Sound Transit asks public to weigh in on proposed free youth fares

Photo courtesy Sound Transit

Sound Transit is asking for public feedback on a proposed policy change to implement free fares for passengers age 18 and younger.

The Sound Transit Board is expected in July to consider a proposal to make fares free for youth. The change would be implemented by Sept. 1, 2022, before the start of the school year.

The public input period for this proposed policy change runs through June 26, and the board will receive a summary report of the feedback.

There are three ways to participate:

  • By email:
  • By phone: 206-717-9077, TTY Relay 711
  • At a public hearing June 16 at 9:30 a.m. Comments can be given either in person at Union Station or virtually through WebEx

You can find more information here.

Last March, the Washington State Legislature passed the Move Ahead Washington transportation package. This package uses grants to incentivize all Washington state transit agencies to adopt a free-fare policy for riders under 19 years old.

The new policy will be implemented in partnership with other regional transit agencies to create a seamless experience for riders. Youth will be encouraged to use an ORCA card when riding. No youth will be turned away or penalized if they do not have an ORCA card, and no personal information will be collected. Regional ORCA partners are currently analyzing the best methods to distribute ORCA cards to youth.

Sound Transit said it doesn’t anticipate a significant change in overall ridership, but noted that other transit agencies with similar programs have seen many positive changes for youth riders:

  • An increase in affordability for youth and families who use transit
  • Increased youth access to activities outside of school, such as medical appointments, after-school activities, or jobs
  • Increased use by youth-related programs, such as using transit for school field trips
  • Increase in graduation rates for students with free fares
  • Normalizing the use of transit
  • Youth riders continue to ride into adulthood and encourage others, such as friends and family members, to do the same

Learn more here.

  1. I totally disagree with this. Now if the Person 18 or under is income appropriate meaning they are eligible for aid ok. If not I think they should pay like everyone else. Having this for school field trips?? Really. Is this more of our tax dollars? As I said any child or teen income appropriate yes. But again NO to those whose parents are wealthy or very well off. This is enabling. This will not encourage any adults who do not wish to use Sound Transit or anything like it during a time of major violence to use this at all.
    “Youth riders continue to ride into adulthood and encourage others, such as friends and family members, to do the same.” This will not encourage me and many others to put themselves at risk. Was it Sound Transit where we had the situation just a couple weeks ago? Ending badly. I as Edmonds is today will not use it to get to the Bowl to shop etc. This is just another way to keep people from driving. I don’t like it and I find it very unwise.

  2. What a great proposal from Sound Transit! I like how open enforcement is. I hope this supports more mass transit use.

  3. Why not just make it free for everyone? That should help improve ridership, Maybe? We wouldn’t have to pay for the marginal enforcement we have now. To paraphrase our President, “When everything is free, there is no inflation.”

  4. You could look at this from many different directions. The goal from sound transit is to get young riders using the train so they continue as paying adults. I think that is an ok strategy or approach on the surface. This plan or direction can be considered a perceived good. What are some drawbacks?
    Enabling “At risk teens” ability to disappear away from current support groups by providing free transportation to wherever they want to go in a rather large metropolitan area creating more risk.
    Opening up free flowing travel for young gangs or gang members from one region to another at no cost while extending the reach of the crimes for these gangs.
    Providing and opening up crime routes for thieves targeting and stealing from populous areas with more ease and less resistance.
    If Sound transit could put in place safeguards that would thwart the concerns I voice and others on this site voice then citizens might be comfortable with this type of policy.
    If Sound Transit decides to offer no controls over free transportation for teenagers like those I desire then providing free transportation will be a disaster and will turn people away from riding the train because simply put it won’t be safe to ride. Just go ride the subway in Chicago or New York or trolleys in San Fran Cisco to get a taste of what I am describing the future could be if free fairs are offered to teenagers, the homeless, etc.

    I have seen to many homeless people jumping on and off buses or trolleys I have ridden on and teenagers up to no good to trust giving this Billion Dollar train system away for free in an attempt to build paying ridership later. Add the safety mechanisms in with the proposal to allow free teen ridership and I would consider giving it a thumbs up. Give it away with no safeguards and I will give it a big thumbs down.

  5. I have a novel idea. Why don’t we figure out the lowest pay as you go price for all users and charge that amount? Maybe thay could even cut the ST District transportation tax on our car tabs a little? I’d like to see an honest figure for what one ride would really cost without all the Grants and subsidies. The state is trying to make actual users pay more of the actuual cost for ferries and the fares have risen exponentially of late as a result. Everything can’t be free or really cheap and still be fair to all.

  6. Rather than free, why don’t they have to earn their fare? Something for city/county like pick up trash, needles, etc. and based upon the hours they put in…they are credited with ‘free’ fares?

    Life ain’t free…

    …Sweat Equity

  7. How about paying youth money to use public transit. Just like with the Edmonds comprehensive plan’s “Equitable Engagement Framework”. Even if both lack basic common sense, it would have consistency.

  8. Why does it matter? It’s not like anyone REALLY has to pay anyway. Or are the free rides only for drug addicts?

  9. Kashf,

    I have an orca card and as a senior have a reduced rate, but still pay for every ride. Are you saying those who ride the bus don’t have to pay if they don’t want to?

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