By SDCN Editor
San Diego, CA–San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), North County Transit District (NCTD), and the County of San Diego joined the community on Friday morning to announce the SANDAG Youth Opportunity Pass pilot program.
The new program is the first of its kind in the San Diego region, offering free public transit to anyone 18 and under, with a Youth PRONTO account, from May 1 through June 30, 2023.
“SANDAG’s Youth Opportunity Pass pilot program will break down barriers giving the next generation a chance to experience new possibilities, and become lifelong transit riders,” said SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear. “When this historic program launches on May 1, it will usher in a new era of equity in transportation in the San Diego region by making it easier for youth to get to school, after-school activities, work, and all the places they need to go.”
The program will provide youth with a way to connect to school, jobs, entertainment, and more by offering unlimited rides on the bus, Trolley, Coaster, and Sprinter at no cost to those with a Youth PRONTO app account or Youth PRONTO card.
“As Vice-Chair of SANDAG, I was proud to approve a joint pilot program to provide free transit service for all riders under 18,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. “This program is the result of years of tireless community advocacy, and I’m thrilled we’re providing equitable solutions to youth mobility challenges and investing in the next generation of transit riders.”
The program is part of SANDAG’s Social Equity Early Action Transit Pilot, which will help achieve a key goal of the 2021 Regional Plan to advance equity by creating more transportation options that are safe, reliable, and convenient.
“The Youth Opportunity Passes will break down barriers for anyone 18 and under in the San Diego region,” said San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas. “I’m proud of the great work that SANDAG and our community advocates have done to make no-cost transit for youth happen. Many community members advocated for many years, and to finally have this type of program is a historic win for the community. It will have an immediate positive impact in the lives of youth and families and help them travel freely to work, school, and all that our region has to offer.”
In addition to free transit for youth, SANDAG’s Social Equity Early Action Transit pilot includes increased transit service on weeknight and weekend routes in traditionally underserved areas and outreach and education about transit services.
“This investment in the next generation of riders will move San Diego forward toward a more equitable and sustainable future,” said MTS Board Member and San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera. “The Youth Opportunity Pass is the result of years of hard work and advocacy. I look forward to seeing the opportunities that better transit access provides for our youth to succeed, and to welcome more young riders onboard the MTS system.”
“Free transit will have a profound impact on our youth. Mobility will become their superpower because mobility equals opportunity,” said NCTD Board Chair Jewel Edson.
“For over 10 years, Mid-City CAN’s Improving Transportation in City Heights has advocated for youth opportunity passes,” said Mid-City CAN Youth Council member Jonn Segovia. “We finally have YOP in San Diego, a promising program allowing youth to explore the endless opportunity we have to offer, to learn how to become the next leaders of our communities. I look forward to boarding my first public bus for FREE and taking advantage of this amazing opportunity, 10 years in the making.”
On May 1, riders with existing Youth PRONTO accounts will automatically receive free rides. Youth riders and parents of riders should avoid “reloading” their youth passes with funds or purchasing a new monthly pass within the month of April. All eligible riders will need a Youth PRONTO app account or card to ride MTS and NCTD services for free, as well as travel with proof of eligibility while riding.
The Youth Opportunity Pass pilot program is funded by $6.13 million from SANDAG and $1.5 million from the County of San Diego.