Jun 6, 2022 - News

Free transit passes coming for kids

A Sound transit train goes by in one direction while another comes in the other direction at a light rail platform.

Trains go by at the Mount Baker light rail station. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

Get ready — people 18 and under will soon be able to ride buses, trains and ferries for free.

Why it matters: Besides helping families get around, local and state leaders hope that letting kids and teens ride for free will turn them into lifelong transit users.

  • That, in turn, should help reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions in the future, they say.

What's happening: Local agencies are now starting to implement the youth-ride-free policy, which the state passed earlier this year.

What they're saying: King County Executive Dow Constantine told Axios on Thursday that King County Metro, one of the state's largest transit agencies, wants to get free transit passes into the hands of all the county's young people by Sept. 1.

  • That will involve partnering with schools and working on a way for young people to ride for free using a phone app, he said.
  • "Most youth are going to want to have access to this as an app on their phone — not necessarily some separate physical card," Constantine said.
  • Young people who already have an ORCA card, however, will be able to use it without putting money on it.

What's next: The King County Council needs to formally approve Constantine's plan, which is expected to happen in the next month or so.

  • The county will then launch a public education campaign to let people know about the new policy and how they can get their free youth passes.

Of note: To qualify for millions in new state grant money, transit agencies around the state have to approve kids-ride-free policies by Oct. 1.


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