SEATTLE — Some high school and college students here will soon be able to use public transportation in the area for free as the result of a partnership between the city and King County.
ORCA Opportunity, Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s plan to provide free ORCA (One Regional Card for All) passes on the local public transportation system, will begin this year for all Seattle public high school students and Seattle Promise scholars. Seattle Public Schools, King County Metro, Seattle Colleges, and the Seattle Department of Transportation will partner to provide the passes, giving students access to unlimited public transportation throughout the year.
Durkan announced the plan at her first “State of the City” address, which was held at Rainier Beach High School on Feb. 20.
“At a time that our city is becoming increasingly unaffordable for families, we need to make transit more safe, accessible, and affordable, especially for our young people,” Durkan said. “Expanding free ORCA to high school students and Seattle Promise scholars will save families money and help students get to school and their jobs safely. With this partnership, students can worry less about how they get places and more about their grades.”
“King County is dedicated to making sure every resident has the opportunity to access all this region has to offer via safe, reliable transit,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “The success of our reduced summer youth fare demonstrates the need to make riding the bus, train, streetcar, and water taxi affordable for young people. ORCA Opportunity makes that a reality for Seattle high school students — our next generation of thinkers, doers, and transit commuters.”
“The opportunity for all high school students to benefit from the use of public transportation ties the partnerships of community-based organizations, the city, and Seattle Public Schools better together,” said Dr. Larry Nyland, superintendent of Seattle Public Schools. “We live in a great city where leadership values cohesive ways to support our students and their families. I thank Mayor Durkan and Executive Constantine for their vision and action.”
Approximately 15,000 Seattle high school students attending public schools and Seattle Promise scholars will have access to free year-round ORCA passes for the first time, according to the mayor’s office. The ORCA passes will be valid on King County Metro, King County Water Taxi, Seattle Streetcar, Sound Transit, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, Kitsap Transit, and Everett Transit. Currently, regular youth transit fares are $1.50 per trip, which means families with at least one student could save up to $540 for trips to school and more during the summer, according to the mayor’s office.
Currently, ORCA passes are provided by Seattle Public Schools to high school students who live farther than 2 miles from school. In addition, the city of Seattle's Youth ORCA Program funds and distributes 3,000 ORCA cards to income-eligible middle school and high school students to reduce the cost burden associated with finding transportation to and from school. ORCA Opportunity will be funded by King County Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation during the first year of the program.