Polk's public transit program for high school students taking off

By Rick Elmhorst, Anchor\Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, November 16, 2013, 10:43 PM EST

Polk County high school students are taking advantage of a new program that allows them to ride public transit buses for free.

The program called COLT is intended to keep transportation from being a roadblock to participating in after-school programs.

Students have to get parents to sign permission slips to participate in the program. Citrus Connection or Winter Haven Area Transit vehicles pick students up at their school and can then take them to almost all cities in the county.

Harrison School for the Arts student Ian Kellett often stays after school to work on film studies projects. He said he was a little nervous about taking a public transit, bus but now it's no big deal.

"It's not what anybody tells you," Kellett said. "It's just like riding a school bus."

Kellett lives in Auburndale, so riding the Citrus Connection bus saves his family a lot of time and money.

"Because they don't have to come all the way over to pick me up," he said. "That saves $5 a day in gas."

Principal Daryl Ward said students have to get used to the bus schedules at first.

"It's a matter of 'let's look at the bus schedule; let's see which bus picks up where at what time,' " Ward said.

The school district is paying the public transit agencies $54,000 a year for the program. Students are allowed to ride for free on Saturday as well, so they can get to jobs or even go shopping.

Citrus Connection said the program is the first of its kind in the state. It provided more than 4,000 free rides to students last week.