The Jacksonville Transportation Authority may be one of the solutions to Duval County’s school bus driver shortage.
Later this month, the JTA board of directors will vote on a proposal to formally expand and make permanent the My Ride 2 School program, which provides free fare to Duval County middle and high school students. The program launched as a pilot in January during school hours and was expanded over the summer to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“The Jacksonville Transportation Authority intends to not only continue supporting Duval County students and families through the My Ride 2 School Pilot Program, but to expand it to cover all JTA service hours for buses and the First Coast Flyer as a permanent, year-round program,” says JTA spokesman David Cawton.
My Ride 2 School is open to students at public and private middle and high schools. During the pilot phase, Raines, Ribault and Andrew Jackson high schools were the schools where the most students participated.
More than 175 students rode city buses in the first four weeks. That number more than doubled to nearly 400 by the end of the semester. JTA tells Jacksonville Today that amounted to 34,715 rides taken during the 2021-22 academic year, and students continue to ride city buses for free with a student ID.
When the JTA board discussed the program in January, board member Kevin Holzendorf said the impact of the program is “endless” and said he hoped it could be made permanent.
Paul Soares, assistant superintendent of operations for Duval County Public Schools, says, “This 24/7 service is expected to continue into the 2022-23 school year, which should be a great help for our students and families who participate in after-school activities and extracurricular events on weekends. We look forward to an even better year as the JTA student ridership program continues,” Soares wrote to Jacksonville Today.
Duval County Public Schools privatized its busing more than two decades ago. With another school year starting this week, its contractors, Student Transportation Services of America and Durham School Services, are facing a driver shortage.
As of Aug. 2nd, the two companies had a combined 662 drivers, with 735 routes planned for more than 14,000 students.
Interested in the My Ride 2 School program for your child? More information may be found at go.jtafla.com/myride2school.