by Photo by Sarah Berjan

Public transit will be free in San Diego County for youth 18 years or under beginning May 1. 

The San Diego Association of Governments announced the Youth Opportunity Pass Program, which applies to local buses, the trolley, the Coaster, and the light-rail sprinter line which operates in North County. The program will be available through June 30 of next year. 

Eligible populations will need a youth account on the new Pronto app or a Pronto card to use this offer. Proof of eligibility must be carried at all times if ages 5 or above. 

According to officials, SANDAG partnered with the Metropolitan Transit System, North County Transit District, and the county to make free transportation accessible to youth. 

SANDAG first approved the program in October 2021 to help improve both mass transit ridership and to help serve underserved areas. 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 travel plan. 

Currently, a one-way fare in San Diego on the trolley or bus costs $2.50. Pronto cards cost $2 and are available at some retail outlets as well as in trolley ticket machines and at transit centers.

According to officials, the program will: 

  • Increased transit service on weeknight and weekend routes in traditionally under-served areas of the region, estimated to begin in late 2022
  • Collaboration with Community Based Organizations throughout the San Diego region to distribute Youth Opportunity Passes to youth and to educate residents on the existing and added services in their areas
  • A research study to evaluate the benefits of the pilot program

For more information about the Youth Opportunity Pass pilot program and where to pick up a free youth PRONTO card, visit

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