DC One Cards

This page is about DC One Cards for homeschoolers. If you live in the District of Columbia and have a homeschooled student, your student has the right to a DC One Card just like any other DC student. This card has a number of benefits. It can act as the child’s library card and allow them to sign in at the rec centers and pools if they’re old enough. Most importantly, the card comes with a transit subsidy.

The transit subsidy changes every year. This post is currently updated for the 2016-17 school year. This year, non-public school students (including your homeschooled student) can take the Metro or Circulator bus for free in the mornings and afternoons/evenings every weekday. Additionally you can get reduced fare prices for the bus and Metro (subway) that are valid all the time. This is a great program. Your taxes pay for it and if you ever take public transit it’s definitely worth getting the card for your student.

Step One: Get the Card
Fill out this form and be sure to check off that you want a Smartrip enabled One Card. Next, go to a One Card office with the form and proof of identity for your child as well as your own DC driver’s license or other ID card. Your child must go with you. They will take a photo then mail you the card. It can take a week or so for the card to arrive.

Step Two: Register the Card and Set It Up
Go to the registration site for the One Card and set up the services you want. It *should* show up with a transit subsidy letter at the bottom of the page. However it didn’t for us. Our next step was to call the transit subsidy office and speak to someone there. The number is on the page. I think it’s possible that all homeschoolers may have to go through this step and pick up the phone to have them manually activate the card. This step is done for DCPS kids in their school and it’s clear that other kids have a small extra step to go through. However, they were extremely nice. Once the card is set up, then the free bus rides will be activated with a couple of days and your student can begin using the card. As I learned this year, you will need to contact the transit subsidy office each year, but the woman actually remembered us! Hey, sometimes DC is like a small town.

Step Three (optional): Add Money
Finally, you can print off the subsidy letter that appeared at the bottom of your One Card page when logged in and take that and the card to a Metro Sales Office to add cheap Metro fares and bus rides. Currently, you can get an unlimited Metro rail pass for $30 per month, ten subway rides for $9.50, and 10 bus rides for $7.50. This is much cheaper than paying regular fares. Alternately, you can register the card on Metro’s website. To do this, you’ll need to create an account for your child, register the card, then use a credit card to add money. The option to purchase the reduced rate fares will come up on the website once you’ve entered the One Card’s Smartrip number.

And… ta da! Cheaper comings and goings all around town.

My first question about this was whether the kids would be able to use their free bus fares to cross into Maryland, where both of them have extracurricular activities. I can now report that the answer is yes, they definitely can. From what we can tell, the card seems to be valid on Metro’s entire system. In other words, look out, your kids can make it to outer Virginia for free!