South Seattle Students Speak to Mayor about Youth ORCA Program Expansion

Yesterday, at Rainier Beach High School, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle City Councilor Mike O’Brien sat down with students to talk about the need for youth transportation to and from school. 

So far this year, 300 new ORCA cards have been given out to Rainier Beach High School students and at least 50 more cards are still to be given out.  And while this is a welcome improvement, there is still work to be done.

Almost a month into the start of the school year, the need for increased access to ORCA cards for high school students is readily apparent.  Students at Thursday’s meeting spoke of harassment and other safety issues walking to and from school; some walking for as long as 30 -40 minutes each way. 

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The financial barrier to transportation also came up at the meeting.  Youth spoke of the trauma of being kicked off the lightrail or bus for non-payment when trying to get to school, causing attendees to face the question: when you can’t pay for the bus – how are you supposed to get to school?   

One creative solution was a facebook page set up by youth from Rainier Beach High School that gave out information regarding bus transfers for the current day. With this shared information, students could then use old transfers they had saved to ride the bus to school. 

While creative and resourceful, the necessity for students to go to such lengths is an indictment of our city – kids should not have to work this hard to get to school. 

The need for transportation to continue throughout the summer was also raised by the gathered group of students.  The city’s programs encouraging youth to work during the summer are only effective if youth can get transportation to their job. 

“We don’t fund transportation in the way we need to if we want kids to get the education they want,” said Mayor Murray.  He went on to congratulate Seattle for caring about transportation while calling on the County and State to step up to the plate and fund education transportation throughout Washington. 

All photos copyright Alex Garland

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