Coming soon: free transit for everyone 18 and under!

April 15, 2022

Who doesn’t like getting something positive and life-changing for FREE? Especially now, when our cost of living is rising so dramatically?

Well, as Chair of SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments), I’m super excited to share a new SANDAG and county program that will make a big difference while it addresses several of the region’s transportation goals.

Starting May 1, all transit rides for youth aged 18 and under will be completely free! That means unlimited free transport on NCTD and MTS busses, the MTS Trolley, COASTER and SPRINTER!

The Youth Opportunity Pass pilot program will last through the end of this school year, through the summer and all the way until the end of the next school year in 2023. At that time, we’ll see if there’s a funding stream that could keep the program going. This phase is paid for with $6.13 million from SANDAG, in partnership with the County of San Diego.

In order to ride for free, those 18 and under will need a PRONTO card or the PRONTO app on their phone, which can be accessed here. Children five and under already ride free when accompanied by a fare paying adult, so they don’t need a card or proof of eligibility. Youth cards will also be available at the MTS Transit Store, NCTD Customer Service Centers, or at MTS and NCTD transit center events.

I plan to have my two teenagers sign up for their PRONTO cards right away! My 14-year-old says she wants to take the COASTER train to go “thrifting” with her friends in places far afield from Encinitas. 

I love this program because kids who learn to ride transit are more likely to make that choice as adults, after public transit has become a convenient, comfortable habit. Free transit equals freedom for teens, who can jump on the train or a bus to go to school, or a job, or explore our beautiful county.

Some advocates who have been advocating this idea for years tell heart-wrenching stories, like the grandmother raising her grandson who had to tell him he couldn’t play football because she couldn’t afford the bus pass for him to get to and from practice.

This could be a game-changer for families who previously had trouble affording to travel locally as a group. And every transit trip means one less car on the road, reducing our use of oil and gas, and minimizing congestion for those who do choose to drive. It’s a win-win.

Lots of people worked very hard over many years to make this program a reality and I’m so grateful for their dedication.

See you on the train! Or bus! Or trolley!

Elected officials and transportation advocates joined for a celebratory press conference Friday to announce the free Youth Opportunity Pass that begins May 1 and runs through June 30, 2023. Video from the press conference is here.

A turbulent City Council meeting

Back home in Encinitas, we had a clamorous City Council Meeting last Wednesday as the Council unanimously voted to remove Planning Commission Chair Bruce Ehlers from the Planning Commission.

The short version is that Bruce created a conflict of interest with his Planning Commission role when he became deeply involved in opposing and undermining the city’s adopted housing goals.

Among other issues, he decided to involve himself in litigation against the city, filing a “Declaration of Bruce Ehlers in Support of Intervenor’s Opposition,” in litigation where the city was trying to comply with mandatory state housing laws.

The agenda item requesting the City Council to consider his removal is here

It’s important to note that planning commissioners serve at the pleasure of the City Council – they’re required to faithfully implement the policies and objectives made by the elected leaders who appoint them.

As a courtesy, I called him to say I had lost confidence in his ability to impartially perform the role of being a planning commissioner, and I asked for his resignation. He declined, and said he required a public discussion – which occurred at our last Council meeting, where a crowd of his supporters voiced their objections.

Attendees at last Wednesday’s City Council meeting. (Photo from Fox 5.)

It was obvious that this action would be controversial, but I’m 100% committed to addressing the affordable housing crisis. Doing the right thing can sometimes be unpopular, but that comes with the job of Mayor.

Bottom line – Mr. Ehlers’ actions were putting the city in legal jeopardy and keeping families from being able to live here.

I look forward to filling the vacancy on the Planning Commission with one of the many qualified citizens who always apply for these prestigious appointments. 

Despite this unfortunate situation, I’m grateful to Bruce for his many years of service to the City of Encinitas, and I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors. 

A Fox 5 news story that shows the meeting and describes the situation is here.

Our next budget could have good news for Pacific View

In other news from Wednesday’s meeting, the City of Encinitas has begun its budget process for the year that begins on July 1, 2022. Funding for Pacific View is a weighty decision that’s been a long time coming.

After the city bought the property from the school district in 2014, many local citizens and groups worked to get the bluffside school that closed in 2003 refurbished for community use. Those efforts and the quest for a private benefactor didn’t completely pan out, and it’s become clear that the project needs a one-time capital infusion to get the former school property renovated for use by the public as an arts center.

This is the year we may be able to make that happen and finally reopen our historic Pacific View campus!

A Supreme Court that looks more like America

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will join the United States Supreme Court as an Associate Justice when long-serving Associate Justice Stephen Breyer retires in late June or early July.

Like many, I became verklempt seeing our first Black female Supreme Court justice sworn into office last week. It’s truly historic to welcome Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

When the highest court in the land reflects the diversity that we celebrate as Americans, it’s cause for legitimate optimism amidst today’s strife. All of us benefit from having positions of power and influence opened to a greater segment of our society.

If you can see it, you can be it!

And for those who celebrate, I’d like to wish you a blessed Passover, a joyful Easter, and a rewarding Ramadan!

With hope and gratitude,

P.S. My State Senate campaign has a limited number of valuable summer internships available for students of all ages.

If you’re:

  • Ready to join a team and make a positive impact in our community,
  • Passionate about issues like climate change, womens’ rights, poverty, and gun violence,
  • Interested in campaigns and excited about progressive politics,
  • Looking for firsthand civic engagement and community organizing experience,

Please consider applying for a summer internship with our campaign.

To apply, click this link, give us your contact info and check the “Internship” box near the bottom of the page. Our Volunteer Coordinator Matt Rubel will reach back out to you. We’d love to have you on board!

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