(KTXL) — Sacramento Regional Transit will continue to offer free rides on its buses and light rail trains to K-12 students for another year.

The RydeFreeRT program, which is entering its fourth year, allows all 265,000 students from transitional kindergarten to 12th grade to access the region’s most extensive public transportation services at no cost.

The program also includes students who are in foster care and students who are homeschooled. 

According to SacRT, RydeFreeRT has increased student ridership by nearly 17% since its inception in 2019.

In 2023, the number of students expected to ride public transit is double what it was before the pandemic, SacRT said.

SacRT General Manager and CEO Henry Li said in a statement, “We’re introducing a new generation of riders to transit. People who ride public transportation at a young age are more likely to use it as adults, building ridership for life.”

The initiative was created to reduce truancy and absenteeism in schools, but a study done by the University of Texas found that RydeFree’s impact extended beyond academics.

While school attendance numbers did improve, the program also reduced congestion from vehicle pick-up lines and the transportation barrier to get to jobs, internships and extracurricular activities after school and on weekends, according to SacRT.

Patrick Kennedy, SacRT’s Board Chair, said in the same statement, “We value our young people and that means helping them get to school, jobs, and activities.” 

To use SacRT’s buses and trains, students are required to show a valid RydeFreeRT card, which are currently being distributed to various schools and libraries.

New cards will also be available at the SacRT Customer Service and Sales Center at 1225 R Street.