New pilot program will offer free transit passes to young adults leaving foster care

A new pilot program has been approved by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the North County Transit District (NCTD) to provide access to free transit fares to people ages 18-24 who have already been in and out of the foster care system, or who are currently in extended foster care.

The PRONTO Extend pilot program, which will launch on July 1, aims to provide support and improve access to opportunities for former youth in foster care and young adults currently in foster care as they transition to a more independent life.

“Young adults who have left the foster care system face unique challenges as they enter adulthood,” said Nathan Fletcher, chairman of the MTS board of directors and chairman of the county board of supervisors. from San Diego. “Many young people in transition do not have social safety nets or financial support from their families. Our goal with the PRONTO Extend program is to offer additional resources to facilitate this transition from foster care to more independent living. Being able to benefit from free transport to school or work is an important stepping stone to help them succeed. »

The PRONTO Extend program will be valid for all San Diego MTS and NCTD fixed-route bus services, Trolley, SPRINTER and COASTER. Passes will be available starting in July.

“Whether participants are commuting to work, going out for a day of fun, or commuting to school, public transit will be their answer for a free ride they can rely on,” said Jewel Edson, Chairman of the Board of NCTD director and Solana Beach board member. “The NCTD Board of Directors hopes that PRONTO Extend will open up a world of opportunity for participants and empower their lives.”

According to a study by CALYouth, about 25% of young people who come out of foster care in California are homeless. About 77% wish they could get a higher education degree, however, at age 21, less than 25% of them are able to enroll in a two- or four-year college due to financial difficulties or difficulties. a lack of resources. The PRONTO Extend program can help young people achieve their professional and educational goals by providing access to free transportation.

“Like any young person in transition to adulthood, young adults who are or have been in foster care have significant needs to become independent; and reliable, affordable transportation is at the top of the list,” said Kimberly Giardina, Director of Child Protective Services, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. “The PRONTO Extend program aligns perfectly with the redesigned strategic initiatives of the county’s general management system that puts the community at the center by increasing the well-being of our residents.”

The program will last up to 18 months, from July 1, 2022 to December 31, 2023.

Program Eligibility

To be eligible, participants must be currently between the ages of 18 and 24 and have left the foster care system or be in extended foster care. Eligible entrants will have one of the following valid forms from San Diego County or other county jurisdiction:

  • Notice of Action Form
  • Proof of dependency / guardianship letter

How to register:

  • On line
  • By email
  • In person
  • By fax

Applications can take up to three weeks to process, so interested users are encouraged to apply early. Once approved for the PRONTO Extend program, participants will be able to download a free transportation pass each month to their PRONTO app or PRONTO card for MTS and/or NCTD services.

Ryan H. Bowman