The San Diego Association of Governments’ board of directors Friday approved a pilot program intended to address concerns about equity in transit by providing free transit passes for people 18 and under and by increasing transit service on weeknights and weekends — particularly to underserved areas.
“The approval of this free transit for youth pilot is a huge win for our region,” said SANDAG Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear. “Making transit more accessible and frequent and planning for broadband expansion are shining examples of how the SANDAG Board can make changes, today and in the future, to advance equity through the 2021 Regional Plan.”
Vivian Moreno, a San Diego City Councilwoman and chair of SANDAG’s Social Equity Working Group, said the pilot program was a long time coming.
“Providing free transit passes for youth is the single greatest investment our region can make to ensure that transit ridership grows in the future,” Moreno said. “Free youth transit passes also have an immediate benefit of connecting youth to school, work, internships and other education and career opportunities.
“The community has been fighting for these youth opportunity passes for years, and their persistence has paid off,” she said.
The working group voted unanimously at its Sept. 23 meeting to recommend that SANDAG’s Transportation Committee and board approve a budget amendment to consider the free youth passes and increased transit service in underserved areas.
On Oct. 1, the Transportation Committee, also voted unanimously to recommend the board approve the amendment.
The free youth fares are slated to begin in the spring of 2022, pending approval from the Metropolitan Transit System and North County Transit District. An outreach campaign about the developments would begin before the youth passes and the transit improvements are intended to start in the fall of 2022.
The pilot would end in the late summer 2023, followed by a research report on the efficacy of the program.
Updated at 4:39 p.m. October 22, 2021
–City News Service