Youth can ride transit for free in most of Washington

Updated Nov. 3, 2023 at 1:30 p.m.

Nearly all transit agencies submit zero-fare policies for riders 18 and under

OLYMPIA – Transit agencies across Washington reached a major milestone in October, delivering policies that make riding transit free for people 18 and under. With the policies, the transit agencies secured access to funding from the state’s Transit Support Grant .

The Transit Support Grant is part of the Legislature's landmark 16-year, $17 billion Move Ahead Washington transportation funding package and is funded through cap-and-invest revenues under the Climate Commitment Act. The grant provides much-needed financial support to transit agencies statewide. Funding from the grant allows transit agencies to make high-priority investments, like new routes and vehicles to get people where they need to be, and new bus stops and stations to make sure people feel safe and comfortable while they wait for a ride.

"With the Transit Support Grant, Washington has a win-win scenario for access," said WSDOT Public Transportation Division director, Brian Lagerberg. "This funding allows transit agencies to build on their great service for everyone in Washington. Even better, the grant prioritizes free rides for everyone 18 and under."

To receive a Transit Support Grant, transit agencies must adopt zero-fare policies for riders 18 years and under. Of the 31 transit agencies eligible for the grant, 30 submitted policies. Those agencies are now able to receive part of the available $33.6 million in Transit Support Grant funding. Selah Transit, which didn’t submit a policy, plans to do so in order to become eligible to receive funding in 2025. Additionally, Sound Transit is not eligible for the Transit Support Grant but will still implement a zero-fare policy for riders 18 and under.

People 18 years and younger make up more than 20 percent of Washington’s total population. By making transit free for youth, the Transit Support Grant improves access for a large number Washingtonians and helps lower family transportation costs, which on average make up 16 percent of all household expenses. This percentage tends to be higher for families with lower incomes.

The Transit Support Grant is the first of the new public transportation grant programs WSDOT is rolling out under the Move Ahead Washington transportation funding package. The package’s public transportation investments total more than $3 billion over 16 years and include increased funding for new and existing programs, including the new Tribal Transit Mobility Grant and State Bus & Bus Facility Grant .

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