Is Your Bus Fare Racist? Real Life Story Problems for Baltimore Students

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Sometimes life gives us real story problems. When the Maryland Transportation Authority (MTA) started charging students for riding buses after 6 pm, students got a real life lesson in how political and economic decisions can affect their lives. Some had to quit participating in after school activities, others had to walk home or find a ride from friends or family. Non-profit groups which offered after school programs were suddenly having to seek funds to pay bus fare for their students.

This is a prime teaching moment where students can examine this problem using their skills in math, economics, history, politics, social science, and problem solving.

Teachers, here are some things that you can do with your students:
1) Define the scope of the problem.
How many students are affected by the reduced hours of free ridership?
What number/percent of students have had to quit programs?
What number/percent have had to pay and what number/percent have had to walk or get rides?
Have any students been placed in danger in by walking or riding with others?
How much money does MTA need to provide full time ridership for students?
What are the costs to students of missing after school programs?
What are the costs to families which have to pick up their students?

2)Why did the policy change?

3)What are the different perspectives on the cost of providing extended ridership?

Some city council members pointed out that there isn’t an additional cost in allowing students to ride
free on regular bus routes which are already running, especially after 6pm when ridership is lower than peak hours.

An MTA official stated that they are required to recover a third of the cost of rides and that in the past they were simply not counting additional rides by students. He stated that the MTA is facing a budget deficit and isn’t able to allow students to ride for free. Students are already billed at reduced fares.

A student pointed out that her participation in the Merit scholar program enabled her to capture college scholarships and admission offers. Should the cost of the bus ridership be weighed against the opportunities these programs offer to students and their families?

If the school district and the MTA are struggling with tough budgets, are there ways to find alternative funding or savings?

4)Can students provide examples of ways that buses and transportation have been important in racial justice history?

5)What are possible solutions to this problem?

6)Are there ways to express their views to public officials?
a) Call to MTA customer service number
b) Call or write Governor Hogan.
c) Call or write MTA
d) Send photos of their walk home to Governor Hogan and MTA.
e) Their families and friends could vote–research how many eligible voters cast votes in the last election.
f) Could a social funding drive provide funds?

I am posting a series of video clips for you and your students to use as you consider this topic.
Please let me know how this goes and whether you have any questions.
-shan

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