The county-wide Youth Opportunity Pass Program (YOPP) will receive $1.5 million in federal funding with the unanimous approval of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors to provide no-cost transit passes for county residents ages 18 years and younger.
Funding for this program comes from the American Rescue Plan Act. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) will oversee funding for YOPP on behalf of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS).
The program begins May 20 and will run through June 30, 2023. Eligible youth will have to sign up for a Youth PRONTO app account or a Youth PRONTO card. Information on PRONTO can be found at https://bit.ly/3rv3ONd
“The COVID-19 pandemic brought forward a magnitude of economic and social impacts for many families, especially underserved communities of color. Lower-income families who disproportionately rely on public transportation have been significantly impacted by the lack of reliable transportation. As communities move toward economic recovery, there is a deep awareness that affordable and accessible transportation stimulates environments, connects people to employment, education, and extracurricular opportunities, and is critical to the economy’s recovery,” according to a board document.
Under the YOPP, free rides will be available to youth on MTS and the North County Transit District (NCTD). SANDAG first approved the program in October 2021 to help improve both mass transit ridership and to help serve underserved areas.
“When a young person turns 18 they do not magically stop needing transportation. They don't magically have the resources they need to get to and from opportunity. This is a starting point, but a very exciting one,” MTS and SANDAG Board Member and San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said in announcing the program. “This is about the opportunity for education, jobs, and so much more that we don't even know.”
Supervisor Nora Vargas, who proposed the ridership program, said such an opportunity brings security and stability to the lives of students.
Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said that free transportation allows young people to better explore the county.
In a statement, board Chairman Nathan Fletcher said helping “young people get to school, their part-time jobs and extracurricular activities at no- cost provides some financial relief to families, and will also inspire a new generation of transit riders”. Fletcher also said the county should seek permanent funding to continue the program.
Other public transportation plans are in the works, including the possibility to make public transportation free for all riders by 2031 under SANDAG's 30-year, $163 billion Regional plan, a comprehensive framework to better connect the region efficiently, and more equitably.