No fares for Skagit Transit passengers 18 and under

MOUNT VERNON — Skagit Transit has joined a growing list of public transportation agencies allowing anyone 18 and younger to ride for free.

The Mount Vernon-based agency, which reaches north to Bellingham and south to Everett, made the change this week. The Legislature’s transportation package, Move Ahead Washington, offered more public transportation money for agencies that adopted policies that struck youth fare.

“We at Skagit Transit see a lot of value in youth riding for free,” executive director Dale O’Brien said in a statement. “We believe that more young people will discover how convenient public transit can be and will ride for years to come with rides being so accessible.”

Community Transit and Everett Transit expect to see a boost of millions of dollars from the move.

Last year Everett Transit collected under $100,000 in youth fare revenue. The agency estimates getting $758,427 in state grants between this October and June 2023, then $2 million each following year.

The Everett City Council, which oversees the city-run transit operations, on June 1 approved the change set to take effect July 1.

Community Transit, which covers the rest of Snohomish County, could get $12.1 million annually from state transit support grants. It got about $529,000 in youth fare in 2019.

Transit agencies can use that money however they want so long as they let youths 18 and under ride free.

On Skagit Transit, eligible riders can tell the driver their age to qualify for the free fare for now.

In August, Skagit Transit will require passengers age 15 and older to use its electronic fare system, a smartphone app called Umo, to board. They can also get a free Umo youth card at the Skagit Station customer service office, Community Action Skagit and schools, or mail proof of age with a request for a card to Skagit Transit.

Passengers 14 and under can use the Umo system or just board. A parent or guardian must accompany children younger than 8.

Umo cards are free and available at transit centers in Bellingham and Mount Vernon.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037;; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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