By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor,

An underestimation in the amount of transit cards needed for District students could leave a lot of kids, stuck at the Metro or not at school starting next week.

Starting October 1, students will be unable to use city-issued D.C. One Cards, which allowed students to ride the Metrorail, Metrobus and D.C. Circulator for free.  The reason for the change is because D.C. One Cards were initially not meant for transit use. In its place, students will need a Kids Ride Free SmarTrip card which are supposed to be distributed by school administrators; yet the amount of cards issued to schools is causing major frustration for several parties- including students, school leaders, parents and officials.

Students and parents are worried there are not enough DC transit cards. (Courtesy photo)

Mary Shaffner, principal at DC International Charter School (DCI) in Northwest, told WAMU she has asked the city for more cards several times to no avail.  DCI has over 1,060 students and Shaffner only received 448 cards from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).  Officials told WAMU they sent DCI 125 more cards, yet that still leaves more than 400 cards needed for students.

“We need the balance so our kids can get to school because the majority of them take public transportation,” Shaffner told WAMU. “It cost a lot of money to come from Wards 7 and 8 to DCI. Those kids will have to pay, and maybe they don’t have the funds to pay for that. We have heard parents say that, ‘my kid is going to miss school because we can’t afford to do this everyday.’”

DCI parent Susanne Horn is concerned that her sixth grade soon will need to pay about $4-$5 a day to get back and forth from school.

“That’s going to be a really expensive commute if you’re going to pay it out of pocket,” Horn told WAMU.

Attendance has already been an issue in the District, particularly during last school year, when a couple of area schools experienced scandals with falsifying attendance records including Dunbar, Ballou and Anacostia.

District of Columbia City Administrator Rashad Young said his office initially ordered 32,000 cards since 25,797 students used D.C. One Cards for transportation purposes last school year.  Then, Young said the office ordered 10,000 more cards last week after the high demand.

Yet Young did not account for the more than 90,000 students attending public and charter schools in the District, leaving more than half without a way to get to school free of charge.  Young said the cards were only supposed to be for the students that would “need or use” the cards.

Young said that as the city adjusts to the new process, he expects issues to be rectified- yet his optimism does not comfort parents and leaders who are daunted by the October 1 deadline to begin using solely SmarTrips.


Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor