Howard County Offers Free RTA Bus Passes to Middle and High School Students

Photo Credit: Howard County Government

More than 57,000 students can now ride the RTA system and more than 10,000 students can access a stop within a quarter-mile of their school

On August 25th, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced a partnership with the Howard County Public School System and Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to offer free RTA bus passes to middle and high school students. Ball’s announcement comes amid the state-wide school bus driver shortage and provides another transit option for students. The program will begin with the start of the school year next week and passes will be valid through September 12, 2022. Students can claim their free passes from school administrative offices next week. An electronic pass will be available on smartphones starting in early 2022. Students will have full access to the RTA system and will not be limited to transportation to and from schools. Photos can be found here. Video can be found here.

“Our kids need more independent safe modes of transportation, and this program is a great example of our commitment to make Howard County more multi-modal,” said Ball. “The bus can take you from your classroom to your after-school job, home from soccer practice, or to a friend’s house to hang out or study. This program opens up many more opportunities for our students, encourages the use of our RTA system that’s already in place, and decreases the dependence on cars.”

To obtain the free student bus pass, students must agree to: ​

  • Provide name/student ID, address & grade to school staff
  • Maintain possession of the pass ​
    • Not transfer or share the pass with others​
    • Only one replacement pass will be provided to each student
  • Abide by Howard County Public School System rules while on-board

“This directive will readily assist and provide students an alternative option to go to and from school and partake in volunteer or after-school employment opportunities,” said Councilmember Opel Jones. “I believe this exceptional initiative will ensure an equitable future for our students by providing access!”

“Many students and families rely on public transportation as their primary means of transit to work and other necessary destinations,” said HCPSS Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano. “On behalf of students and families in Howard County, I am grateful for the collaborative efforts of the county, RTA and HCPSS to enhance access and opportunities for students at no cost. This is another step toward building a more connected and accessible county where students and families alike can take advantage of opportunities throughout the county.”

“This initiative to provide bus passes at no cost to students is a great way to increase opportunities and access throughout our community,” said Student Member of the Board of Education Peter Banyas. “I commend the collaborative effort to provide access for students to programs outside of school, especially employment opportunities and county services. For many, this could be a game changer, reimagining the possibilities of public transportation in Howard County.”

For more information and detailed schedule information, please visit https://www.transitRTA.com or call 1-800-270-9553.

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Here is the latest HCPSS school bus transportation update I have seen on the HCPSS website:

Transportation

HCPSS has a new bus locator application available online. The new locator has updated features making it easier to navigate and use.

Please note that HCPSS contractors are currently experiencing a severe driver shortage. To provide transportation services to all eligible students by using the existing buses and drivers available, many bus routes and bus stops will look different than what families have experienced in past years, with some buses running double routes, picking up and dropping off students in groups. Details on the driver shortage impacts were emailed to families and posted online.

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Scott E

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