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Start of CPS school year Tuesday means CTA fare discounts resume for kids


People exit the State/Lake CTA L station in Chicago on August 14, 2018. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

CTA has been offering free rides to CPS kids on their first day of school since 2011, an annual tradition that marks the return of discounted train and bus fare for elementary and high school students on weekday mornings throughout the school year.

Full-time students at all Chicago Public Schools, and at some participating private, charter and parochial schools, are eligible for the 75-cent reduced student train and bus fare between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on weekdays. Students must obtain Ventra cards from the school where they are registered to receive the discount.

According to the CTA’s most recent list of participating schools, which was last updated in 2015, a total of 216 Chicago schools offer discounted Ventra cards to students directly.

Kids who attend schools that do not distribute student Ventra cards can apply independently for the discount by submitting a CTA-supplied form to their school for enrollment validation and then mailing the completed application to the transit agency.

The CTA launched the “First Day, Free Rides” program in partnership with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office in 2011 to promote attendance on the first day of school. Last year, approximately 130,000 students and their parents took free rides to the first day of school, according to a release from the transit agency.