C-Tran expands free bus pass to local students

Agency will coordinate with schools to distribute passes

Teens in Camas and Washougal will soon have a new transportation option.

The question seems to be, will they use it?

The C-Tran Board of Directors unanimously approved an expansion and extension of the Youth Opportunity Pass pilot program last week. This year, C-Tran will offer 3,000 bus passes, which are valid for 12 months, to at-need students in most school districts within Clark County. The passes are available to middle and high school students.

Last year, the program ran in the Vancouver and Evergreen school districts. Now, it is expanding to include the Camas, Washougal and Battle Ground school districts.

Steve Marshall, principal at Camas High School, is not sure if students will be able to make use of the available passes for transportation to school.

“C-Tran passes are an option that we are exploring, but an option that might be just a little bit before its time since we do not believe there are stops nearby and ridership is still a question mark,” he said.

A check of the C-Tran website shows that the nearest bus stop to CHS is on Northeast Third Avenue and Franklin Street, nearly 2.3 miles away. The closest stop to Washougal High School is at Addy Loop and Addy Way, nearly 1.2 miles away.

However, Chris Selk, C-Tran communications and public affairs manager, pointed out that the pass could also be used to go to appointments or for an after-school job.

“There are a number of benefits to the Youth Opportunity Pass,” she said. “First, for those students who attend school outside the district they live in, it can actually get them to class. Secondly, many students use the pass to get to after-school and weekend jobs.”

Ridgefield and La Center schools were not included in the program because C-Tran has limited service in those areas.

Selk noted that C-Tran staff will create agreements with interested districts when school offices reopen this month.

“We are currently reaching out to the districts to confirm interest and put agreements in place,” she said.

Passes take the form of stickers that C-Tran will distribute to the schools, and the students will affix them to their student ID cards. They will receive their passes upon the district’s receipt and approval of their paperwork, which is determined in part by whether a student qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch.

The pass will allow travel throughout C-Tran’s C Zone. If a student had to purchase the pass, it would cost $30 per month.

“One of C-Tran’s guiding principles is that those who rely on transit have access to it, and Clark County youth are high on that list,” Selk said.