As a student, you will agree that public transportation is important for your educational and personal needs. Fortunately, several regions and transit authorities have introduced free bus pass for students. Apart from easing your financial burden of travel, the programs promote the use of public transportation.
Free Bus Pass for Students
1. Golden Empire Transit District
Serving the Bakersfield Metro area, Golden Empire Transit District offers free bus opportunities for students from Kindergarten through College, including those in vocational and private schools. They have received a grant that allows them to provide free bus rides to these students. This service is not just limited to school-related travel; students can use it for various purposes, whether it’s going to work, the mall, a friend’s house, or anywhere else the bus routes cover.
You can get your free pass from your school’s administrative office for the 2024/25 school year. Those in 7th grade and above need to present their student ID along with their pass when boarding the bus. The pass works just like a regular bus pass and is valid until May 31, 2024.
Any student attending a school in the Bakersfield area that participates in this program is eligible. If a pass is lost or damaged, you can request a replacement at the school’s admin office. For students without a student ID, they can get one at the Golden Empire Transit offices by showing proof of enrollment.
The pass is available at various locations, including Bakersfield College, CSUB, High Desert Medical College, North West College, SJVC, UEI College, Bakersfield Adult School, Kern Union High School District, and several other schools.
2. Fairfax County Virginia
Fairfax County’s Free Student Bus Pass + Metrobus program has expanded to include 5 schools:
- Justice High School
- Annandale High School
- Falls Church High School
- George C. Marshall High School, and
- Davis Center
This program allows you to ride the Metrobus for free in Northern Virginia, along with Fairfax Connector and City of Fairfax CUE buses.
Interested students need to complete an application with a parent or guardian’s permission. Once approved, you receive a specially designed SmarTrip card. This card is only valid on Fairfax Connector, City of Fairfax CUE, and specific Northern Virginia Metrobus routes.
The card cannot be used on Metrorail or any Metrobus route outside of Virginia, including DC or Maryland. The card does not carry any cash value and cannot be loaded with money like a regular SmarTrip card. It is operational between 5:00 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Free Student Bus passes are available to all Fairfax County and City of Fairfax County/FCPS middle and high school students (grades 7-12). Students residing in Fairfax County or the City of Fairfax, regardless of whether they attend public, private, or home school, are eligible for the pass.
For students at participating K-12 schools and community colleges, you can take advantage of the Gopass free bus pass for students. With a registered GoPass TAP card, you receive unlimited free rides on Metro buses and trains, as well as other participating transit systems.
To benefit from this program, you need to pick up a GoPass TAP card from your participating school and activate it either online or by calling 866.TAPTOGO.
Note that this bus pass won’t work until it’s activated. After activation, tap your card on a rail gate, rail validator, bus farebox, bus mobile validator, or at any TAP Vending Machine within 21 days to complete the activation process. The GoPass is valid through June 30, 2024, during the pilot period.
The GoPass allows free rides on various transit agencies including:
- Metro bus and rail
- City of Commerce Transit
- Culver CityBus
- Foothill Transit, and many others.
However, it’s valid only on local services and not on Commuter Express services.
There’s a GoPass Sweepstakes where students can win prizes. You need to activate your GoPass to enter, opt-in for future communication from Metro, and share an email address. Winners are contacted via email regarding prize delivery.
4. Spokane Transit Authority
Are you a college and university student at SFCC and SCC? You can use your student ID cards as a bus pass on all STA routes. However, some students might need to purchase a separate pass, depending on the agreement with STA. Faculty and staff can get a quarterly pass for $30 from the Cashier’s Office.
Both faculty and students at Eastern Washington University (EWU) can use their EagleCard on all STA bus routes. Paratransit users with an EagleCard also ride free. This program, funded by EWU Parking Services and the Associated Students of EWU reduces parking needs, lowers living costs for students, and meets state goals for reducing commuter traffic. Students, faculty, and staff at Gonzaga and WWAMI can use their ZAGCARD as a bus pass on all STA routes. For any queries about the pass, Jim Simon at Gonzaga University can be reached.
At the WSU Spokane campus, the CougarCard allows students, faculty, and staff to travel on all STA routes. This program is financed through WSU-Spokane Parking Services and the Associated Students of WSU Spokane. Students enrolled in various educational or training programs, including vocational training and apprenticeships, are eligible for a 20% discount on fares.
5. Alameda County Transportation Commission
At participating schools in Alameda County, the Alameda CTC’s Student Transit Pass Program provides free transit passes to middle and high school students. The passes are available on a Clipper card for unlimited rides on AC Transit local and supplemental services. The program is funded by Measure BB, a transportation sales tax measure.
Omnitrans in San Bernardino County also offers free bus pass for students known as the “Free Fares for School” pilot program. It started on August 1, 2021. This program allows K-12 students to ride Omnitrans buses for free.
Students simply need to show their student ID to board the bus. This initiative supports students returning to in-person learning by providing free rides to school, after-school activities, and other destinations around town. Omnitrans emphasizes safety and has implemented extended cleaning measures following CDC guidelines.
7. New Jersey Transit
If you stay in New Jersey, you can enjoy an offer for free bus pass for students. NJ’s offer is called New Jersey Transit’s “Student Pass”. It will help full-time and part-time degree students save on travel costs.
Eligible students, including part-time students taking at least two courses, can get a 25% discount on NJ TRANSIT Monthly Passes. This offer extends to unlimited travel during the month.
The Student Pass is not limited to one mode of transport; you can use it on NJ TRANSIT buses, rail, and light rail. For those holding rail passes valued at $59 or more, there’s the added benefit of using them on any NJ TRANSIT light rail line or buses, up to the number of zones indicated on the pass.
8. County Connection–-Pass2Class
The Pass2Class program is available for the 2024/25 school year. You should take advantage of this free bus pass for students for your school commute. You can get free passes for up to two students per household. The bus passes are valid for 2 months, on various bus services such as County Connection, Tri Delta Transit, WestCAT, or AC Transit.
Regarding eligibility, a parent or guardian must complete the application and agree to let their student use the bus for school travel instead of a family vehicle. Students must be 19 years or younger and enrolled in a public or private school (grades 1-12) in Contra Costa County. Also, the parent or guardian must agree to complete a follow-up survey and receive a monthly e-newsletter from 511 Contra Costa. This program is funded by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
9. Orange Coast College
Whether you are a full-time, part-time, or non-credit enrolled student at Orange Coast College, you can ride the OC Bus for free on all 53 local fixed routes. To access this benefit, students need to download the OC Bus App and create an account using their registered Orange Coast College email address.
The pass will then appear in the “My Ticket” section of the app. For those without a smartphone, assistance is available through OCC Cares to obtain a physical bus pass.
10. Access Transit Summer Pass
The Access Transit Summer Pass program is available for high school students. You need this program for free bus pass for students if you depend on public transportation during the summer.
Students can obtain these passes from their high school’s main office starting in mid-May. Additionally, transit-dependent students at Portland Community College, Mt. Hood Community College, and Clackamas Community College are also eligible for free adult summer passes available at their respective colleges starting in June.
11. Student Bus Pass Program (SBPP)
As outlined by the West Contra Costa Unified School District, the Student Bus Pass Program is a beneficial free bus pass for students. This program is for middle and high school students (grades 6th-12th) who are part of the Free and Reduced Lunch Program. Eligible students from specific schools can apply to receive a free monthly AC Transit Youth Pass or a WestCAT ticket, valid for 31 days.
The program has a capacity for 2,200 bus passes per month, distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis. To participate, students must complete the Educational Benefits form, submit an SBPP application by September 8, 2023, and maintain a monthly attendance rate of 95% or higher.
12. OC Bus Pass (Santa Ana College)
Santa Ana College (SAC) renewed its Student Bus Pass Program for both credit and noncredit students. This program, in partnership with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), allows students to ride for free on the OCTA bus system. The program covers more than 50 routes and 5,400 stops throughout Orange County, making it a highly beneficial service for students traveling to school, work, or other destinations within the county.
You need to download the OC Bus app and use your college-registered email to open an account. Once the account is set up, you can download a bus pass via the app. Alternatively, you can simply show their Santa Ana College identification card to ride.
CARTA, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority, has introduced a commendable initiative for students in their service area. This initiative is known as the Free Student Fare Pilot Program. It allows students aged 6 and older to ride CARTA buses for free. This program is a significant step, especially considering that children under the age of 5 are already eligible to ride at no cost.
CARTA also offers a mobile app called “Transit,” available on both the App Store and Google Play. This app includes features such as real-time bus route tracking, service alerts for any schedule changes or stops relocations, and a favorites function for frequently used routes. You will also get full timetables, countdowns for real-time predictions, and a feature named “Go” which offers step-by-step transit directions, including notifications for when to leave for your trip and when to disembark from the bus.
14. City of Fresno
Free bus passes for students are available in the City of Fresno. This program is subsidized by the State Center Community College District, Fresno State University, and Fresno Unified School District. Students, faculty, and staff from Fresno State University, Fresno City College, and Clovis Community College can enjoy free rides by simply swiping their student or staff ID.
High school students from the Fresno Unified School District can request a 31-day Student Pass from their schools. To use this pass, you just need to swipe it and show a valid student ID.
Students not covered by the above institutions can still benefit from reduced fares. They can purchase single fares for 75 cents or a 31-day monthly pass for $22. These are available at Ticket Vending Machines along the BRT route 1 or at the Manchester Transit Center. To board the bus, students must show a valid student ID.
15. U-PASS program (VIA)
VIA Metropolitan Transit offers a fantastic opportunity for college students to travel around town with ease and at no cost, thanks to their U-PASS program. This program is a collaboration between VIA and various colleges and universities, providing unlimited bus rides on all regular VIA services, including Prímo, VIA Express, and VIA Link, free of charge each semester.
Eligibility for the U-PASS is extended to all current students, faculty, and staff of participating institutions, which include the University of Texas San Antonio, Alamo Colleges, Our Lady of the Lake University, University of the Incarnate Word, and Texas A&M University – San Antonio. To access this benefit, you can download the VIA goMobile+ app on your smartphone and create an account using your university email address.
After signing in, the U-PASS will automatically appear within minutes. Alternatively, a U-Pass sticker can be obtained and adhered to an active school ID for those who prefer or do not have access to a smart device. This sticker is available at designated offices within each campus.
16. Pierce Transit
With its Free Youth Transit Pass, Pierce Transit offers a wonderful opportunity for young people. This program is part of the Move Ahead Washington transportation package, enabling all riders aged 18 and younger to travel for free on public transit. It covers a wide range of transit agencies across the Puget Sound region, including Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro, and several others, although some exclusions apply for special trips and Washington State Ferries.
Youths aged 18 or younger can ride public transit without any charge. Those aged 13 or older should use their Youth ORCA card, also known as the Free Youth Transit Pass when boarding. It’s important to register this card online, especially if received from school, to ensure it remains valid for free rides until the nineteenth birthday. Otherwise, it will automatically convert to an Adult card. These Youth ORCA cards can be obtained from school offices or ordered online at myORCA.com, and they can also be registered at the Pierce Transit Bus Shop.
How to Get Free Bus Pass for Students
I will show you how to get free bus pass as a student following these general steps. These steps are adapted from various programs across different regions, as mentioned in this post. The specific steps may depend on your location and the transit authority, but this guide will give you an idea of how this works.
1. Identify Eligible Programs
Research and identify transit authorities or programs in your area that offer free bus passes for students. This could include local transit districts, county programs, or specific initiatives by educational institutions. Now, each program has its own eligibility criteria. Common criteria include being a student in a certain grade range, attending a participating school, or residing in a specific area. Some programs might also require students to be part of certain educational programs, such as the Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
2. Gather the Required Documents
Prepare necessary documents, such as your student ID, proof of enrollment, or a parent/guardian’s permission if required. For some programs, you might need to show additional proof, like residency or participation in specific educational programs.
3. Complete Your Application
Complete the application process, which may vary from filling out a form at your school’s administrative office to applying online or via a mobile app. Some programs might require a parent’s or guardian’s signature. In cases where you receive a card (such as a SmarTrip card or a TAP card), follow the instructions for activation. You may have to activate the bus pass online or simply tap the card on a validator within a specific timeframe.
4. Follow the Usage Guidelines
Understand the usage guidelines for the bus pass. Some passes might be valid for all routes, while others might be limited to certain areas or times of the day. Also, check if the pass is valid for a limited period and note the expiration date. Also, you need to know the procedure for replacing a lost or damaged pass. This usually involves contacting the school’s admin office or the transit authority. Make sure to also look out for special programs or offers linked to your bus pass, such as sweepstakes or discounts on other services.
5. Stay Informed
Keep yourself updated with any changes or updates in the program, such as extensions, new eligibility criteria, or additional benefits. Some programs might require you to complete a survey or sign up for newsletters as part of their follow-up process. Most importantly, always check with the relevant transit authority or your educational institution for other things you may need to know.