The Chicago Transit Authority will offer free bus and train rides to students on the first day of school through a partnership with Sun-Times Media Productions LLC, which is sponsoring the First Day of School Free Rides program for a second straight year to promote school attendance.
Students and accompanying adults will ride free this Monday, which is the first day of Chicago Public Schools’ fall semester. Last year the CTA and Sun-Times Media, publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, provided more than 100,000 rides on the first day of school.
“Thousands of Chicago students rely on the CTA each day to travel to school and home at the end of the day safely and reliably,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “We’re pleased that we again can provide that free service on the first day of school. The First Day of School Free Rides program has been an effective incentive in supporting Mayor Emanuel’s efforts to encourage attendance on the first day of school, and we thank Sun-Times Media for its sponsorship of this important effort.”
In addition to the free rides on the first day of school, students that day will receive their new Ventra transit fare cards from their respective schools that replace CTA magnetic stripe student and reduced-fare cards that students previously had to carry to ride the CTA.
The Ventra Card offers numerous benefits for students, including eliminating the need to carry more than one transit card or a separate student riding permit; online account management; the ability to load value at more than 2,000 retail locations, rail stations and online; and balance protection for lost or stolen cards for cards that are registered with Ventra. Students will be able to use one transit card that will deduct the appropriate fare no matter what time or day it is.
The agreement between the CTA and Sun-Times Media includes payment by Sun-Times Media to the CTA of nearly $150,000 to cover the cost of rides for students and also includes advertising and promotional trade benefits for both Sun-Times and the CTA.
As part of the agreement, the CTA will provide advertising on unsold bus and rail car interiors, in-station ads and digital advertising displays to promote the First Day of School Free Rides program. The CTA and Sun-Times Media announced the three-year agreement in 2012.