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San Diego Students Want Cap-And-Trade Dollars For Free Youth Bus Passes

Abdulrahim Mohamed speaks to supporters Dec. 10, 2014 at a rally for free stu...

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: Abdulrahim Mohamed speaks to supporters Dec. 10, 2014 at a rally for free student bus passes.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

Students marched from San Diego High School to the Metropolitan Transit System offices Wednesday to persuade the transit agency to invest in a program that has given free bus passes to students at four area schools.

City Heights nonprofit Mid-City CAN organized the students. The group wants MTS to kick in new cap-and-trade dollars to sustain and expand the bus pass program.

The state's cap-and-trade fund is set to grow by $4 billion next year, when oil companies will begin paying the state to offset their carbon emissions. The money is headed to local jurisdictions, and MTS will soon have to develop a plan for spending the funds.

Currently, the San Diego Unified School District is shouldering the $200,000 cost. District leaders hope the program will increase student attendance and achievement. With school bus routes cut, many students must now walk to school or rely on city buses, which can cost them $432 annually for an already-discounted pass.

Hoover High School senior Thong Huang said he's become more involved in leadership activities since getting the pass because he can travel to community meetings after school.

"I strongly support the youth bus pass campaign, because it is very crucial for us to offer each and every young student the equal opportunity to pursue their education, future and career," Huang, 17, said.

MTS spokesman Rob Schupp said it's too early to make any commitments.

"We're still waiting to find out whether or not it has the desired effects," Schupp said.

MTS is working with the district to track student ridership under the program. Early student survey results did not show increased attendance but did show students were safer because they didn't have to walk through high-crime areas.

The pilot program runs through the spring semester.

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