When school starts, some students will be boarding a city bus instead of a yellow school bus. Embark, Oklahoma City’s public transit system, will allow students from Oklahoma City high schools to ride the bus at no cost to the student or parent.
The Haul Pass program was developed to support Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) students by providing access to public transportation options through a joint partnership between Embark, the city of Oklahoma City, and the Oklahoma City Public Schools District. The students’ fares are funded through the joint partnership. Each entity serves as a funding partner to ensure the sustainability of the program.
Beginning Aug. 1, Emerson High School students will have unlimited access to board the bus to go back and forth to school, work, an after-school activity or anywhere Embark goes. The program is expected to expand to later to other schools within the district.
Last spring, a pilot program was introduced at Emerson High School – a school with enrollment from all across the city and high transportation costs for a small population. Some students travel a great distance to get to school and most students don’t have their own means of transportation. The pilot was to determine the extent of need and the feasibility of transitioning yellow bus riders to the city bus system.
“This is partnership at its finest,” said Rob Neu, OKCPS Superintendent. “We identified a hurdle that our students deal with every day and with the help of Embark and the city of OKC we found a way to meet student needs so they can be successful in and out of the classroom, added Neu.”
Officials hope the program will help reduce the strain on the district’s yellow bus system and allow it to refocus resources to strengthen its service offerings. At the same time, the program will teach students a life skill and encourage public transit use.
“The program has the potential to enrich Oklahoma City’s community by empowering OKCPS mid-high and high school students with sustainable transit options that will allow them to get to school, reach work, and access health care - making our community stronger overall,” said Jason Ferbrache, Embark’s administrator.
In addition to the Haul Pass program, Embark operates the “Road Scholars” program which allows area schools to use scheduled bus service for field trips at no cost.