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 a six-month promotional program offering the pass, a physical card with a magnetic stripe, through local school districts and the OCTA store, that’s kids and teens 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, according to OCTA, which said that its projections show 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 Mark A. Murphy, OCTA Board chairperson and 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 current Youth Ride Free pass that expires on Monday, Feb. 28 allows passengers aged 6 to 18 to ride any OCTA fixed-route bus in Orange County free of charge. OCTA bus drivers will continue to accept existing passes through March 31.
The new period will begin in March and end in September, and updated parent request forms must be submitted in order to receive the blue pass.
In 2021, OCTA board members voted to expand the youth pass to include those between 13 and 18 years old. Based on the number of youths who utilized the pass during the six-month promotional period, OCTA estimates the annual cost of the program to be about $2.2 million.
The agency will continue to work with local K-12 school districts across Orange County to distribute the passes, give parents the chance to request the pass for their children, and make it available to purchase at the OCTA store and online.
For more information on how to request a Youth Ride Free pass, visit ocbus.com/touthridefree.