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High schoolers can get free county bus passes under new state program

FILE - TheBus in downtown Honolulu.
Oʻahu Transit Services
FILE - TheBus in downtown Honolulu.

High school students across the state could get free bus rides through a new Department of Education pilot program.

The EXPRESS program aims to increase student ridership on county public transportation. The department would then reassign underutilized school buses.

The DOE will reallocate up to $4 million for the program.

The state says the program could benefit more than 21,000 students who are currently ineligible for school bus service because they live too close to a school campus.

Students in the program will get a free pass from the DOE, which can be used at any time through July 2023 — not just for school transportation.

"We want to emphasize that EXPRESS may not be for every family. We want to ask that you think about your student and consider the following thoughts: Do they have a way to communicate with you? If they get off at the wrong stop, could they course correct? Could they find their way back to school or home? What is your student's level of situation awareness, and do they take safety seriously?" said Emily Evans, administrator of the DOE's student transportation services branch.

"If you do choose to sign up, please make sure to read the public transit safety information that’s on our website, as well as the respective island transit county websites," Evans said.

The Hele-On bus system on Hawaiʻi Island is already free for all passengers through the end of 2023.

Families and students can sign up for the free program. More information can be found at hawaiipublicschools.org.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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