A coalition of social justice and transportation advocates announced a campaign Friday to press the Bay Area's transportation commission to finance free bus passes for intermediate and high school students.
Organizers said many students face a financial hardship paying for bus fares or passes to ride to and from school.
In the East Bay, AC Transit charges youths $1 per bus ride or $15 for a monthly bus pass, while many other agencies charge more.
"This is not charity. It's about civil rights," said the Rev. Scott Denman, an Episcopal rector who chairs Genesis, an Oakland-based interfaith group. "If you're not providing a way for students to get to school, you're denying them the rights to education itself."
Urban Habitat and TransForm, an Oakland-based transportation advocacy group, also support the free pass proposal campaign announced in a news conference in Oakland on Friday morning.
Organizers said they are at an early stage in their planning, and intend to hold a series of community meetings and discussions to formulate a plan to bring to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
A big question is how to finance free travel for students when public transit systems are slashing service and raising fares.
Proponents of the free pass also must determine whether to offer the free student passes in a select few or all of the more than 20 transit systems in the Bay Area.
MTC representatives said it's too