TARC and Jefferson announce fare-free bus rides for students

Starting in August, students enrolled at Jefferson Community Technical College can ride on TARC buses at any time by showing a school-issued photo ID to the bus driver when they board.

“With the Jefferson student ID as good as fare, we’re removing transportation as a barrier to education attainment and opportunity,” said J. Barry Barker, executive director of TARC.

TARC and Jefferson entered a partnership to provide the free rides, which will also be available to Jefferson faculty and staff, after a pilot program showed that students provided bus passes far surpassed academic achievement levels compared to their peers.  The Jefferson-TARC agreement is in effect for the upcoming academic school year through May, 2018.

“When you look at the results of the earlier bus pass program, there’s no question how important access to transportation is for achieving at Jefferson and advancing on a career path,” said Jefferson President Ty Handy.  “We wanted to make this available to all students because we know how tough it can be to come up with bus fare every day and how that can impact their ability to succeed.”

Barker, Handy, and Mary Gwen Wheeler from 55,000 Degrees announced the ID-as-good-as-fare partnership at a news conference Wednesday at the Jefferson campus on Broadway in downtown Louisville. The campus is accessible on heavily used TARC routes.

“This was a game changer for me,” said Treyvon Dingle, former Jefferson student who participated in the College’s pilot partnership with TARC beginning in 2014. “Free TARC transportation and Jefferson’s affordable tuition removed financial barriers for me.  Without having to worry about money, I could focus on my work and achieving my goals. I’m glad that all Jefferson students will have the same opportunity I had.”

In the pilot program, bus passes were made available to 200 students in the fall of 2014. One year later, 123 of the initial 200 participants had taken full advantage of the bus passes, picking up each monthly pass during fall 2014 and spring 2015 semesters.

Of those 123 students, more than 80 percent – 91 students – were continuing classes in the fall of 2015 or had graduated.  By comparison, only 42 percent of the 3,058 students who did not receive bus passes in the fall of 2014 were continuing classes or had graduated a year later.

Jefferson is home to approximately 12,000 students on six campuses. Thirty percent of those are underrepresented minorities.  Two-thirds of the school’s population is eligible for a Pell Grant, offered to those in low-income families.

“We are confident this will benefit many JCTC students by taking one more impediment to college access off the table,” said Handy.

Mary Gwen Wheeler, the Executive-Director of 55,000 Degrees, said that these kind of support services are vital – not only to the individuals who benefit from them, but also to building the community’s skilled workforce. 55,000 Degrees is Louisville’s education movement working to increase the education attainment rate of Louisville workers to 50% with an Associate degree or higher by 2020.

“The pilot program showed that JCTC students with a bus pass are almost twice as likely to stay in school as students who don’t,” said Wheeler.  “As a community, we can’t afford to let talented people leave college simply because they are having trouble getting reliable transportation to school. If we truly value equality of opportunity, we must work together to find more of these sorts of solutions to the daily challenges that many students face.”

TARC also has a longstanding partnership with the University of Louisville whose students, faculty and staff ride fare-free by showing the driver their school-issued photo ID.                         

This new benefit is for students and staff at ALL Jefferson campuses. Those who wish to use TARC for free will need to visit the Smith Library on the Downtown Campus during normal business hours to have a sticker placed on their valid student ID.  Free TARC ridership for students begins August 1 and continues until the end of the Fall semester.  A new sticker will be administered for the Spring semester.