CTA back to school: Free rides on first day; how to get reduced-fare student cards

For the third year in a row, Sun-Times Media Productions is sponsoring the CTA's First Day, Free Rides program.

Last year, CTA provided more 147,000 free student rides on the first day of school and provided about 25 million student rides throughout the academic year.

Students who are enrolled in school are eligible to receive discount fares to ride the CTA Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. when school is in session. Last year, Mayor Emanuel and the CTA lowered student fares by 10 cents to 75 cents to make transit even more affordable. Beyond school hours, elementary students ages 7-11 pay reduced fares of $1 on the bus and $1.10 on rail and individuals 12 and older pay full fares.

How to get reduced fare student Ventra cards

As in previous school years, the 75-cent Student Reduced Fare is available with a Ventra card that must be obtained from the school where the child is registered or directly from Ventra via a special online student form.

In order to obtain student fare cards, students should not obtain Ventra cards from vending machines or from retailers who sell Ventra. Instead, follow these instructions:

CPS: For new students attending Chicago Public Schools, they will be able to get a student Ventra card from their school administrator. If the student has previously attended CPS and already has a student Ventra card, those students do not need to get a new card – they should use that same card for the new school year. Their school already has their Ventra information and those cards will automatically deduct the correct reduced student fare when the fall session begins.

Private, parochial, charter schools that provide fare cards to students: Some private and parochial schools will also directly distribute student Ventra cards to enrolled children if those schools have already signed up to distribute Ventra. A list of all schools that directly issue student Ventra cards to enrolled students can be found online.

Private, parochial, charter schools that do not provide fare cards to students: Students attending private or parochial schools that do not distribute student Ventra cards can download a form online and bring the form to school to validate the student’s enrollment. After they have received the validation from their school (as proof that they’re eligible for the discounted fare) they can mail the form to Ventra to the address below. Student Ventra cards will be sent to the student’s school for pickup by the student.

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