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These students will ride the bus for just 50 cents this summer

caption: Ingraham High students Anokhi Shah and Lucia Lari are excited to get disounted fares on King County Metro and Sound Transit
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Ingraham High students Anokhi Shah and Lucia Lari are excited to get disounted fares on King County Metro and Sound Transit
KUOW Photo/Kate Walters

Lucia Lari plans to go to soccer camp this summer. She also wants to be able to visit her friends who live outside Seattle.

But the 11th grader at Ingraham High School doesn’t drive, and her parents don’t always have time to give her a ride.

"Because they are working all the time and they have really strict schedules. And so it's really hard for me to get a ride from them sometimes,” Lari said.

Now, Lari and other young people in King County have a cheap option when trying to get around over the summer months.

As part of a pilot program to promote the use of public transportation among kids and teens, King County Metro and Sound Transit are offering reduced fares to kids from 6-18 years of age during the summer.

A bus trip will cost $0.50 and Sound Transit will offer a $1 youth fare. The reduced fares will be offered to kids and teens who use ORCA youth cards.

Free ORCA Youth cards (usually $5) will also be available to anyone who doesn’t have one. Kids will have to load money onto the cards online, at ORCA vending machines or at participating retailers.

Lari said this program will make it easier for her to get around.

Many school districts provide bus cards during the term. But King County Executive Dow Constantine said when summer comes, that option disappears.

"We just want to help make sure that if you have to work you've got the opportunity to, if you just want to explore this place you should be able to,” Constantine said.

"If you don't have the ability to get around, you don't have the ability to take advantage of opportunities. And that's about working adults, but it's also about young people."

Eighteen-year-old Asher Baden, student body president at Ingraham High, said being able to pay just $0.50 for a bus ride - a third the usual cost for youths - goes a long way for students who work minimum wage jobs.

"It's something that, no matter how small it is, I can throw the savings in my college fund, or save some money to buy lunch instead of bringing PB&Js to work, or go out and do something with my friends. So I think it'll go a long way this summer," Baden said.

He also said it’s a more environmentally friendly choice for students who have cars. And the lower fares will make the bus more attractive.

Discounted fares will be available to young people from mid-June through Labor Day.

Constantine said they'll evaluate the pilot program at the end of the summer. He said youth ridership drops dramatically during summer months and they're interested to see if this changes the pattern.

"I'm particularly interested in comparing it against our baseline to see who it is who's now using transit. Is this income based, does it have to do simply with convenience, are these trips trips of necessity like going to school for example - summer school or going to work - or are they trips to get to the Seattle Center to check stuff out?"

Constantine said this is an opportunity to answer questions about why young people do or don't use transit.

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