The Community Transit Board of Directors unanimously approved free fares for youth 18 and younger, effective Sept. 1. Youth will be able to ride all Community Transit services free of charge including buses, DART paratransit and vanpool, as well as other transit services in the region, such as light rail.
“As a former school administrator, I know how important it is for kids and families to have easy access to transportation,” said Community Transit Board Vice Chair and Arlington City Council Member Jan Schuette. “Providing free access for youth will increase their independence and open up new opportunities for them and their families, including accessing jobs or after-school and weekend activities such as the Boys & Girls Club or YMCA.”
“We are excited to welcome the next generation of transit riders,” said Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz. “Free rides on public transit will help young people connect with their community and begin to develop independence as they discover the freedom of transit. At the same time, it will help families who are juggling busy schedules by providing more transportation options.”
The new policy will be implemented in partnership with other regional transit agencies to create an easy experience for riders across the region. Youth 13 and older are strongly encouraged to tap their ORCA card as they board, or at the station before they board. Using ORCA cards enables agencies to track ridership and facilitate compliance with state reporting requirements. No youth will be turned away or penalized if they do not have an ORCA card.
The ORCA transit agencies are working together to make it easy for youth to get ORCA cards. ORCA agencies are also working to provide school districts with additional ORCA cards for students in the fall. Eventually youth and all riders will be able to tap their smartphone to board transit.
The policy was prompted by the Move Ahead Washington transportation package passed in March by the Washington State Legislature. It incentivizes all state transit agencies to adopt a free-fare policy for riders under 18 and under.