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High School Students Begin to Receive Free ORCA Cards Under Mayor Jenny Durkan’s “ORCA Opportunity” Program

Seattle Now Largest American City That Offers Free Transit Passes to Public High School Students 

Garfield High School students became the first students to receive free ORCA passes under Mayor Jenny Durkan’s “ORCA Opportunity” program to provide free, safe, and reliable transportation for all of Seattle’s public high school students. With this major milestone, Seattle is now the largest city in the country to provide high school students with unlimited, year-round free transit passes.

“The promise of free ORCA and more affordable transit is becoming a reality for Seattle’s young people,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan, who proposed the program in her February 28 State of the City address and signed into law in July. “It’s our responsibility to keep removing obstacles standing in the way of Seattle’s kids, and to make transit safer, more reliable, and more accessible for all. For years, Seattle’s young people – and especially the students of Rainier Beach High School – have called for access to affordable transit. It was their advocacy that gave power to this idea that we are now translating into law. As demand for transit in Seattle grows and megaprojects in and around downtown could mean megagridlock, we need to develop more innovative, flexible strategies to give more options for all Seattle residents to take transit.”

Studies have shown that a lack of convenient and affordable transportation for students is a significant barrier to school attendance and associated with chronic absenteeism. Free transportation through unlimited student ORCA cards will set Seattle’s students up for greater academic success this school year and years to come. The expanded ORCA Opportunity program will save parents time and money by providing a no cost alternative to driving their kids to school.

Students at Rainier Beach High School launched a youth led campaign in 2016 to receive free ORCA cards after identifying transportation as an issue preventing students from reaching their full potential. After listening to student voices, the city launched the ORCA Youth pilot to serve income eligible students.

In July, Mayor Durkan expanded ORCA Opportunity to serve all high school students at Seattle Public Schools, income-qualified middle school students at Seattle Public Schools, and Seattle Promise Scholars will be eligible for a free, unlimited 12-month ORCA card. The ORCA cards will be valid from September 2018 – August 2019. On their first day of school in September, Seattle Promise scholars will also receive free ORCA cards to facilitate easy and consistent commutes to campus. The student ORCA passes will also work on the King County Water Taxi, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, Kitsap Transit, and Everett Transit. For more information about the ORCA Opportunity Program, please see the ORCA Opportunity FAQ.