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Mid-City CAN Blog

Analysis of bus pass program finds safety increase

From left, San Diego High's Abdi Lopez, 18, Hoover's Oscar Camacho, 16, and San Diego High's Abner Lopez, 16, all found that the Mid-City CAN Youth Opportunity Passes increased their sense of safety and made the responsibilities of high school easier to deal with. Photo by Adam Ward
From left, San Diego High's Abdi Lopez, 18, Hoover's Oscar Camacho, 16, and San Diego High's Abner Lopez, 16, all found that the Mid-City CAN Youth Opportunity Passes increased their sense of safety and made the responsibilities of high school easier to deal with. Photo by Adam Ward

In March, The Global Action Research Center released its analysis of Mid-City CAN's Youth Opportunity Pass program that gave no-cost bus passes to students at Crawford, Hoover, Lincoln and San Diego high schools.

Initial funding for the project came from the City of San Diego and San Diego Unified School District. San Diego Metropolitan Transit System required the money to be deposited before it could release the passes. Results noted an increase in a sense of safety, according to William T. Oswald, principal investigator with the research center, which collaborated with San Diego Unified and Mid-City CAN to compile the report. That was quantified as students with passes reporting confronting crime, bullying and sexual harassment less than those without passes. There was also a slight increase in attendance for students with the passes, although because San Diego Unified changed the way attendance is tracked during the study, more research is needed to validate this finding.

For students like Oscar Camacho, 16, a Hoover student and City Heights resident, the data isn't in doubt.

"I really do need the bus pass to go to school, to be successful, so I won't be late," he said.

He said when he biked to school there were safety issues that he doesn't face in the controlled environment of a bus.

The research center's final analysis used San Diego Unified data, which included 701 students with passes and 243 students without passes, to compare with as a control group.

Safety is an important issue for students in the study, because the area around the schools experience almost twice as much crime as the rest of the City of San Diego, according to the San Diego Police Department's data.

Students with passes had a three percent drop in the number of students reporting witnessing a crime, while the control group, which did not receive passes, reported an increase of 11 percent of the students witnessing a crime during the previous year, according to the report. Half of the students reported a reduction in in victimization and/or witnessing crime, bullying and/or sexual harassment while walking to and from school and while on campus.

Najata Yusufi, student interventionist at Hoover High School, wrote that for the 193 students who received the passes at the school, "from what I have observed and heard back from a majority of students and their parents, is that their bus pass is a lifeline."

Students have expressed joy and relief that they are finally overcoming a major obstacle of not having access to transportation, Yusufi wrote.

"Several students shared with me that without a bus pass they would not be able to come to school or go to their after school jobs," Yusufi wrote. "One mother expressed, 'Without the bus pass, I will have to quit my job in order to drive my son to school.' "

Two brothers who attended a Mid-City CAN Improving Transportation momentum team meeting echoed this idea. Both attend San Diego High and have had the Youth Opportunity Pass for about a month.

"With the bus pass I can get to school," Abner Lopez, 16, said. "I don't have to walk home in the dark."

His older brother Abdi Lopez, 18, said the pass has inspired his activism.

"People need to take more action," he said. "The youth need to get involved in marches and other actions to make changes."

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