by Photo by Sarah Berjan

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution that would expand a free public transit ridership program for residents ages 18 to 24 in an effort to eliminate financial barriers to getting to school, early career opportunities, and extracurricular activities. 

County Supervisors Nora Vargas and Nathan Fletcher sponsored the resolution that would direct the County Chief Administrative Officer, Health and Human Services Agency, and the Land Use and Environmental group to work with agencies such as the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System to find additional money for ridership expansion.

Last year, supervisors approved $1.5 million for the pilot ridership program, while the San Diego Association of Governments provide $6.13 million. The idea was proposed more than 10 years ago by the advocacy group Mid-City CAN and community members, according to the county.

In a statement, Vargas said the youth passes are more than just a free ride.

“They bring security and stability to the lives of students and youth and remove barriers so they can have access to education, work, and recreational activities that they would not have otherwise,'' said Vargas, board chair.

The San Diego Association of Governments, in collaboration with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, and North County Transit District, launched a countywide Youth Opportunity pass Pilot Program on May 1, 2022,  for youth 18 and under. The program is set to end in July 2023, but county officials say a permanent program for youth ages 24 and under is needed. 

According to SANDAG, overall ridership among youth has increased by more than 90 percent compared to the baseline in April 2022, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) reported. 

With the expansion to include youth aged 18 to 24, the program will allow college students and youth entering the workforce to have increased access to jobs, internships, healthcare, and other community services. 

According to county officials, expanding access to mobility options reduces health disparities by increasing transportation to healthier food, medicare, and vital services. 

“Not only has no-cost transportation become an investment that tackles social equity and health equity concerns, but it has also become an environmental justice investment,” reads the board letter. 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *