State Watch

Seattle expanding free transit for students to help cut emissions

Seattle will offer free public transportation to thousands of students as part of a series of newly introduced climate-oriented policies, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (D) announced Monday.

Durkan issued an executive order requiring the city to provide ORCA cards, which are used to access public transit in Washington’s Puget Sound region, to an additional 8,000 middle school students, 15,000 high school students and more than 1,000 Seattle Promise college students, the mayor’s office said in a press release.

“Expanding ease of access to public transit is a key element of creating a climate resilient and socially equitable city,” Alex Hudson, Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition, said in the release. “This transit expansion project will help get more young Seattleites where they need to go safely and reliably, while also lowering transportation costs for families and empowering a new generation of transit riders.”

“We are very grateful that the mayor’s executive order includes providing many of our students with ORCA cards, and we’re very appreciative of the partnership with King County Metro,” Tim Robinson, a spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools, said in a statement to The Hill. 

Other provisions of the order include establishing the city’s first urban pedestrian zone, incentivizing electrification to encourage residents to move away from using fossil fuels and launch a $1 million project to convert heavy-duty diesel trucks to run on electric energy.

Since 2018, Seattle’s ORCA Opportunity program has provided fully-funded transit cards to populations that include Seattle Public High School students and income-eligible middle schoolers as well as to some college students and other income-eligible Seattle Housing Authority residents.

“From a new normal of smoky summers and dangerous heat in Seattle, I have never seen the impacts of climate change that we are now facing,” Durkan’s statement said of the need for these environmental initiatives.

Durkan announced the executive order from Glasgow, Scotland, where she is attending the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26.

Tags COP26 Free public transit Jenny Durkan Seattle

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