It’s time for Kids Park Free


Graphic by Max Wix

Jamie Stewart-Aday

When I got my driver’s license, I was beyond excited to drive to school and get all the freedom and convenience that comes with it. But two years and hundreds of dollars in tickets later, my dream has become a nightmare.

The lack of student parking at Wilson leaves driving students with only suboptimal options. Some can take buses or metro, which are less reliable and often much slower than driving. Others park on Chesapeake, either paying around $15 for a day’s worth of parking or, more often, leaving the meter unpaid and hoping to escape a $30 ticket. For students who choose to drive but can’t afford meters or tickets, they are forced to park further from school or compete for one of the few free parking spots close by.

These are significant and solvable issues. Considering the issues Wilson already has with tardiness and absenteeism, forcing students to take slower routes to school because they can’t or don’t want to pay $75 per week to park is unreasonable and only exacerbates an already serious problem. 

If students were able to park for free on Chesapeake, it would be much easier for those students to get to school on time. Since the security line is the longest later in the morning, that group of students arriving earlier would make it easier for everyone to get in the building more quickly and to class on time. 

There are multiple ways the city could do this, and none of them are especially difficult. The easiest would be to simply announce that school zones would not have parking enforcement during school hours. This was the de facto system for a while when parking enforcement was lax, but there seems to have been an increase in ticketing as of late. The city could also give students some sort of credit within the Parkmobile app, which could potentially be restricted to school zones and/or school hours. 

A program like this wouldn’t be prohibitively expensive either. Since many Wilson students rarely pay the meters and only get tickets once every two weeks or so (at least in my experience), it’s hard to imagine the city makes more than a few thousand dollars per year off of student parking. Considering that DC spends over $30 million annually on “attendance-related efforts,” student parking would only be a drop in the bucket. 

Compared to the Kids Ride Free program, Kids Park Free would cost practically nothing since it would only apply to students over 16 and even among that group only a small portion would use it.

Obviously, most students who have access to a car that they can drive to school every day are not part of the most disadvantaged portion of DCPS or of Wilson’s student body. The city was right to start by helping students who take public transportation, and it should continue to funnel the vast majority of its money into students who have further to travel and fewer resources to help them.

Kids Ride Free showed that the city is committed to eliminating barriers to student attendance, even when that means subsidizing the methods of transportation students take to school. Extending the program to cover parking would not be life-changing, but it is a simple and inexpensive step that could be taken to make it easier for all students to get to school on time. •