Kids in the City: 10 Tips for Taking Public Transportation on Their Own

Planning to give kids independence in the city? Here are some key preparation steps.

Parker Barry

Kids navigating a big city on their own can simply make a family’s day-to-day routine run more smoothly, or it may be a necessity — especially for kids attending schools that don’t provide transportation.

It’s a great stepping-stone for kids, too, in becoming more confident and empowered in making decisions themselves. Toca Magazine talked to parents whose middle-schoolers regularly ride Bay Area Rapid Transit in the San Francisco Bay Area and Capital Metro in Austin to get some tips on getting kids ready to ride.

  • 1. Start by riding along on the route kids will be taking. After a few rides, just sit quietly and let them initiate everything with you following along. Then when you are both comfortable, let them go it alone.
  • 2. Buddy up. On those companion rides, see if other kids (classmates, for example) may be on the same route and let them pair or group up to ride together.
  • 3. Keep it simple and safe. If a stop doesn’t feel safe to you or the connections are too complicated, have kids get off somewhere else. One father had his daughter get off at the public library. “There was a transfer at a stop I didn’t feel comfortable with, so she rode to the public library and waited for me.” — Anthony Baker, Austin
  • 4. Remind kids to stay aware. Tell them not to put in both ear buds or look down at the phone constantly. They should look around and be alert.
  • 5. Let kids practice with orientation and decision-making. “Our kids lead us on our vacation travels through various world transit systems.” — Jeff Songster, Oakland
  • 6. Use an app or card for prepaid tickets. That way, kids won’t have to use cash.
  • 7. Have a plan.
    • “If someone or a situation didn’t seem right to her, then she would call me and/or walk to public place with lots of people around.” — Mary Epperson, Austin
    • “We had a Plan B at all times, which involved walking to the nearest public library.” — Deb Levine, Oakland
    • Let kids taking the bus know that they should go to the bus driver if there are any problems.
  • 8. Talk to your kids openly and listen to their concerns. “Keep your lines of communication open, discuss your child’s fears in depth — no judgement as to real or imagined fears.” — Deb Levine, Oakland.
  • 9. Teach them to trust their gut. If something doesn’t feel right or safe, move away or get help.
  • 10. Trust your kids. Empower them to make decisions so they are comfortable thinking and acting independently.


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