No fuss bus

Students react to new free public transit for youth in King County

by Zoe Kelton, Staff

The awkward bustle of the Light Rail station was overwhelming the first couple visits. Now, you’re able to maneuver to the edge of the bright yellow safety line and wait without getting lost in the sea of rushed bodies. Once you’re on board, you can go anywhere from Northgate, to Capitol Hill, to Mount Baker, all the way to Angle Lake- and with King County Metro’s new Free Youth Transit program, you can do it for free.

But the ability to ride the bus, Light Rail, and ferry isn’t just fun. For many students, free public transportation is necessary to get to school and work. Geovanka Archer Rivera, a senior, has been riding the bus to get to doctor’s and dentist appointments since she was a kid. “But the moment I turned 13, I started going on my own,” she said, “to get to my own appointments, or if I needed to hang out with a friend, or do a school project.” Sophomore Maggie Mauney said, “[I ride the bus] once a week, to get home from school… It’s nice that it’s free now.”

So how is this new free youth fare possible? The short version is King County Metro is eligible for a $31.7 million grant, considerably better than the $10 million they made annually in fares from people under 19 years old. A new Youth ORCA Card (One Regional Card for All) can be obtained on the King County Metro official website, though showing the bus driver or ticket checkers your student ID works just as well. In fact, for many students, that’s the only option available.

“I still don’t have the card,” said Archer Rivera. “I tried to apply three weeks ago… It was difficult.” Some students struggle with uploading the correct file size for photo ID proof, finding the registration site, and hearing back from King County Metro representatives in a timely manner. “I wished before announcing this, they had perfected their system to make sure there weren’t technical difficulties.” Archer Rivera said. Mauney added, “I didn’t know about [the youth card]… they could have done more advertising.” 

Still, even without an  official Youth ORCA card, access to free transit is invaluable for the students that use it to its full extent. “Sometimes it’s nice to know that, in case I don’t have a ride back home after work,” said Archer Rivera, “I’m going to get home safe, through the bus.”