Starting in August and ending June 30, 2023, L.A. Metro buses and trains will be free for students K-12 and community college students. Low-income riders, who make up 70% of Metro’s customers (the highest percentage in the country), will be eligible for free rides beginning in January. Currently, these riders enjoy reduced fares along with those 62 and older, veterans, and people with disabilities.
The pilot program will cost $49,179,167 in lost revenue, but during an Executive Management Committee meeting last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that Metro will “leave no stone unturned when it comes to funding.” There will be a need for the federal and state government and municipalities within the county to contribute. After the pilot period is completed, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be in a better position to consider extending, modifying or discontinuing fareless service. One option on the table would be making the L.A. Metro system permanently free for everyone.
The expected benefits include increased school attendance, better transportation options for low-income riders, and increased ridership across the board. These and other variables like rider and employee safety, funding sustainability, and quality of service will be evaluated over the coming months.
Let’s hope this works to everyone’s advantage. Americans spend over 15% of their budgets on transportation costs, and several cities are trying various options to help reduce the cost. Fewer cars on the road, less inconvenience (exact fare, renewable TAP requirements, to name two), and greater accessibility work for everyone. Just hop on and off. Nothing to it.