More students taking advantage of Rapid Ride; school attendance up

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RAPID CITY, S.D. -

In September of 2016, the city began allowing students to ride for free on the Rapid Ride transit system. Since then, there has been a 27.7 percent increase in riders. 

That means 105 more students use the transit daily. Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender sees the change as positive.

"Our youth needs to get out and mobilize and see this city."

"We hear scattered stories of that student who missed dozens of days last year who hasn't missed any days yet this year."

There are many similar stories of students in the Rapid City Area School District. Schools have seen a rise in attendance, and according to Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon, Rapid Ride is a contributing factor.

"There are some individual cases where they see some clear improvement, and we're beginning to see in many of our buildings a slight improvement in our attendance. We just looked at our overall data too and see that as a district, our attendance is up about 1.8 percent. So, we're about halfway to our goal that we set for this school year,” says Simon.

The month of December saw a 9.75 percent increase in youth taking advantage of the free transportation. Officials say students are finally catching on to the option.

Allender thinks the "recent spike in numbers was related to the cold snap that we had. And that's what I was hoping all along, that when the weather became cold enough to keep kids away from school or other activities, that they would see Rapid Ride as an option and I think that's what they've done.”

Allender heard from the transit manager that sometimes there are up to 40 kids on one bus headed to or from school. The mayor hopes students continue to use the service during the summer months.

"I'll be equally satisfied if the numbers stay up there a little bit and kids are using the bus to get to the library, and the arts center, and the basketball games, or whatever is going on in the summer time," said Allender. "Our youth needs to get out and mobilize and see this city."

Students Kindergarten through 12th grade can ride the bus for free.

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