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Kids Ride Free Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the Kids Ride Free program?

The Kids Ride Free program provides free travel on Metrobus, DC Circulator, and Metrorail for students in the District of Columbia to get to school and school-related activities. The program is a collaboration between the government of the District of Columbia and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).  

Q2. Who is eligible for the Kids Ride Free program?

Students ages 5 through 21 who live in the District and are enrolled in a DC Public School (DCPS) or Public Charter School (PCS) are eligible for the Kids Ride Free program.  
 
Private and parochial school students are eligible for the Kids Ride Free on Bus benefit and may also purchase the 30-day bus/rail combination pass, 10-trip rail pass, or 10-trip bus pass.  Private and parochial school students are not eligible for the Kids Ride Free on Rail benefit. 
 

Q3.  How does the Kids Ride Free program work? 

The Kids Ride Free program works by loading an electronic pass onto a student’s DC One Card (see Q6 if you need a DC One Card).  The DC One Card serves as a student’s identification and is also equipped with WMATA’s SmarTrip chip technology.  The DC One Card can accept a Kids Ride Free pass as well as regular fare (stored value).  The District of Columbia relies on DCPS and PCS enrollment data to determine if a student is eligible to get the electronic Kids Ride Free pass loaded onto their DC One Card. 
 

Q4. What changes are being made to the Kids Ride Free program for the 2016-2017 school year?

There are two important changes for the 2016-2017 school year:

1. Easier registration process.  Starting August 15, 2016, students that are enrolled in a DCPS or PCS and have an active DC One Card no longer need to register for the Kids Ride Free program online.

Private and parochial school students are still required to register and check their eligibility online at www.dconecard.dc.gov to participate in the Kids Ride Free on Bus program and to purchase subsidized transit passes.

2. Extended hours on the bus.  Students are now able to take a free bus trip to travel to school or school-related activities all day, every day (including weekends).

Q5.  How do I sign up for the Kids Ride Free program?

Starting in the 2016-2017 school year, eligible DCPS and PCS students will receive the Kids Ride Free pass automatically if they are enrolled in school and have an active DC One Card. These eligible DCPS and PCS students will no longer have to register for the Kids Ride Free program online.  Starting on the first day of school, students must tap their DC One Card on the Metrobus (or DC Circulator) fare box or the Metrorail fare gate to activate their Kids Ride Free passes and take a free trip.

Kids Ride Free checklist

Two weeks before school starts:

  • Make sure you are enrolled in a DC public school or public charter school.  Your parent or guardian must enroll you, in-person, at your school.
  • Find your current DC One Card.  If you don’t have one already, find out how to get one by visiting dconecard.dc.gov or asking your school.
  • Pay off any negative fare balances on your DC One Card.  You can check your balance by tapping your Card on a fare vending machine at a rail station.

On your first day of school:  

  • Tap your DC One Card on a bus fare box or a rail fare gate within the District of Columbia to activate your Kids Ride Free pass and take a free trip.

Private and parochial school students are still required to register and check their eligibility online at www.dconecard.dc.gov to participate in the Kids Ride Free on Bus program and to purchase subsidized transit passes. 

Q6.  How do I get a DC One Card?

Students should use their current DC One Card to participate in the Kids Ride Free program.  If a student needs a new DC One Card, he or she may request one through school.  Newly issued DC One Cards will be sent the Kids Ride Free pass automatically so it can be ready to use when it is received

Q7. How can I check the status of my Kids Ride Free pass?

Starting August 15, 2016, students may log-in to their account at dconecard.dc.gov to check the status of their Kids Ride Free pass.  If the Kids Ride Free pass is not listed on the site, then the student is either not enrolled in school, is not a District resident, or has aged-out of the program. 

Q8.  When can I start using my DC One Card to take a free bus or rail trip to get to school?

DCPS and PCS students who are enrolled in school and have a DC One Card will be able to activate and use their Kids Ride Free pass starting on the first day of school.  Most schools start August 22, 2016.  You won’t be able to use your DC One Card to take a free trip until you are enrolled in school and your school has processed that enrollment information.

Private and parochial students will be able to register for the Kids Ride Free on Bus program (and purchase subsidized transit passes) starting August 15, 2016. 

Q9. How will the District monitor the program to prevent fraud?

The District will evaluate travel patterns to identify instances where the Kids Ride Free pass is not being used by the eligible student to travel to school or school-related activities. The Kids Ride Free pass may be revoked for unauthorized use including use by anyone other than the approved student.

Q10.  At which Metrorail stations can I use the Kids Ride Free pass?

The Kids Ride Free pass can be used within the District of Columbia and the following boundary rail stations: Capitol Heights, Friendship Heights, Southern Avenue, Silver Spring, Naylor Road.  The pass will not work at rail stations outside the District, and students must have stored value on their DC One Card in order to exit at a non-authorized rail station.  A negative fare balance will disable the Kids Ride Free pass.

Q11.  On which bus routes can I use the Kids Ride Free pass?

The Kids Ride Free pass can be used for bus trips that start and end in the District of Columbia and the following boundary stations: Capitol Heights, Friendship Heights, Southern Avenue, Silver Spring, Naylor Road. The Kids Ride Free pass cannot be used for bus trips outside of the District and the five boundary rail stations.

Q12.   Why is the fare gate (or the station manager) telling me to add value to my own DC One Card?

The Kids Ride Free pass does not work if the DC One Card has a negative fare balance.  Students can check their current balance and pay off any negative balance at a fare vending machine (also called an “add-fare” machine) in any Metrorail station.

Starting on August 15, 2016, students may log-in to their account at dconecard.dc.gov to check the status of their Kids Ride Free pass and fare balance. 

Q13.  Why do some students have a negative balance?

The Metro system requires riders to pay a fare for their bus or rail trip. The fare system allows riders to take one trip even if they do not have enough fare, resulting in a negative balance.  Before taking another bus or rail trip, riders must pay off that negative balance.  

The Kids Ride Free pass provides free rail travel, but only for rail trips taken within the District and five border stations during the school term. If a student takes a trip outside of the District with insufficient fare, the fare balance will become negative.  Additionally, if a student takes a trip before their first day of school with insufficient fare, the fare balance will become negative. Having a negative fare balance will disable a student’s Kids Ride Free pass. 

Q14.  How do I check to see if I have a negative balance?

Students may tap their DC One Card on a fare vending machine in a Metrorail station—it will display the card’s fare balance.  A DC One Card needs at least a $0 balance for the Kids Ride Free pass to work.

Starting August 15, 2016, students may log-in to their account at dconecard.dc.gov to check the status of their Kids Ride Free pass and fare balance. 

Q15. How do I pay off my negative balance?

Students may pay off their negative balance at a fare vending machine inside any rail station. Students can use either cash or credit at these machines. Students may also pay their balances with a credit card at www.smartrip.com

Q.16 What is the District of Columbia doing to help students resolve and prevent issues caused by negative balances?

For the 2016-2017 school year, students will be able to take a free bus trip all day, every day (including weekends).  Therefore, students will no longer be charged for a bus trip taken within the District reducing the risk of incurring a negative fare balance.

Q.17 I am eligible for Kids Ride Free, but my DC One Card isn't working properly. Why?

The following conditions will prevent the Kids Ride Free pass from working properly on a student’s DC One Card:

  1. Having a negative fare balance.  A negative fare balance (less than $0) on your DC One Card will disable the Kids Ride Free pass.
  2. Using an inactive DC One Card.  You must use the DC One Card that was most recently issued to you.  You cannot use an old DC One Card—it will have been deactivated.  
  3. Not being enrolled in school.  You must be enrolled in a school within the District of Columbia to be eligible for the Kids Ride Free pass.
  4. Not living in the District. Your home address on record must be in the District of Columbia to be eligible for the Kids Ride Free pass.
  5. Being over the age of 21.  You must be 21 years old or younger to be eligible for the Kids Ride Free pass..

Q18. What number should I call if I have additional questions abut the Kids Ride Free program or need help?

Please call the District Department of Transportation at (202) 673-1740. 

Para asistencia en su idioma, llame al (202) 673-1740. 
如需用您使用的语言获得帮助,请电洽 (202) 673-1740.
Muốn có thông dịch viên để giúp bạn miễn phí, xin gọi (202) 673-1740.
በቋንቋዎ እርዳታ ለማግኘት በ (202) 673-1740 ይደውሉ።