Ride On services to remain fare-free until early July 


Maddie Kaltman

Ride On bus services will remain fare-free until early July.

By Samantha Wang

The Montgomery County Council voted on November 30 to keep Ride On bus services fare-free until early July.

Ride On began its fare-free initiative in March of 2020 in an effort to reduce riders’ contact with the bus driver during the coronavirus pandemic. On September 28, the council voted to restore fare requirements as of January 2. However, councilmember Tom Hucker reasoned to the council before the November vote that extending the policy would eliminate cost burdens for low-income county residents. An equity survey from the council showed that 47% of riders have an annual household income below $30,000, and the majority of these individuals are people of color and non-English speakers. 

The policy applies to the Ride On extRa, Ride On Flex and Flash bus services, which are extensions of the Ride On that are available in different parts of the county. 

Junior Amina Abdulkader, who occasionally takes the Ride On home from school, believes that it’s prudent of the council to ensure that transportation remains affordable for residents during the pandemic.

“It’s great that the council is extending the deadline,” Abdulkader said. “A lot of residents rely heavily on the bus to go to and from work, especially in certain areas of the county, and by extending the fare-free policy it’s definitely beneficial for them.” 

Since the beginning of the 2019–2020 school year, students between the ages of five and 18 could already ride the bus for free by presenting a form of student ID or a Youth Cruiser SmartTrip pass to the bus operator. SmartTrip passes are accessible at every Montgomery County public school at no cost. 

“Before COVID, students would have to show a certain pass to get free entry,” said senior Christina Limansky, who takes the Ride On home from school. “The continuation of the fare-free service eliminates the worry of having to acquire or show this card in order to ride the bus.” 

The Ride On provides junior Isarra Etulain with a means to travel to debate practices and after-school gatherings in downtown Bethesda. She said that the new policy is considerate for those who rely on the Ride On for transportation.  

 “I take the Ride On at least four times a week,” Etulain said. “My parents can’t drive me most of the time, so I rely on the bus. By extending the fare-free service, I can continue to get to these places without having to burden my parents.”