Free Transit Passes and School Attendance among High School Students

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, economics - subsidy, ridership - young people


Go-To Student Pass, student free public transit


In multiple U.S. cities, school districts and transit providers collaborate to provide students free public transit access, either replacing or supplementing the yellow school bus service. Although practitioners widely acknowledge these programs as a promising and innovative solution to absenteeism, there is no empirical research evidence to date confirming the benefits of these programs to individual students’ school attendance. We respond to this research gap by investigating the impacts of the Minneapolis Go-To Student Pass Program—a transportation program that began to provide student access to public transit in August 2013—on individual student school attendance. Using Poisson regression, we estimate both the traditional Difference-in-differences models and Two-Way Fixed Effects models to quantify effects of pass use and pass eligibility on student attendance. We find that student-reported pass use and pass eligibility reduce excused absences by 11.5% and 27.5%, respectively. Restricting our sample to students living in the School Walk Zone—the area within 2 mi of one’s school—we find that these effects are even more substantial, with pass use and pass eligibility reducing excused absences by 30.5% and 37.6% respectively. These findings imply that providing free access to public transit is broadly useful to improve student attendance, even for students who live within walking distance of the school and may not use transit passes regularly.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by SAGE, copyright remains with them.