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Public feedback period available for proposed free youth fares

Sound Transit has launched a public engagement period for a proposed policy change to implement free fares for passengers 18 years of age and younger. The Sound Transit Board is expected to consider an action in July to make fares free for youth, with the agency’s goal of implanting the change by September 1, 2022, before the start of the school year. 

The public input period for this proposed policy change runs through June 26. Public input will be provided to the board in a summary report. There are three ways to provide input: 

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 willbe 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 does not anticipate a significant change in overall ridership, but 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 

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