I shouldn’t have to choose whether to spend money on a bus to school or on lunch

In just a couple weeks I will be a proud graduate of Denver School of the Arts (DSA). I’ve loved being a part of the DSA community…so much so that every day I’ve taken the bus to and from school, to work and various internships four or more times a day.

And, it’s been expensive.

Some days I choose whether to eat or catch the bus even though both are priorities.

To have had an affordable bus pass this year would have made a huge difference to me. Even though I’ll be graduating soon, I’ll still benefit from using the bus as a new college student. And, I’m not the only one who could use a more affordable way to get to school, work and all the other activities we are encouraged to get involved in throughout high school and college.

The bus is one of the most helpful sources of transportation and it’s seen as a more enviro efficient and enviro safe solution to traveling around the city—an added bonus for someone like me who cares deeply about the environment. The low-income and youth passes from the Regional Transportation District (RTD) would mean a lot to students like me who are doing our best to manage so many different responsibilities.

Although I have my own issues to deal with as far as being able to afford a monthly pass, I know there are other students who have bigger financial troubles than me and possibly more obligations that require them to travel even more than me.

In fact, while 19,000 students ride district busses to school, about 2,500 high schoolers like me rely on RTD. And that’s kind of the point. There are so many students who are feeling the effects of our city’s transit inequities. But together, I believe we can work to bridge the gap.

That’s why I am an intern with Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA). Working closely with other YAASPA interns, families and partners from Together Colorado, we’ve been working to encourage the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education to compel the RTD board to approve a set of community recommendations that include providing: free RTD transportation for kids 12 and under, a 70 percent discount for youth ages 13-19, and a low-income pass for qualified recipients at a 50 percent discount.

The DPS board’s passing of the proclamation in support of these recommendations was a critical act of solidarity that I hope translates to other governing bodies. But we can’t stop here. We need continued support from our community and elected leaders to make sure that all students have equitable transportation access to school.

This year more families than ever before took advantage of Denver’s school choice process to find the best school that will allow their kids to learn and develop their passions. But what happens when students like me are forced to then choose between money for a bus pass to school and money for lunch? Is this really a fair choice?

I don’t think so. And that’s why transit equity must be viewed and understood as a part of educational opportunities and choices that students and families continue to be offered.

Genesis Oates is a senior at Denver School of the Arts and an intern with Young Aspiring Americans for Social & Political Activism.


Photo credit: The Denver Post

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