The Orange County Transportation Authority has made the Youth Ride Free Pass permanent, becoming the first large transit agency in the region to offer free bus rides to all youth ages 6 to 18 on an ongoing basis.
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.
During the promotional period, more than 765,000 trips were recorded using the pass. Projections show that an estimated 1.7 million trips will be taken annually using the pass.
“We’re happy to see so many young people in Orange County respond to the Youth Ride Free program to get to school, to work, to the library and to so many other destinations that improve their quality of life,” said OCTA Chairman Mark A. Murphy, also the Mayor of Orange. “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.”
The Youth Ride Free pass allows passengers ages 6 to 18 years to ride any OCTA fixed-route bus in Orange County for free. According to recent U.S. Census data, that makes more than 520,000 youth in that age group eligible to ride free.
The free rides for youth also reduces traffic congestion, taking cars off local roads and improving air quality in the process.
OCTA continues to work with school districts across Orange County to distribute the passes, giving parents the chance to request the pass for their children. Originally intended for youth up to 13 years old, OCTA board members last year voted to expand the pass to reach high-school-age teens, as well.
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. LCTOP funding is made possible by the California Climate Investments program, 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 Youth Ride Free pass, available by request from parents, is a physical pass with a magnetic stripe. OCTA will continue working to distribute the passes in partnership with local K-12 school districts, as well as at the OCTA store and online.
For more information on how to request a Youth Ride Free pass, visit www.OCBus.com/YouthRideFree.
The Orange County Transportation Authority is the county transportation planning commission, responsible for funding and implementing transit and capital projects for a balanced and sustainable transportation system that reflects the diverse travel needs of the county’s 34 cities and 3.2 million residents. With the mission of keeping Orange County moving, this includes freeways and express lanes, bus and rail transit, rideshare, commuter rail, environmental programs and active transportation.