The Free Youth Transit Pass is live!
The new program is being implemented in partnership with other regional transit agencies to create a seamless experience for riders.
Sound Transit’s Board of Directors voted unanimously on July 28 to approve free fares for youth aged 18 and younger, effective today, Sept. 1.
The new policy was prompted by the Move Ahead Washington transportation packaged passed by the State Legislature last March, which incentivized all Washington state transit agencies to adopt a free fare policy for riders under 19 years old. Under the agency’s previous policy, youth pay a reduced fare of $1.50.
Youth with an ORCA Youth Card are encouraged to continue using an ORCA card when riding. These cards will automatically transition to become a Free Youth Transit Pass.
ORCA Youth cards issued by schools during the 2021-2022 academic school year will continue to work through June 30, 2023.
Regional ORCA partners are currently analyzing the best methods to distribute additional ORCA cards to youth.
Use of the Free Youth Transit Pass to access transit helps educate the next generation of riders on how to use ORCA and simplifies fare compliance for bus drivers.
It also enables agencies to track ridership by agency and identify trips taken by youth travelling on more than one agency.
An ORCA card or other fare media will be not required for youth to ride free.
In 2023 and beyond, youth will be directed to get a Free Youth Transit Pass that allows them to tap a card—or eventually their smartphone—to access transit across the region for free.
Youth without a Free Youth Transit Pass may be asked to show a student ID or proof of age and will be provided with information about how to get a Free Youth Transit Pass.
However, no youth will be turned away or penalized if they do not have an ORCA card, and no personal information will be collected.
The ORCA transit agencies are working closely together to make it easy for youth to obtain ORCA cards. ORCA agencies are also working to provide school districts with additional ORCA cards for students in the fall.
And the ORCA virtual card is expected to be available for all riders, including youth, sometime in 2023.