Free Student Transit Now Permanent in Orange County

After a successful pilot program, the OCTA will permanently offer free bus rides to youth ages 6 to 18.

2 minute read

February 25, 2022, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


OCTA Bus

George / Flickr

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) will continue to offer free bus rides to youth aged 6 to 18 for the foreseeable future, according to a press release from the agency, making OCTA the first large agency in the region to do so.

"The decision to extend the pass indefinitely follows the success of a six-month promotional program offering the pass through local school districts and the OCTA store, allowing youth to ride the bus to school and other destinations throughout Orange County." Young riders took over 765,000 trips during the test period.

OCTA Chairman Mark A. Murphy, also the Mayor of Orange, said "We on the OCTA Board of Directors see strong value in continuing the free fares with the hope more young people will discover how convenient public transit can be and will keep riding for years to come."

More than 520,000 Orange County residents qualify for the program. "Based on the number of youth who utilized the pass during the six-month promotional period, the annual cost is estimated to be about $2.2 million. OCTA is working with Caltrans and California Air Resources Board to continue to use Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) funds." Parents must request the Youth Ride Free pass, which is a physical card, from the agency.

Transit agencies in other cities have experimented with free transit: a pilot program in Los Angeles targets students and low-income residents, Parisian youth get fare-free transit since September 2020, and a recent experiment with free transit in Utah led to increases in ridership of as much as 34 percent.

Thursday, February 24, 2022 in Orange County Transportation Authority

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