News / Published on Feb 27, 2024

Youth ORCA cards: Empowering young people to ride transit

Using a Youth ORCA card helps keep transit free for people 18 and younger
A young person standing in front a Community Transit bus and holding up a Youth ORCA card.

Hey you! Are you 18 years old or younger? Did you know you can ride local transit for free? By providing free youth transit, Community Transit and other local agencies help young people like you save money, avoid driving hassles, gain independence, and reduce your carbon footprint. Using a Youth ORCA card is an easy way to ensure you have a smooth experience with free transit. 

Youth ORCA cards are a vote for free transit

For many students, access to reliable and affordable transportation can break down barriers. Perhaps you want to start volunteering somewhere, or maybe you're interested in joining a sport, but you don’t have a way to get home from practice. Maybe you want to shop at the thrift store or get boba tea with your friends on the weekend, but you aren’t old enough to drive yet. For all these reasons, taking local transit is a great way to provide yourself with more opportunities!

Free youth transit is a result of the Move Ahead Washington transportation funding package, an initiative passed by the Washington State Legislature in spring 2022 and approved by the Community Transit Board of Directors in August 2022. The grants funded from Move Ahead Washington are a part of the state's climate action efforts.

Even though using a Youth ORCA card is not required for people 18-and-under to ride transit, we strongly encourage you to get a card. Using a Youth ORCA card is more than just a pass; it's a way for you to express your support for free public transit. By tapping a Youth ORCA card on a card reader, you are using your card to “cast a vote” for the continuation of free transit for young people. 

Not only is using your Youth ORCA card a way to support free transit, but it also helps Community Transit to make data-driven improvements to routes, by seeing which routes young people are frequently riding!

How to get a Youth ORCA card

You can order a Youth ORCA card on the MyORCA website. You will need to upload a copy of your K-12 student ID, state ID, driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport to confirm your age. There is no need to add money or a pass. A new Youth ORCA card will be mailed to you, but in the meantime, you can continue riding for free!

If you are looking to get a Youth ORCA card quickly, they’re also available at transit agency customer service locations, like the Community Transit RideStore. Bring one of the documents listed in the previous paragraph and you'll receive a card ready for immediate use.

Using a Youth ORCA card to board a bus

Using a Youth ORCA card to get on a bus is like using a regular ORCA card. On Community Transit buses, just tap your card at the ORCA card reader at the front of the bus as you get on. For the Swift buses, scan your card at the reader located at the end of each Swift station before you come on board.

Remember, even if you forget your Youth ORCA card at home, people ages 18-and-under are still welcome to board and ride for free. Just tell your driver your age upon boarding, to help us get accurate records of how many young people are riding the bus! 

Free programming for schools

Starting in spring 2024, Community Transit will begin offering free programming for local schools and community partners. These programs will teach students essential transit basics, like route planning using online tools and how to safely wait for and board a bus. Learning these skills isn't just about catching a bus; it's about building confidence and providing young people with equal access to our communities.

If you’re interested in learning more about Youth ORCA cards or would like to have a presentation at your school or community organization,  learn more here.