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It’s that time of year when kids are filling up their backpacks with pens, pencils and notebooks instead of sunblock and swimsuits. Families across Illinois are gearing up for the start of the school year. At the RTA, we’re here to help with the transition from summer break to the school year by sharing transit information that helps students get to and from school.

The RTA was proud to participate in the 17th annual “WGN-TV Back-to-School Kids Fair” at the WGN-TV Studios in Chicago.  We handed out transit goodies like chip clips, pens, water bottles and travel bags and also shared information on public transportation options for parents getting ready to take their children back to school.

Here is a quick rundown of what the region’s transit agencies have to offer students and parents on the first day of school as well as the rest of the school year:


  • The CTA will offer free rides to students on the first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 4.
  • Students must have a Student Ventra Card to receive the Student Reduced Fare on CTA buses and trains. Many schools issue them. Learn more about how to get a card.
  • CTA this year will continue to offer its low 75-cent fares for elementary and high school students Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. when school is in session.
  • Student Ventra Cards can be used for out-of-school riding, too—regular fares are automatically deducted from transit value outside of Student Reduced Fare hours or outside of a school term. Once school starts again, students need to have student riding privileges re-enabled either by their school or by applying: learn more.
  • The CTA’s 75-cent student fares are the result of efforts made by Mayor Emanuel and the CTA in 2013 to ensure transit is even more affordable during the school year. Beyond school hours, elementary students ages 7-11 pay reduced fares of $1.10 on the bus and $1.25 on rail. Passengers who are 12 and older pay the full fare of $2.25 on bus and $2.50 on rail.
  • For more information about student fares, please visit the CTA’s website.


  • Full time students enrolled in an accredited grade school or high school can purchase a reduced one-way, 10-Ride or Monthly Pass. Student fares are in effect at all times.
  • When purchasing a ticket, students must present a valid letter of certification from their school (on school stationery) or present a valid school I.D. (both are valid through the end of the calendar year) bearing the student’s name, school name and authorized signature.
  • Student identification card or letter of certification must be displayed along with the ticket to the conductor.
  • Until Labor Day, up to three children ages 11 and under will be able to ride free. As always, they can ride free on weekends after Labor Day.
  • For more information about student and discounted fares for children, please visit Metra’s website. Any questions concerning the above may also be directed to Metra Passenger Services at 312-322-6777.


  • High school and younger students are eligible to ride Pace routes at a reduced rate.
  • For frequent riders, the Pace 30-Day Reduced Fare Pass offers students with a high school entitlement applied to their Ventra account unlimited rides all day, every day, regardless of trip purpose and without school-hour restrictions, for 30 days. This pass costs $30.
  • Many schools distribute Ventra Student Cards directly to their students. Visit for a list of participating schools.
  • The bus operator may ask for a student ID to confirm eligibility for the reduced fare.
  • Transfers are available when using transit value on a Ventra Student Card, are $.20.
  • A surcharge of $1.15, which must be paid for using Ventra transit value, will apply when using the 30-Day Reduced Fare Pass on Pace Premium routes.
  • Students who are occasional riders and who pay fares with cash pay $1.10, and those who pay with transit value on their Ventra Student Card pay $1.00, but only on school days between 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and only for travel to and from school. This includes summertime travel.

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