January 06, 2021

'Youth Ride Free' Program Slowly Emerging From COVID-19 Impacts

'Youth Ride Free' Program Slowly Emerging From COVID-19 Impacts (City File Photo/Darrell Shoemaker)



RapidRide serves as convenient option

for youth on school, cold, activity days

RAPID CITY, SD--Another indicator of COVID-19 impacts on the community can be seen in the dramatic decreases in youth ridership on the City's Rapid Transit System (RTS).

            RapidRide recorded more than 10,300 youth passenger trips in the four-month period from September through December.  By comparison, for February --  the last full month school was in session prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic -- a total of 11,403 youth passenger trips were recorded. There have been slight increases in ridership with schools returning to in-school attendance.

            "COVID-19 impacted our schools and our youth in so many ways," said Megan Gould, Rapid Transit System (RTS) manager.  "Indirectly, we see that impact with the number of youth riding in our system.  For several months, with no school and no extracurricular activities, there was no place to go."           

            RapidRide provides public transportation on six different fixed routes with timely service to many convenient locations in Rapid City, including most of the schools.

            Gould reminds parents that passes are not required this school year, however, parents or guardians must register their child with Rapid Transit System by calling 394-6631 and providing the name and school of the student and contact information of the parent or guardian.

            "The 'Youth Ride Free' program has been successful for the past several years, providing youth a convenient option for getting to and from school and to community and school activities," Gould said.  "It also provides a flexible option for parents on days when the school car isn't operating or weather poses a challenge."

            The City began offering free transportation to school-aged youth at the start of the 2016-17 school year. The idea originated with Mayor Steve Allender in the summer of 2016 and was supported by Rapid City Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon. 

            Rapid Transit System drivers and passengers are required to wear masks on the buses.  Hygiene protocols are followed at the conclusion of each route.  Social distancing protocols are also followed when possible, however the number of passengers on certain routes at certain times of the school day will make social distancing impossible to enforce.

            For more information about the Youth Ride Free program and to provide registration information for students, contact RTS at 394-6631.

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