Ben Franklin Transit lets young people ride for free all summer long

KENNEWICK, Wash. – Between public demand, summer travel and a fiscal boost from state legislation, Ben Franklin Transit (BFT) has decided to launch the “Youth Ride Free” program which will allow all users aged 18 and under to ride the bus for free from June.

According to a press release from the Tri-Cities Public Transport Authority, the program has been approved by BFT’s board of directors on a trial program of six months to begin. It will launch June 1, 2022 and run until November 30, 2022. This will keep area children busy during the summer while extending service through the back-to-school season.

Not only will this keep young people in the Tri-Cities active and socially engaged this summer, but it will also give some students a pathway to finding summer jobs.

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“Our board recognizes the importance of this Youth Ride Free program in making transportation accessible to all youth and removing barriers to education and extracurricular activities; even employment,” said Will McKay, Chairman of BFT’s Board of Directors.

Prior to the ruling, Ben Franklin Transit spent months studying its fares in hopes of establishing more equitable and consistent public transportation services for the community. This was just one of many “zero tariff” programs analyzed by officials.

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The concept was given the green light following the “Move Ahead Washington” transportation package greenlit by Washington lawmakers in March. Of the $17 billion designated over the next 16 years, approx. $3 billion has been designated for public transit. To receive the full measure of their funding, Ben Franklin Transit had to make the easy choice to offer free fares to children.

Riders will still need to obtain a free youth pass by contacting BFT Customer Service in person, online or at 509-735-5100. Tri-Cities transit officials will also work with school districts, youth programs and community centers to make these passes more accessible to the children they serve.

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