jacksonville Transportation Authority said this expansion meets a need.

“We know that students have obligations before, after, during school,” Cawton said. “We want to be able to provide that flexibility for students and parents during the week and during the weekends.”

Cawton said the demand is noticeable. It is free for public school students as well as those going to charter and private institutions in Duval County.

When the “MyRide2School Program” launched in January, 138 students rode a JTA bus that first day.

Cawton said that number more than doubled during the start of the 2022-2023 school year. He said 318 Duval County students got on one of the buses.

Now, some days the program is seeing more than 500 students.

“That tells us that parents are confident, students are confident and that the service is working as intended to,” Cawton said.

This program also stretches to local college students. Cawton said JTA started a ride program for them during the Fall 2021 semester.

Hundreds of students from schools including Jacksonville University, Edward Waters University and FSCJ used it.

“That was open to them as a way to remove a financial barrier,” Cawton said. “They deal with a lot already with rising tuition and other obstacles as they try to better their lives with education.”

Cawton said providing this service helps the school district currently dealing with its own bus driver shortage. It also teaches a new generation how to ride public transportation.

“[It opens] up an opportunity for them to maybe one day not buy that personal vehicle,” he said. “Maybe help reduce our carbon emissions locally and make them a bus customer for life.”

There are nearly three dozen JTA bus routes for these programs that allow students to be within walking distance of their respective schools.

For middle and high school students to ride a bus, they must show the driver a valid school ID.

It is a little bit different for college students.

They need to verify their enrollment at their school at this link: https://www.tokentransit.com/jacksonvillefl/college.

Then they will be issued a digital pass to show that would allow them to ride a bus for free.

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