Young people will be able to ride boats, buses, rails and more across the state of Washington for free when the Free Youth Transit pass debuts on Sept. 1.
Young riders will be able to use student ORCA cards, student IDs or just themselves to get many places. By 2023, youth will be able to use their smartphones or a special sticker affixed to their student IDs, according to the county.
The Free Youth Transit Pass will likely mean a huge expansion in the number of young riders. According to the county, only 25,000 of 329,000 K-12 students in King County had subsidized ORCA cards during the school year. The effort is funded through an infusion of state dollars totaling more than triple the fares usually collected from kids under 19: $31.7 million in grant funding compared to $10 million in fares.
The new program is a “generational pivot” to a more equitable and sustainable future, said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a press release.
“Together, we’re reducing our carbon emissions and pollution in communities, delivering people where they need to go on a system that is increasingly zero-emission, and putting a massive down payment on a car-free future by making every kid in King County a transit rider,” Constantine said.
Low-income passengers will also see a benefit beginning on Sept. 1. Riders with ORCA Lift cards will see their fares reduced to $1.
Student borrowers got a measure of relief on Aug. 24 when President Joe Biden announced that the federal government would forgive between $10,000 and $20,000 in college loans and cap monthly payments at 5 percent of borrowers’ discretionary income going forward.
The order, which fulfills a promise from the 2020 campaign trail, has three parts. The first forgives $20,000 in debt to people who took out Pell grants and $10,000 for other borrowers as long as they make less than $125,000 per year or $250,000 for married couples.
The second point caps monthly payments at 5 percent instead of 10 percent of their discretionary income for people with undergraduate loans, reducing the bite out of people’s budgets.
Finally, the government promised fixes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program by proposing a rule that people who work in certain public service professions or nonprofits receive “appropriate credit toward loan forgiveness.”
The loan forgiveness plan would impact as many as 43 million borrowers, wiping the books clean for just under half, according to the White House.
Next steps include the creation of an application process. The Department of Education may be able to automatically cancel debt for 8 million borrowers for whom it has relevant personal information.
Read more of the Aug. 31-Sept. 6, 2022 issue.