Community Transit seeks public feedback on free youth fare proposal

Community Transit is inviting people to give feedback on a proposed policy change that would allow youth 18 years and younger to ride public transit free of charge. If adopted by the Community Transit board, all youth will be eligible for free rides on all Community Transit services including buses and DART paratransit in the fall of 2022.

The public is invited to comment on this proposed policy change through Aug. 1. There are several ways to comment:

“Riding public transit for free would offer more transportation options for young people and their parents who are juggling busy family schedules,” said Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz. “Whether it’s getting to after-school activities, getting a ride to a job, or meeting up with friends at the park, free access to public transit would have a positive impact on youth in Snohomish County.”

Community Transit will answer questions about this proposed policy change at a virtual community meeting via Zoom on July 13 at noon. To join, go to

Last March, the Washington State Legislature passed the Move Ahead Washington transportation package. This legislation incentivizes all Washington State transit agencies to adopt a free fare policy for riders 18 years of age or younger.

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

More information is available at

  1. No. Unless on state aid then yes. I am sure they won’t need $ incentive to ride the bus. At that age. And I am sure most can afford to pay at least half fare. You ask. I see it this way. WE cannot pay for everything here and we shouldn’t have too either. Enough.

  2. I also say NO to this proposal. This does not teach a child financial responsibility and sets up false expectations going into the real world. Life and living are not free so why would we teach that to kids, unless we intend for them to be dependent on the government/tax payer for their future. The adults in the room do not pay for everything and I believe this sets a bad example.

  3. Deborah Arthur’s idea is a great one. They can afford to pay half unless on state aid then they can ride free.


  4. The hidden agenda here is to get people in the habit of using public transit at an early an impressionable age. It’s free and fun to run around with your pals on public transit.

    Of course, it isn’t free at all. The people in the Sound Transit district are paying mightily on their car tabs to help finance and get this system built. The only fair thing would be for the bean counters to figure out the lowest possible price to charge all users. The problem with that is it would probably be at least in the $10 to $20 range per ride. Much like the ferry system is trying to get the actual users to pay a fair share of the real cost per car with fares going up exponentially due to labor, fuel, and replacement costs sky rocketing. There is no free lunch and I question the wisdom of teaching our young people that there is. Someone, somewhere pays.

  5. Some good points! Does anyone think that the decision will be based on input from the community? Not sure this idea will matter much. I think I saw something recently that “paid-fares” are only about 7 percent of their revenue. The rest, 93%, comes from taxes. I am not saying that is wrong. Just a fact. It might be more efficient and might even save a little money to let everyone ride free. Ben Cain

    1. Before the consideration to provide students of the ages (?) 13- 18 years the opportunity to travel to and from school via public transportation for no cost directly for them, may be a good opportunity for those students and parents. There are no easy solutions. It is worth the effort, especially during winter months; limited sunlight, cold temperatures and early darkness.

  6. I am kinda torn on one hand I think people should pay their way. On the other it is more expensive to enforce fares than it is to just let people ride free. As it is we heavily subsidize public transit to the tune of more than 60% I think the light rail wants to collect 40% of the cost and are only collecting about 5%. So I am going with making public transit free to all riders I know this will cost the taxpayers a little more but it will also reduce the expense around trying to collect fares my only caveat is it’s general tax and not just on the backs of car drivers.

  7. One of our big conflicts in this country, if not the biggest, is what should be owned in common (paid for with taxation) and what should be owned and paid for privately. Countries that have things like free or nearly free transportation, college, health care and housing for the lower income people, have overall tax rates in the 50% range. It kind of comes down to, “you pays your money; you takes your choice.” When you look at our tax rates combined we are probably already in the 25% range combined for most people (Darrol H. can get an accurate number on that I suspect), so the question is, are we getting good value in general for what we are purchasing with our taxes at all levels of our government?

  8. Youth ride-free is OK with me ….HOWEVER, it should require mandatory community service of 20 hours per person, per year i.e. clean the buses, clean the bus stops, etc.

  9. There is one critical piece of missing information here:

    What is the cost comparison of revenue for below 18 vs. what Community Transit would be reimbursed from the 16 year long Move Ahead Washington plan?

    There was a KUOW radio segment about this, and they noted that King County found that collecting fares from less than 18 year olds would cost them more than the amount that they would be reimbursed by the Move Ahead Washington reimbursement program. It is very likely that we would also be in the same situation in Snohomish County.

    That data is critical to have ready before this public meeting. If the overall costs for our taxpayers less by giving kids free transit for at least the next 16 years, than that would definitely be a win-win for our community. Especially since that would also give those kids more money to spend in the community, and provide them with a lower bar for them to be able to get to work.

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