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Free Youth Transit Pass Public Hearing
In March 2022, the Washington State Legislature passed the Move Ahead Washington transportation package. Under the package, transit agencies are awarded new Transit Support Grants, provided they meet certain conditions, including adopting a policy that passengers 18 years of age and younger may ride free of charge on any mode operated by the transit agency.
In July 2022, the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners will consider an action that makes fares free for youth passengers age 18 and under on all Pierce Transit modes. Our goal is to implement this change by September 1, 2022 in conjunction with the start of the school year. The Board of Commissioners materials are available at below.
How does this affect Pierce Transit’s bottom line?
The 2019 American Community Survey estimates about 23 percent of the population of the Pierce Transit service area is under 18 years of age. Youth fares (riders ages 6-18) in 2019 accounted for an estimated 14 to 19 percent of our boardings. We estimate a loss of approximately $700,000 annually in fare revenues as a result of providing free rides to youth. However, those costs will be covered with the state’s new Transit Support Grant funding. In addition, the Support Grant funding for Pierce Transit will cover other needs, including safety initiatives and, when the workforce is available, additional transit service.
We want to hear from you.
The public input period for this proposed youth fare policy change closes July 11. Public input will be provided to the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners in a summary report at their July 11 Board meeting.
There are three ways to provide your thoughts:
- By email: PTCustomer@piercetransit.org
- Give us a call between 6:30AM to 6:30PM M-F: 253-581-8000 (press Option 1 for Customer Service and Option 1 again); TTY Relay 711
- Attend the public hearing: July 11th, 2022 at 4pm
- Comments can be given either in person at Pierce Transit headquarters, 3720 96th Street SW, Lakewood, or virtually through Zoom
- For more information on the Public Hearing please call or email Principal Planner Lindsey Sehmel at email@example.com or 253.581.8079.
How will this work?
This change will be 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.
Pierce 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, and 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