Your Measure U dollars in action: Young people ride free on RT starting today
With historic C.K. McClatchy High School as the backdrop, Mayor Darrell Steinberg joined fellow councilmembers, transit officials and school board members Tuesday in launching free Regional Transit passes for Sacramento kids from pre-K through 12th grade.
The year-long RydeFreeRT program is funded with $1 million from Measure U, the sales tax that Sacramentans voted to make permanent and raise from one-half cent to a full cent last November.
School district officials said they expect the free rides to reduce chronic absenteeism among students, and allow them to get to jobs, internships and enrichment activities more easily. About 100,000 students in the City of Sacramento are eligible.
“This is Measure U in action,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “Without the second half cent, we wouldn’t have a million dollars a year to back up our commitment to youth with real resources. So thank you to voters.”
Mayor Steinberg extended special thanks to fellow Councilmember Jay Schenirer, who joined the Sacramento Regional Transit Board more than eight years ago with the primary goal of making transit rides free for students.
“Jay has put his heart and soul, for decades, into making sure we’re investing in young people,” Mayor Steinberg said.
RT General Manager Henry Li said the program, which covers both buses and trains, is the first system-wide, free-fare initiative for youth in the country. The cities of Citrus Heights, Folsom and Rancho Cordova are also participating, along with Sacramento City Unified School District and eight other districts. The total number of students who are eligible in Sacramento County tops 200,000.
Li said the transit district views free fares as a way to get young people used to riding buses and trains so they become lifelong public transit users rather than relying on cars whose emissions contribute to climate change.
West Campus High School junior Shanthoshi Thamilseran, 15, said she became well acquainted with using public transit after receiving a fare card as a participant in Summer at City Hall.
“My experience with RT has been perfect and amazing,” she said. “I definitely have been able to get everywhere I need to go in a shorter time than just asking my parents to take me. “