Cookies and brownies for bus service — that’s the exchange proposed by Baltimore Councilman Zeke Cohen, who’s holding a bake sale today to raise money for an after-school transportation service that was recently cut back.
Previously, students were able to ride Maryland Transit Administration buses for free until 8 p.m. using their student access cards, according to the Baltimore Sun. But a new agreement ends free rides with that particular pass at 6 p.m., which, Cohen argues, will leave kids without affordable transportation from extracurricular programs like sports.
Cohen, who is chairman of the council’s Education and Youth Committee, called the two-hour cutback “unacceptable” in a statement, the Sun reports.
“All children deserve the opportunity to succeed,” he said. “This credo is shared by educators, parents, citizens, and elected officials across party and ideology. But without a meaningful commitment of resources, it becomes a lie.”
For its part, however, the MTA said that any suggestion it’s “changed its S-Pass policy to save money at the expense of Baltimore City’s school children is simply inaccurate,” the Sun reported in December.
Students in school-based after-school programs that go later than 6 p.m. actually receive MTA tickets for their evening ride, according to school officials. The students who will be most impacted are those who attend late afternoon and evening programs somewhere other than their school. The district is apparently phasing out the student access card in favor of a different bus pass.
Whatever happens with MTA, West Baltimore is not the only region to struggle with questions of free transportation — bus service is often among the first of proposed cuts when districts face funding shortages.
For now, Cohen wants to raise $102,000. He’s also created a GoFundMe drive to supplement the bake sale.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.