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PPS transpo director supports ‘opt-in’ YouthPass

Andy Leibenguth_1What if, instead of giving a free TriMet pass to every Portland Public high school student, the state bought passes only for students who ask for them?

PPS’s transportation director says the idea, which would cut the endangered program’s cost and has been supported by a top House Republican, could be a way to keep the passes available to thousands of students who use them.

But he’s still not optimistic that even this will happen, given tepid legislative support.

"Any option’s better than no option," PPS Transportation Director Andy Leibenguth said Wednesday, referring to the concept Rep. Vicki Berger (R-Salem) shared in an interview this month. "If that’s the program she’s going to support, we can make it happen."

Leibenguth said such a system could be either "opt-out," which would give students the free pass unless they turned it down, or "opt-in," which would let students sign up for it.

The school could then "issue stickers or something like that" for participating students to put on their school ID, he said.

It’s hard to say how much this would cut the program’s total cost of $4.3 million. 80% of PPS students report using the passes once a week or more. But it’d be a clear way to save tax dollars while greatly reducing the impact on Portland families.

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