Learn more about Youth Opportunity Passes
Youth Opportunity Passes (YOP) are no-cost transit passes for youth 18 and under.
Youth Opportunity Passes are important because they are an investment in equity, opportunities for youth, and a sustainable future.
Youth Opportunity Passes are also the key to creating the next generation of transit riders. Young transit riders are more likely to become adult transit riders, resulting in less traffic, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and a cleaner, healthier San Diego. Youth Opportunity Passes eliminate the unique mobility challenges youth face—getting to school, jobs, extracurricular activities, and other early-career opportunities.
Programs like Youth Opportunity Passes already exist with great success, in Alameda County and San Francisco. Recently Sacramento and LA passed a no-cost pass for students. Check out these articles: Sacramento and Los Angeles.
In 2013, with major support from the San Diego Unified School District and contributions from the city and county of San Diego, our Improving Transportation in City Heights team won its campaign for a Youth Opportunity Pass pilot program. The pilot program served 850 high school students who put the passes to great use, participating in extracurricular activities, securing internships, and finding employment. The high schools that received the passes were Hoover High School, Crawford High School, Lincoln High School, and San Diego High School. It was clear by the time the pilot program ended, Youth Opportunity Passes are an incredible investment in our future.
Next steps for YOP: decriminalizing transit, investing in youth
San Diego's Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) should invest its budget in supporting transit riders, not criminalizing them. In 2020, MTS decided to include YOP in a proposed ballot measure that would fund no-cost transit for youth along with other critical transit projects. However, with COVID-19, this ballot measure is no longer viable but was a recognition that Youth Opportunity Passes are a priority and deserve funding.
MTS has a large security budget that has now made the agency infamous as it issues far more tickets than other U.S. cities. MTS is launching a pilot program to offer people the option to do three to four hours of community service, instead of receiving a fine. The MTS Fare Enforcement Diversion Pilot Program launching in September is an acknowledgment that the system is broken and that we can’t continue to penalize people who can’t afford transit. (Download MTS Fare Enforcement Diversion Program Information Here.)
We need more. We call for a civil, not criminal, process to provide alternatives for people who can’t afford transit and urge MTS to proactively support transit-dependent communities by investing in Youth Opportunity Passes. This is the first step in decriminalizing transit and poverty but it is not enough and we need to proactively support working families.