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Arlington students are now eligible for free Metrobus rides

An ART bus and driver (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Starting this month, Arlington students can now get free Metrobus rides throughout Arlington.

This builds on a program in place since 2022 allowing students with iRide SmarTrip card to ride Arlington Transit (ART) buses for free. Students who live in Arlington and are enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade can obtain these cards from Commuter Stores in Arlington or, if they are APS students, through their schools.

Now, students with these cards will have free access to Metrobus’ greater range of service and hours, per a county press release. They will be able to travel to destinations that ART routes do not reach, including some schools, such as Swanson Middle School.

“APS is excited about the expansion of the Student iRide Fare Free Program to include Metrobus service within Arlington,” APS Director of Facilities and Operations Cathy Lin said in a statement. “This opportunity expands access for our students to travel in Arlington on public transit buses.”

The new program also responds to an increase in student ridership that the county ties to free ART travel for students. Arlington County reported that student ridership increased from 61,060 riders between January and September 2022 to 108,365 during the same period in 2023.

“We are encouraged to see that student ridership on ART bus has increased since the rollout of the student fare free program in 2022,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors told ARLnow. “Our hope is that by expanding iRide to Metrobus, more young people will become comfortable and familiar using public transportation to get around Arlington safely and sustainably.”

Pors says there are currently no plans to expand the program to include Metrorail. Students can still access the Metro with an iRide SmarTrip card but they will have to pay the full fare amount.

The Arlington County Board approved the agreement with WMATA and the county in July 2023, the county press release says. The county allocated $360,000 in the 2024 fiscal year budget to reimburse Metrobus for the student rides.

Arlington County has taken other steps to make bus rides fare-free, including its free rush hour service on ART buses. Initially set to expire in December, the program was extended through this month.

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