Ben Franklin Transit allows Tri-Cities youth to ride the bus for free through this summer

Ben Franklin Transit (BFT)

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Between public demand, summer travel, and a budgetary boost thanks to state legislation, Ben Franklin Transit (BFT) has decided to launch the “Youth Ride Free” program that will welcome all riders age 18 and younger to ride the bus without charge beginning this June.

According to a press release from the Tri-Cities’ public transportation authority, the program was approved by the BFT board on a six-month trial program to start. It will launch on June 1, 2022, and run through November 30, 2022. This will allow local children the opportunity to keep busy during the summer while extending service through the ‘back-to-school’ season.

Not only will it empower Tri-Cities youth to stay active and engaged socially this summer, but it’ll also give some students a path to find 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 in eliminating barriers to education, after-school activities; even employment,” explained Will McKay, Chairman of BFT’s Board.

Prior to the decision, 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 several ‘zero-fare’ programs analyzed by public officials.

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The concept was green-lit following the “Move Ahead Washington” transportation package green-lit by Washington legislators in March. Of the $17 billion designated across the next 16 years, approx. $3 billion was designated for public transportation. To receive the full extent of their funding, the Ben Franklin Transit had to make the easy choice of providing free fares for children.

Riders will still be expected to get a Free Youth pass by contacting BFT Customer Service in-person, online, or at 509-735-5100. The Tri-Cities’ public transportation leaders will also be working with school districts, youth programs, and community hubs to make these passes more accessible for the children they serve.

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