San Diego Metropolitan System to launch Youth Opportunity Pass, free transit for 18-years-and-under

The Youth Opportunity Pass will allow riders who are 18 years old or under to ride for free from May 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

John Paul Cavada

The Youth Opportunity Pass will allow riders who are 18 years old or under to ride for free from May 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

by John Paul Cavada, Staff Writer

Over 85% of college students live off-campus, according to San Diego State’s Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity. SDSU prohibits freshmen who live on campus from bringing their cars to campus.

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System will launch a pilot program, the San Diego Association of Governments Youth Opportunity Pass, for free public transportation from May 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023, for all riders 18-years-and-under.

SDSU’s Parking & Transportation Services is aiming to spread awareness about this pilot program to freshmen students given the no-car rule. 

Sponsored by the San Diego Association of Governments as part of its Transit Equity Pilot, this pilot program was developed in collaboration with the MTS, the North County Transit District and the County of San Diego. 

All riders 18 years and under can ride the MTS and NCTD services for free with the SANDAG Youth Opportunity Pass, according to SDSU’s Parking & Transportation Services.

Riders must carry an eligible form of identification such as a school picture ID, driver’s license or birth certificate, whenever riding, according to the MTS website.

The pass covers free transit rides on all fixed-route MTS buses and trolleys, and the NCTD’s Flex, Breeze, Sprinter and Coaster. It does not cover MTS Access or NCTD Lift paratransit services.

Students who want to apply for the SANDAG Youth Opportunity Pass, can register through the MTS webpage within the PRONTO application or pick up a free Youth PRONTO card from the MTS Transit Store or NCTD Customer Service Centers, according to the SANDAG webpage.

SDSU’s Transportation Analyst, Silvia Croft, shared her expertise on how the pilot program could have a long-lasting impact on first-year students.

“It’s one of those opportunities for younger students…to get people to try alternate modes of transportation. Getting them used to something without having to pay for it,” Croft said.

Croft said the pilot program would help resolve some financial hardships students may be facing. 

“Especially people who choose not to have vehicles with gas prices, with how high they are right now. You’re looking at $6 per gallon. You would think that people would be able to move their kids without having to pay an additional fee to get them on transit,” she said.

As of March 11, average gas prices have reached an all-time national high of $4.331, according to data from AAA gas prices.

“Especially college students, I know how difficult it could be…I understand the financial hardships that a lot of students encounter. I really do see this being a positive program and I see our students finding a lot of opportunities through it,” Croft said.

The possibility for this pilot program to last indefinitely would rely on the ridership, the need, and the overall usage, according to Croft.

For more information on the SANDAG Youth Opportunity Pass, students can visit the SANDAG webpage here.