At her first State of the City address at Rainier Beach High School, Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced ORCA Opportunity, her plan to provide free ORCA passes beginning this year to all Seattle Public School high school students as well as Seattle Promise scholars by partnering with Seattle Public Schools, King County Metro, Seattle Colleges, and the Seattle Department of Transportation. The pass would give students access to unlimited public transportation throughout the year.
“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,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “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. 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,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
“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. 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,” said Dr. Larry Nyland, Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools.
“As a city, we are committed to combating climate change, increasing economic opportunity, and decreasing housing costs. The best way to achieve all three of those goals is to increase access to frequent, reliable and affordable public transportation; expanding affordable transit access for students is something I feel very passionate about. I am thrilled to see this program take root and grow after the highly successful pilot I helped implement last summer and that we continue our work to make a positive impact on Seattle’s students,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle).
For the first time ever, approximately 15,000 Seattle Public School high school students and Seattle Promise scholars would have access to free year-round ORCA passes. 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 would save up to $540 for trips to school and more during the summer.
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 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.