Los Angeles Unified School District and L.A. Metro announce partnership to provide free transit passes for all LAUSD students

Here is the news release from the LAUSD:

LAUSD, City of L.A. and Metro officials gathered Friday morning at Dorsey High School to announce that LAUSD is joining Metro’s fareless pilot program for K-14 students.

Los Angeles, CA (October 1, 2021) – Los Angeles Unified School District and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) are announcing a game-changing partnership to offer TK-12 students unlimited rides from October 1, 2021, through June 30, 2023, at no cost to families.

Under the proposal passed unanimously by both the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education and Metro Board of Directors at their respective board meetings on September 14 and 23, Los Angeles Unified will invest approximately $1.4 million per year for the next two years (cost sharing of $3 per student per year) to participate in Metro’s Fareless System Initiative Phase 1 plan.

Metro will provide every TK-12 student in Los Angeles Unified with a TAP card that can be used for free transit on all Metro-operated transportation, as well as several adjoining municipally operated transportation providers, including, to date, Culver City, Norwalk, Downtown Area Short Hop (DASH), Montebello, and Santa Monica. Los Angeles Unified will distribute TK-12 TAP cards to students, help promote the program to students and families, and support families with the registration and replacement processes.

“Getting free Metro TAP cards into the hands of every Los Angeles Unified student will be a game changer,” Los Angeles Unified Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly said.
“Our commitment in providing free transportation will expand our students’ world views. They’ll be able to access additional educational opportunities such as internships, employment and other meaningful experiences and recreational activities outside of their immediate neighborhoods.”

“Now more than ever, as we recover from the pandemic, it is critical that our youth have access to public transportation,” Metro Board Chair and Chair of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Hilda L. Solis said. “In January 2020, I was proud to author a motion at Metro to explore providing free transit for students in LA County. Today, that vision is now being fulfilled – through Metro’s Fareless System Initiative. Students across the county will now be able to use our transit system to get to and from school, extracurricular activities, and jobs without worrying about how to pay for it.”

“The costs of transportation should never stand between our students and opportunity,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “Access to our systems should be a right, not a privilege, and the decision to move forward with free ridership for young Angelenos is a critical step toward a system that is accessible to every rider — regardless of zip code or income level.”

In September 2019, Los Angeles Unified Board Member Dr. George J. McKenna III launched the first-ever “any line, any time” pilot program for student transit passes. The program was funded by Just Transit, a project of the 11th Hour Project of The Schmidt Family Foundation, and provided free transit passes for the Junior class at Manual Arts High School which is in the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z).

“This groundbreaking partnership between our agencies provides all of our students with the freedom to see and experience everything the Los Angeles region has to offer,” Board Member George J. McKenna III said. “Students can now take public transportation to community colleges, museums, libraries, beaches, and other cultural and educational destinations without cost being a barrier. We also celebrate the advocacy of organizations like Slate-Z and Move LA that worked hard to keep the issue of free ridership for students front and center for the District and Metro. This is a huge win for the students of Los Angeles Unified.”

Metro’s Fareless System Initiative seeks to use fareless transit as a tool to help L.A. County residents deal with the ever-rising cost of living here and help recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 70 percent of Metro riders are considered low-income.
Phase 1 of the plan offers fareless transit to K-12 and community college students in schools or districts that partner with Metro. In August, Metro tested fareless transit with six schools and districts, distributing more than 5,600 test TAP cards to students. Metro is currently working with more than 30 other schools and districts to finalize contracts to offer fareless transit to their students. Los Angeles Unified is by far the largest school district to take part in the program.

“We thank Los Angeles Unified for seeing the value of our fareless initiative for the district’s nearly half a million students in Los Angeles,” Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins said. “I’m particularly excited that this program is the largest unlimited-use student program in the nation. Los Angeles Unified and other participating students can use transit freely throughout L.A. County, not just to and from their schools. I hope we can convert young people to transit enthusiasts at an early age with the help of this initiative.”

“With Metro being free, I save money and time so I can use that time on my studies and the money on food,” Dorsey High School senior Osiris Powell said. “As a Fire Academy student, I feel safe on the Metro because I know the procedures and safety precautions to help people and myself. The best part for the students at Dorsey is that there is a train stop right in front of the school.”

Los Angeles Unified transports approximately 40,000 students serving communities spanning over 710 square miles. In addition to riding Los Angeles Unified yellow buses, many Los Angeles Unified students ride Metro buses and trains to schools and outside the school day. Efforts across the state have recently been made to address the transit needs of student populations in addition to initiatives led by Metro. The City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation launched its DASH to Class program in August 2019, which offers free rides on DASH buses for K-12 students in the City of Los Angeles. Jurisdictions across the country including Washington, D.C., New York City and Alameda County successfully implement free transit passes programs for students in public schools.

“The Fareless Initiative will provide students better access to all that Los Angeles has to offer, from museums and cultural sites to work and internship opportunities,” Board President Kelly Gonez said. “We are excited to be part of this collaborative effort to unlock new possibilities for Los Angeles Unified students.”

“Our kids are going places—and we are removing barriers to help them get there,” Board Vice President Nick Melvoin said. “I’m proud of the advocacy efforts and
collaboration that have finally made free transit a reality for so many of Los Angeles’ students.”

“Another great success for our community campaign to support student success,” Board Member Mónica García said. “We are so grateful to Metro’s continued collaboration with Los Angeles Unified and its commitment to make the journey to school free. We must find all paths to wellness and support for every child and family, and this is a great step forward! Bravo ¡Mil Gracias!”

“I thank the City of LA, the County, external partners and our Office of Government Relations for working with Metro so this partnership can become a reality,” Board Member Scott M. Schmerelson said. “Our low-income families were affected the most by the global pandemic, in terms of health, job stability and transportation. This partnership will allow our most vulnerable student population the opportunity to travel and go to school without having to worry about deciding whether to eat, buy school supplies or pay bus fare.”

“The Los Angeles Unified and Metro partnership to provide reliable and fareless transportation to our K-12 students is another tool we have to position our kids for success,” Board Member Jackie Goldberg said. “Los Angeles Unified is shouldering its share to help unburden families, and my hope is that this is another step toward universal fareless public transit in our region, which would have a powerful impact on the fight against poverty.”

“In order to create educational equity in Los Angeles Unified, we must look at all barriers and obstacles that stand in the way of our scholars reaching their full potential in college, career and life,” Board Member Tanya Ortiz Franklin said. “This free-fare partnership with Metro will give students greater access to local colleges, internships, workplaces, extracurricular activities, local museums, and more. Together, we are one step closer to closing opportunity gaps and opening access for all.”

5 replies

  1. Now if they would only restore service to schools like King Middle School and Marshall High School that were victims of their latest changes

  2. I am an alumni and a current resident of the Los Angeles Unified School District. (I graduated decades ago). I applaud Metro and the school district providing free transportation to these students. However Metro should help low-income students in other school districts, also.

    Metro’s Board of Directors chair, Hilda Solis, the chairperson of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has many constituents who live in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She also has many constituents who live in other school districts. I applaud her for
    this accomplishment, but she should help all of the students in her district, and she should require that Foothill Transit help them also.

  3. I grew up in Cincinnati in the 70’s and students who did not live within walking distance of their school could get a “bus card” (this was before tap cards). Later, they chnages it so that students would have to pay a reduced fare.

    • Hi Mike;

      I also grew up in Cincy in the 1970s — Pleasant Ridge to be exact. We were close to my school and I walked there with friends except for foul weather days when one of the parents would get stuck driving. Interesting to know there were student passes back then, although not surprised. As I got older, I remember taking the Metro’s special buses to Reds and Bengals games for a $1 (roundtrip, if memory serves).

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source