CPS schoolchildren can ride the CTA free on the first day of school — Aug. 26 — brought to you by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Students and accompanying parents and guardians will be allowed to ride for free between 5:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 26, CTA spokeswoman Lambrini Lukidis said. They’ll be allowed though train turnstiles and let onto buses, she said, adding that operators won’t ask for IDs, especially since elementary students don’t all have them.
CTA President Forrest Claypool told WBBM News Radio that he and Chicago Board of Education officials are convinced that the free rides program helps boost attendance.
Some 405,000 children attend CPS. This year, the district combined its calendars so all CPS students will start the same day on a single, unified district calendar.
The CTA has offered the free rides on the first day for the last few years. And they extended it during last year’s strike, when the CTA let CPS students who showed school ID cards take free buses and trains to the 144 schools set up for them while teachers walked the picket line.
Last year, some 110,000 children rode for free on the first day, thousands fewer than the year before, Lukidis said. On an average weekday, she said, the transit agency counts about 150,000 rides to students going to and coming from school, and about 25 million reduced student rides throughout the academic year.
The Chicago Sun-Times is the exclusive sponsor of the first day free rides, with the Sun-Times company paying $123,000 in cash and trading about $150,000 in free ad space in the newspaper and on distribution boxes to promote the first day program, and another $5,000 though the year for other promotions, she said.
The Sun-Times foundation is contributing another $25,000 as a charitable donation for a non-profit it and the transit authority will choose together, said Sun-Times spokeswoman Alisa Alexander.