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OCTA moves toward offering free rides for all OC Youth

Orange County youth will soon be able to ride free on OC Bus under a promotional program approved this week by the Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors.

The Youth Ride Free pass, which also got funding approvals from the state this week, will allow passengers ages 18 and under to ride any OCTA fixed-route bus in Orange County for free during the six-month program, scheduled to begin in September.

Originally intended for youth up to 13 years old, OCTA board members directed staff to work to expand the pass to reach high-school-age teens, as well.

“Allowing our youth in Orange County to ride OC Bus for free will encourage a new generation of riders to discover how convenient and affordable the bus system is,” said OCTA Chairman Andrew Do, also the county’s First District Supervisor. “Expanding the free pass to 14 to 18-year-olds means we also reach high school students, helping them access education and jobs as they enter the workforce.”

Approvals were granted this week from Caltrans and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which will fund the pass through California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

The pass program is scheduled to begin in September and run through the end of February 2022. At that point, ridership and costs will be evaluated for potential next steps.

The new Youth Ride Free pass will expand on the recent success of OCTA’s Community College Pass Program, which allows thousands of students enrolled at several community colleges throughout the county unlimited rides on OC Bus anywhere in the county.

Based on the student pass program’s success at Santa Ana College and the School of Continuing Education, OCTA has expanded the program to Santiago Canyon College in Orange, Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Fullerton College, Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, and Cypress College. More than 36,000 students have used the community-college pass at least once, so far.

The planned Youth Ride Free pass is part of a phased campaign to encourage riders to return to OC Bus as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to recede.

The pass, which will be available by request from parents, will be a physical pass with a magnetic stripe. OCTA will work to distribute the pass in partnership with local K-12 schools, as well as at the OCTA store and online.

More details will be announced in advance of the September launch. For more information, visit www.OCBus.com.

This article was released by the Orange County Transportation Authority.