Students could ride free

Sacramento Regional Transit considers letting K-12 students get to school on its dime

Students who live in or attend school in Sacramento County could soon ride light rail and buses free of charge.

The recently proposed free transit for Sacramento youth would allow local K-12 students to ride for free all day, said Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer, a Sacramento Regional Transit board member.

Schenirer developed the initiative. He said city officials have been working with multiple school districts to implement it, including Sacramento City Unified, Elk Grove Unified, Twin Rivers Unified and Natomas Unified.

A Regional Transit issue paper issued on May 7 cites similar programs, including the Affordable Student Transit Pass Pilot recently approved by the Alameda County Transportation Commission. That measure allows students “who fall below pre-defined income levels and attend participating schools” to use free transit passes, according to the paper.

The Sacramento-based initiative “is not just for a specific cohort of young people,” Schenirer said. “What we’re trying to do here is actually create a whole generation of public transit riders, so that as they mature out of [K-12], hopefully they will still be riders and that will be a long-term benefit to Regional Transit.”

In 2018, RT lowered the price of student passes from $55 a month to $20.

Lindee Lane, the city’s youth development policy manager, said a lack of transportation can impact young people, and this initiative could help them attend school and “any enrichment program.”

“I think it would be groundbreaking … in terms of taking an initial step towards reducing one of the No. 1 barriers that young people have,” Lane said.

Schenirer said the city could designate $1 million for the initiative. Students would initially use stickers as passes, but validation for the program could eventually go electronic through RT’s Connect Card system.

SacRT will make a decision on the initiative on June 10, before the City Council takes it up on June 11. If approved, Schenirer said it could take effect in mid-September.