Free transit for Seattle-area youth rolls out

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Time for Seattle-area youth to bus-t a move. Starting tomorrow, Sept. 1, anyone under the age of 19 will be able to ride area transit for free year-roundno catches.

The Free Youth Transit Pass program expands to 10 agencies across the region:

  • King County Metro buses
  • Water taxis
  • Sound Transit buses + Link Light Rail
  • Access paratransit + on-demand services
  • Seattle Streetcar
  • Pierce Transit
  • Community Transit in Snohomish County
  • Everett Transit
  • Kitsap Transit, and
  • Snoqualmie Valley Transit

Whoa, right? It’s a pretty sweet deal. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts — or axles and tires, if you will.

Why is this important?

This program is a part of the state’s new-ish, $17 ba-ba-billion transportation package called Move Ahead Washington intended to help reduce carbon emissions + strengthen existing infrastructure.

The hope is that by offering the no-cost service, they’ll expand access + build for-life transit riders by getting kids comfortable with navigating the system.

Plus, this program may come in the nick of time as Seattle Public Schools said it may have to cut bus routes.

About that cash flow

Of the total $17 billion that Washington State is distributing statewide, $3 billion is set aside for transit agencies. Of that $3 billion, $1.45 billion is going to the push for the youth’s free transit.

King County is estimated to get about $31.7 million — which is far over what the agency usually collects from fares for this age group ($10 million). It’s like getting gas money from a friend and then some.

But implementing the new system that accounts for free rides + still tracks ridership is a heavy lift. So, to help encourage the effort, portions of the $1.45 billion are only distributed if an agency adopts the new policy by Oct. 1, 2022 — which each one in the state has agreed to do.

How to get onboard

There are a few ways the young-ins can cash in on this.

  • Use their current, classic blue youth + student ORCA cards
  • Show their student ID
  • Grab one of the new, snazzy black ORCA cards that will soon be distributed through schools — hold onto your current card until then, kids
  • Or just jump on and ride — there’s some forgiveness during the transitionary period
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