Transportation

Metro Hopes To Get New Riders Through Its Discounted Student Fare Card

That discount is offered to students of all ages, from kindergarten through college.

Bus at Metro's downtown transit center.
Bus at Metro’s downtown transit center. 12/17/2015

At the ticket counter at Metro’s downtown headquarters, we met Demetral Williams as she signed up her grandson for a discounted student fare card

Jordan Williams is a lanky 14-year-old who’s starting his first year at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts, where he’s studying ballet. And that means he has to get an early start.

“I’ll have to get up around 4:30,” says Jordan. “Because my bus will leave at 5:43 to take me all the way to Midtown.”

This is Jordan’s first experience riding Metro to school and his grandmother says the time is right.

“Because I didn’t want to drive into downtown,” Williams laughs. “That’s the best reason. And it will be more convenient.”

Williams says she feels confident about Jordan stepping out on his own. But she admits she still worries.

“Just that he’s safe, waiting for the bus, and then of course on the bus. But that’s just the way it is now. Everything is a concern for safety. And I believe that he’ll do well because I’ll probably be watching. But I think that’s the biggest thing, to be safe,” she explains. 

Jordan isn’t out there alone. Hundreds of Houston students of all ages are opting for public transit. Karen Marshall is Director of Metro’s Client Services.

‘You have situations in certain areas where the student lives just outside of the zone for the school bus to pick them up but they’re really a little too far to walk,” explains Marshall. “And yes, there are some kids who are elementary school. That means they’re somewhere between first and fifth grade who take the bus. They may catch it with an older sibling or the parent may walk them to it and catch it with them.”

During an aggressive back-to-school campaign, Metro officials have been out in the community pushing a discounted fare card, known as the student Q Card.  

Metro is offering extended hours at its downtown ride store so students can get discounted fare cards.
Metro is offering extended hours at its downtown ride store so students can get discounted fare cards.

The regular fare for a one-way local trip is $1.25. With a student fare card, the cost is 60 cents. Those fares also extend to college students, and Marshall says you don’t have to be enrolled full-time.

“That’s been a real benefit to students who are working part-time and taking classes part-time,” says Marshall. “Now they can take advantage of the 50 percent discount as well. So we don’t care if you take three hours or 20 hours.”

But are students taking advantage of those discounts and buying Q Cards? Metro spokesman Jerome Gray says the numbers are mixed.

Sales of the discounted cards have increased. In the past year, they’ve gone from 41,000 to 43,000 active student Q Cards.

“At that same time we’ve seen a decrease of about 50,000 boardings of students using those Q Cards,” adds Gray. “Not really clear, not really sure about the factor that’s causing a dip in the ridership numbers, the boardings.”

And as the transit agency works to boost overall ridership, Gray says they’re hoping to figure out how best to serve students.

“We want to train the next generation of riders,” says Gray. “We want to be able to provide the tools that are necessary for them to ride.”

Meanwhile back at the service counter, Jordan Williams gets his new fare card. He says he’s excited about his newfound independence, even though it’s going to cut into his sleep.

“It’s for a good cause,” says Jordan. “I’ll be going to a good school and I’ll be glad to wake up every morning.”

Although there’s a big push right now to sell the student fare cards, Metro says they’re available year round.

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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