Starting next year, school-aged children in Lexington can ride LexTran buses for free on weekends.
Also, the LexTran board has approved spending $1.5 million on three trolley buses that will run downtown.
The Lexington Transit Authority board on Wednesday unanimously approved the new program designed to teach students how to use public transportation. It will be a pilot program for calendar year 2009.
"We're always trying to look for ways to create more ridership," said Rocky Burke, LexTran's general manager. "Children in our public and private schools is something we really can focus on and hopefully can get them to ride the bus."
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The program is targeted to middle and high school students, but all students in grades one through 12 would be allowed to ride LexTran for free on the weekends, Burke said.
The program will be launched in mid- to late-January.
Students won't need to get a special pass from LexTran. They also won't be asked to show their school IDs.
As long as they are a student in public or private school, the bus drivers will let them on for free, Burke said.
"It's a good opportunity for our kids to learn how to use the public transit system," said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Stu Silberman. "We appreciate LexTran offering this benefit for our kids."
Currently, children under age 6 ride free at all times as long as they are accompanied by an adult.
The trolley buses, which LexTran hopes to purchase in the next three months, could be in service in downtown by the end of 2009.
Two of the trolley buses will be hybrids, running on electricity and diesel. They will cost $580,000 each.
The third trolley bus will run on diesel. It will cost $370,000.
Each trolley will be 29 feet long and have wooden seats for 28 people.
A regular bus is 40 feet and costs between $320,000 and $330,000.
The trolley buses will run two routes downtown. One route will run between Triangle and Thoroughbred parks along Main and Vine streets. The other route will run from the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University along Upper Street and Limestone.
The Main and Vine Street route will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The Upper and Limestone route will run from 6 p.m. to midnight.
The trolley buses will run in five minute intervals.
Rides on the trolley buses will be free for the first six months, said LexTran spokesman Dave Riggins. LexTran has not determined whether it will charge a fee after the six-month period expires.