CHOKEPOINTS

‘We don’t know how we’re going to do it’: Transit agencies scrambling to work out free youth fares

Mar 31, 2022, 6:14 AM | Updated: 6:15 am
free fares...
Light Rail train at UW Station (Flickr Creative Commons)
(Flickr Creative Commons)

The governor signed the new $17 billion transportation package last week, and that started the clock ticking for transit agencies across the state. They have until October to figure out how to provide free fares for everyone 18 and under.

Washington governor signs $17 billion transportation package

This was one of the key components of the Move Ahead Washington package, providing free transit for anyone 18 and under.

It sounds like something transit agencies could make happen without much work, but it’s exactly the opposite. Right now, those agencies are actually scrambling to figure out how to make it happen. I reached out to the major transit players last week, and they all told me they aren’t sure how it’s going to work, but they’ll get it done.

“The honest answer is we don’t know how we’re going to do it,” Ian Sterling with Washington State Ferries said.

This came up at the Sound Transit board meeting last week, when board member Claudia Balducci asked for a progress report from outgoing CEO Peter Rogoff.

“Do you need any kind of a head nod from the board here today to empower the staff to be full speed ahead with working on a proposal?” she asked. “We want to make a decision, but we don’t want a decision to be made for us by virtue of the clock running out.”

Concerns from agencies include difficulties verifying the age of riders, and figuring out acceptable forms of identification. A 15-year-old might only have a school ID, but a young-looking 20 year old might try to exploit the system.

We already saw how people exploited the ferry youth fare program during the pandemic once tickets were able to be purchased at kiosks.

Sound Transit mulls aggressive fare enforcement with revenue forecasts in ‘wrong direction’

Sterling said it’s a good thing that all the agencies are talking to each other.

“These are all things that we are really looking into and trying to partner with our other agencies to see how they’re going to do it, and if we can come across with some form of uniform way to do this,” he said. “What it comes down to is if you’re going to check IDs or not, and how is that going to work. Do you pre-register? What’s that mean for people coming in from out of state? How do you apply this equitably?

And on the ferries specifically, if a 17-year-old drives onto the ferry, is the vehicle fare free too? Will parents put their young drivers behind the wheel to save on the fares?

As Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff told the board last week, there is a lot to figure out.

“It is being advertised as ‘free fare for youth,’ but there are actually other policy things embedded within it that are getting less attention — every transit agency also needs to wrestle with about serving under-served communities,” he said.

Next up, the agencies are going to meet in April to begin their discussions. Each transit board across the state will have to approve the changes and systems — whatever they turn out to be — to implement the free fares.

Then, in October, everyone 18 and under rides transit for free.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

Chokepoints

Trash is strewn along an Interstate 5 freeway on-ramp as viewed in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by G...
Chris Sullivan

Sullivan: A glance at current Washington state laws to avoid littering on the road

Littering is still a huge problem on our roads, but are you still required to carry a trash bag in your car?
7 days ago
Expansion joints underneath I-5 (KIRO Newsradio)...
Chris Sullivan

I-5 expansion joint repair will hamper your summer driving

If the weather holds, southbound I-5 will be shut-down this weekend through Seattle for the first of a summer’s worth of weekend closures for expansion joint repairs.
12 days ago
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)...
Chris Sullivan

ORCA card gets a reboot with instant value transfer feature

The new site and app will allow more than five million users to add money to their accounts instantly alongside 6,000 new card readers and vending machines.
15 days ago
fare...
Chris Sullivan

Sullivan: Sound Transit passes fare reform with diminished ridership accountability checks

Sound Transit no longer has mechanisms in place to check I-D's and track who isn't paying in the first place with their decision to remove law enforcement from the fare enforcement process.
18 days ago
Expansion joints I-5, bumps...
Chris Sullivan

Work to remove bumps along I-5 through downtown Seattle set to bring months of weekend closures

Workers are about kick off work to remove those bumps on I-5 through Seattle, but it's going to come with a heavy price for drivers.
26 days ago
WSDOT, HOV lanes...
Chris Sullivan

Northbound HOV optimism and aggressive litter cleanup in Puyallup

Nearly every morning on the KIRO Newsradio text line, I receive this question: When will the northbound HOV lane open?
28 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
‘We don’t know how we’re going to do it’: Transit agencies scrambling to work out free youth fares