Supporting OCTA’s February decision to make its “youth ride free” passes permanent, the $8.5 million will make it the first large-scale transit agency in the region to offer free bus rides to youth on an ongoing basis, according to an OCTA statement.
“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,” OCTA Chairman Mark Murphy said in the statement.
“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.”
Directors voted to continue the Youth Ride Free program indefinitely following a successful six-month trial. Over 765,000 trips were recorded using the pass from September 2021 to February 2022.
The annual cost for the program is expected to be $2.2 million, which is calculated from the number of children who utilized the pass during the promotional period.
The “Youth Ride Free” program can reduce traffic congestion, take cars off local roads, and improve air quality, according to the statement.
The California Department of Transportation’s Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) provided the funding to help transit agencies like OCTA support operations and projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve mobility, focusing specifically on disadvantaged communities, OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik told The Epoch Times.
Current projections estimate that 1.7 million trips will be taken yearly. More than 520,000 youth within the age group will be eligible to receive a pass and can ride any OCTA fixed-route bus.
Parents will be able to request the physical, magnetic strip-enabled pass for their children, and OCTA will be working with local K–12 school districts to distribute passes.
Those interested in getting a pass can visit www.OCBus.com/YouthRideFree