SacRT’s Fare-Free Transit for Youth Continues for a Second Year

September 24, 2020 RT News

The Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) announced today that the fare-free transit program, called RydeFreeRT, is being extended for a second year. The successful ridership program was set to expire on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. However, thanks to additional funding from program partner City of Sacramento, RydeFreeRT has been extended through Thursday, September 30, 2021.

RydeFreeRT waives student/youth fares on bus, light rail, and SmaRT Ride microtransit service across SacRT’s service area, which includes the cities of Sacramento, Folsom, Citrus Heights, and Rancho Cordova and parts of Sacramento County. Approximately 220,000 students in grades TK through 12, home-schooled students, and foster and homeless youth are all eligible. The program began on October 1, 2019, and SacRT experienced a 127% increase in student ridership pre-COVID-19. Even during the “Shelter-in-Place” order, young people continue to rely on SacRT to meet their essential transportation needs.

Initial findings from an evaluation supported by Sutter Health reveal the positive impact the program has already had on SacRT’s youngest riders. Here is a snapshot at some of the early results:

  • There was a statistically significant increase in the share of students reporting using SacRT to get to and from school as well as a significant decrease in the number of students reporting automobile use.
  • Youth who used SacRT reported they can more easily access important non-school destinations because of the RydeFreeRT program.
  • Many students who do not use SacRT to and from school say they still do use SacRT to get to after-school and non-school activities.
  • New transit users appear to have been drawn from students who used to get a car ride to school.

The full results of the Sutter Health study should be completed in the next month.

“We are excited to continue to offer access to transit all day, every day for all Sacramento area youth that live in or attend school in our service area,” said Henry Li, SacRT General Manager/CEO. “We recognized the essential need for fare-free transit within the first few months the program launched, and we will continue to grow our future transit riders with the youth in the region.”

“RydeFreeRT has clearly had a huge positive impact on our youth and on our City as a whole. The City’s continued investment in this partnership with SacRT will have significant payoffs well into the future with our youngest residents being the primary beneficiaries,” said SacRT Board Director and Sacramento City Councilmember Jay Schenirer. “This program demonstrates another way that the City and SacRT is committed to creating lifelong transit users and supporting youth, particularly those who are in greatest need.”

“Fare free transit removes a financial barrier for young people going to school, working at a job or internship, or participating in an enriching extracurricular opportunity. By making our kids mobile, we are opening doors to their future,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “It is part of our City’s commitment to investing in our communities, particularly those that have historically been underserved.”

“RydeFreeRT has provided significant benefits to the students in our region, and SacRT and the City are continuing to help reduce barriers to not only help kids get to school when they reopen, but to have reliable and accessible transportation to anywhere they need to go,” said SacRT Board Chair and City Councilmember Steve Hansen. “The program is critical to reducing residential isolation, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods.”

How RydeFreeRT Works for Year Two

Due to distribution challenges related to COVID-19, students and youth won’t need a RydeFreeRT sticker or card to ride transit, they simply show a student ID or a RydeFreeRT card. Youth who are experiencing homelessness or taking part in foster programs are also eligible to participate in the program, regardless of current residence or school address.

For students and youth who need a replacement card or who do not have a student ID or RydeFreeRT card, they can visit SacRT’s Customer Service and Sales Center located at 1225 R Street (adjacent to the 13th Street Station) to pick up a RydeFreeRT card. Once schools re-open, stickers and cards will also be available at most school locations.

For more information about SacRT’s fare-free youth program, visit rydefreert.com.