Most public transit now free to kids across Washington

Sep 1, 2022, 6:38 AM

(Flickr Creative Commons)...

(Flickr Creative Commons)

(Flickr Creative Commons)

Just in time for back to school, free youth transit fares begin across western Washington on Sept. 1. Anyone under 18 years of age can ride most forms of public transit for free.

The legislature made this a priority in the massive $17-billion transportation package, known as Move Ahead Washington. The deal was simple. Public transit agencies won’t be eligible for grant money unless they eliminate youth fares. Lawmakers gave the agencies until October to make this happen.

With Washington traffic deaths on the rise, Democrats mull expanded ‘complete street’ design

Some started this summer, like Kitsap Transit and Community Transit in Everett, but the biggies join the parade today. Sound Transit, Metro, and Pierce Transit are now fare-free for anyone 18 and under.

“Over 600,000 youth in the Sound Transit district would be eligible for free fares,” board member Kristina Walker said earlier this summer.

Light rail, Sounder, and Sound Transit buses used to charge a $1.50 youth fare. That goes away today, and Walker said that will cost the agency a lot of money, since the agency is not eligible for state grants.

“The proposed action is expected to reduce Sound Transit fare revenue by an estimated $148 million through the life of the financial plan,” Walker told the board. That’s through 2046.

King County Metro, on the other hand, stands to gain a lot of money with this move. Its youth fares usually generate about $10 million. It is now eligible for over $37 million in grant money.

Metro general manager Terry White said kids should just flash drivers whatever form of identification they have. “Riders ages 13 and older are encouraged to show either a youth Orca card or a current high school or middle school I-D,” he told the board. “Youth that do not have one of these can still ride for free.”

It will take about a year before a new youth Orca card will be created that kids can carry to show their proof of age.

King County council member Dave Upthegrove called this a win-win at a July meeting. “This will save families money,” he said. “It will get cars off the street. It will build a new generation of transit riders, and it’s good for our climate.”

Buried in that statement is the key component to this entire plan: by making youth fares free, transit supporters hope to create a new generation reliant on public transit. “There is no better way to ensure support and participation in public transportation than to start with our youth,” King County council member Sarah Perry said earlier this year.

By making it free today, King County council member Rod Dembowski believes those children will grow into adults who will vote for and support public transit going forward. “Policies like this build future transit riders,” he said.

The Washington State Ferry system is still working out the details, but it plans to eliminate youth fares on October 1. It’s likely that youth fares will be eliminated for walk-ons and passengers in cars but not 16-18-year-olds who are driving on.

MyNorthwest News

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 20, 2024. (...

Bill Kaczaraba

Bellevue man donates $1 million to Trump super PAC

A Bellevue man donated $1 million to a Political Action Committee (PAC) that supports Donald Trump just a day after he became a convicted felon.

2 hours ago

Photo: Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson....

James Lynch

Auburn Officer Jeff Nelson’s fate now in hands of jury

It has been five years since Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson shot and killed 26-year-old Jesse Sarey who was going through a crisis.

4 hours ago

Queen Anne, Uptown, parking...

Bill Kaczaraba

Power company investigating early morning outage to Queen Anne, Magnolia

Seattle City Light wants to know why 10,000 customers lost power in the early morning hours on Saturday.

5 hours ago

Image: A Seattle Police Department vehicle can be seen parked in the city of Seattle....

Bill Kaczaraba

Police search for suspects in West Seattle fatal shooting

In the early hours of Saturday morning, Seattle Police detectives launched an investigation into a fatal shooting in West Seattle.

6 hours ago

Photo: Medics respond to a crash in SeaTac on June 21, 2024....

Julia Dallas

1 killed, several others injured in major SeaTac car crash

Five people and two cars were involved in a violent car crash in SeaTac on Friday, the King County Sheriff's Office told KIRO Newsradio.

23 hours ago

Photo: Lacey police are investigating a deadly shooting....

KIRO 7 News Staff

21-year-old arrested in Lacey double murder after police chase

A 21-year-old man led police on a chase following the murder of two people whom he lived with in Lacey.

23 hours ago

Most public transit now free to kids across Washington