LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A proposed 23-month pilot program that would make Metro buses and trains free for students, starting in August, and for low-income riders starting January, was advanced by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Committee Thursday.
Despite concerns by some members of the Metro Executive Management Committee about the financial viability of the pilot program, the panel agreed to to forward the proposal to the full Metro Board of Directors for consideration.
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There are already some fare discounts in place. Riders who make less than $39,500 a year, veterans, those aged 62 and older, people with disabilities, K-12 students, college and vocational school students currently qualify for discounts on LA Metro.
If the proposed pilot program is approved, K-12 students and people in community college would be the first to ride for free this summer. The second phase of the pilot program, which will require additional funding, according to the board, would kickoff in January 2022, allowing low-income customers, which make up 70% of Metro’s ridership, free passage.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, the chair of the Executive Management Committee, has championed the pilot program and said he’s confident the agency would generate enough funding. The mayor also noted the need for the federal government, state and local municipalities to chip in to the program, adding that organizations like LAUSD should offer funding because it will likely see an increase in school attendance with fare-less rides, leading to increased school funding.
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Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington has also expressed confidence the pilot program is something the federal government under President Joe Biden’s administration would provide funding too and, possibly, permanent funding for in the future.
There are those in city leadership, however, that are concerned about free rides on LA Metro.
In April, LA County Board Member and Supervisor Janice Hahn said she worries the fare-less initiative will turn into a “get what you pay for” system, where money for keeping Metro vehicles and stations clean and running well might be impacted.
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