This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
In past years, a family with two high school students who traveled by SEPTA bus or subway to school would have to come up with $72 a month to pay for school tokens – creating a significant barrier to school attendance for some families.
But this fall, many Philadelphia students who had been paying their own fares are riding public transit to and from school for free – the result of an agreement providing additional funding from the state and SEPTA.
The fact that Philadelphia, with the highest population of low-income students in the state, was alone in requiring students to pay for travel to school, had long been protested by local advocacy groups such as Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth and the Philadelphia Student Union.
The agreement, announced by Gov. Ed Rendell and State Sen. Vincent Fumo in August, provides free weekly Transpasses to 36,000 students in grades 7-12 attending public, charter, private and parochial schools. Students in those grades who live a mile and a half or more from school are eligible. Younger students travel free on school buses.
Passes will be distributed at school on a weekly basis and may be used between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year.