UPDATE, June 17, 2019: Students in Sacramento will be able to use transit for free in the city starting this fall, following city council's approval of the scheme as part of its $1.2 billion budget, according to KCRA and others.
Students who live in the city limits or attend school in the city will be eligible for the free passes, as will homeless students and those in foster care. Sacramento Regional Transit will distribute stickers to school districts, which will then pass them on to students. They then attach the sticker to their student ID.
- Sacramento City Councilmember Jay Schenirer has proposed providing all students in the city with free transit passes through a partnership with Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT).
- All children from kindergarten through 12th grade who live or go to school in Sacramento would be able to ride buses and light rail for free every day. Youth participating in the program would have a sticker attached to their student ID.
- The city of Sacramento would commit $1 million from the general fund to support the program. Schenirer said SacRT could absorb the additional ridership without adding costs. Schenirer's office tells Smart Cities Dive the city's FY 2019-2020 budget is expected to be adopted next month and if it is approved with the free transit included, the program could begin this fall.
The free transit proposal is intended to be mutually beneficial for SacRT as well as students and their families. The program is expected to drastically increase SacRT's student ridership — 600% in the first year, according to Schenirer's office. Instilling the idea of taking transit while a person is young often turns it into a habit that continues throughout life.
The initiative is also intended to help kids who are chronically absent from school because they don't have access to or can't afford transportation. Free transit would make it easier for kids to ensure they have a reliable ride to and from after-school activities, jobs and internships.
The action in Sacramento reflects a sentiment growing across the nation and the world to make public transportation free, especially for underserved, vulnerable and mobility-challenged populations. Washington, DC offers free public transit trips to students traveling to and from school and school-related activities. Last year Seattle's city council approved free transit passes for all high school students, and earlier this year Boston's mayor proposed providing free bus passes to students in grades 7-12.
In addition to helping families financially, free transit aids cities in meeting sustainability goals. Last year five cities in Germany tested free transit to help meet air pollution reduction targets. And getting more cars off the road is considered one of the reasons Paris made public transportation free for everyone under 11, in addition to the free trips it already offered low- to middle-income individuals over age 65 or with disabilities.