SacRT Continues Fare-Free Transit Program for Students

May 24, 2023 SacRT News

Student/Youth Rides Now Account for 25% of SacRT Ridership

The Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) is entering year four of the RydeFreeRT fare-free rides for youth program. Launched in 2019, RydeFreeRT was the first unrestricted youth fare-free ride program in the country. The program allows all 265,000 youth living in SacRT’s service area, from transitional kindergarten to 12th grade, including home-schooled students, foster and unhoused youth to ride all buses and light rail trains for free, all day, any day of the year.

The RydeFreeRT program has helped boost student ridership, which now accounts for nearly 25% of all SacRT bus and light rail rides over the last year compared to 8% before the launch of the program in 2019. In fact, student ridership is on pace to carry nearly 3.5 million youth in FY 2023, double what it was in 2019 pre-pandemic. This demonstrates that students and youth are one of the most price sensitive groups impacted by transit fare.

“We value our young people and that means helping them get to school, jobs, and activities,” said SacRT Board Chair and Sacramento County Supervisor Patrick Kennedy.

The ridership growth is a testament to the success of the program, which initially aimed to reduce truancy and absenteeism in schools. However, a study by the University of Texas, which evaluated the program, also found that RydeFreeRT not only improved school attendance and reduced congestion from vehicle pick-up lines, it also successfully reduced the transportation barrier to get to jobs, internships and extracurricular activities after school and on weekends.

“We’re introducing a new generation of riders to transit,” said SacRT General Manager/CEO Henry Li. “Research shows that people who ride public transportation at a young age are more likely to use it as adults, building ridership for life.”

As students head into summer break, SacRT is reminding them and their families that youth in kindergarten through 12th grade can continue to ride the entire SacRT transit network, including SacRT buses, light rail, and SmaRT Ride on-demand microtransit service for FREE! To ride free, students need to show a valid RydeFreeRT card.

New RydeFreeRT cards with a valid date of June 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024 are being delivered at various school locations and Sacramento Public libraries this week. The current RydeFreeRT card is still valid through June 30, 2023. Cards are also available at the SacRT Customer Service and Sales Center at 1225 R Street in Sacramento (adjacent to the 13th Street light rail station).

The RydeFreeRT program is possible with funding from all member jurisdictions that comprise of SacRT (the cities of Sacramento, Citrus Heights, Elk Grove, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, and the County of Sacramento).

Learn more about the program at