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Free Summer Bus Rides For Sioux Falls Kids

Kealey Bultena
Dog tags allow children on buses for free through September 7, 2015.

Kids in Sioux Falls can get free passes to ride public buses until September. City leaders are launching the Dog Days of Summer pilot program that makes bus rides free for people 18 and under. The program aims to offer teenagers and some kids a safe way to navigate the city and to promote public transportation.

The Sioux Falls City Council and the Mayor’s Office are making public bus rides free for kids all summer long. Kids five years old and under always ride free, but now children ages six through 10 can have a dog tag that lets them on the bus at no charge as long as they’re with an adult. Eleven- through 18-year-olds can hop on city busses for free on their own.

"It’s intended to be a pilot program. It’s intended to be an experimental program to see what the results generate," City councilor Greg Jamison says. "What happens with riderships? Do kids embrace this opportunity? Do they get to the pools? Do they get to the zoo?"

Jamison says kids and teenagers in other communities take advantage of public transportation when they have the option. Councilors and the mayor’s office say they’ll likely implement the bus pass program again next summer because it started late this season.

City Councilor Christine Erickson says the dog tags offer families an opportunity to explore the city, but the free rides are also a practical resource.

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB
Sioux Falls City Council members announce the Dog Days of Summer program. / June 24, 2015

“There are other children in the neighborhood that are of that age that mom and dad both work and throughout our city that might even not have the means to get to a job,” Erickson says. “And that was one aspect that was very important for me with this pilot program as well, you know, that kind of 14-15-year-old age where mom and dad can’t afford a car.”

Erickson says the free passes help teenagers learn responsibility and gain skills using public transportation.

Council member Kenny Anderson Junior says the free rides let kids find their way around Sioux Falls.

“You know, I was another one of those free range children. As soon as I had wheels, I was off our block and all over the city,” Anderson says. “But I feel that this will be a safer way for children to get to destinations that they would like to go to, whether it be the Empire Mall, swimming, the library.”

The free bus rides also let kids get to free lunches so they don’t go hungry.
City leaders say they plan to be reasonable when issuing the dog tags, so family members can provide a school ID for a child and pick up the free pass at a Sioux Area Metro location if the child can’t be there.

Leaders want to see how many people use the pilot program and how much it benefits community members.