Metro today announced that, as of March 7, 2023, the agency and its municipal transit partners have provided more than 10 million free transit rides to students over the last eight months through the GoPass Pilot program, surpassing a goal that CEO Stephanie Wiggins set in her 2022 State of the Agency Address.
Launched in August 2021, the GoPass Pilot program helps LA County students and their families improve access to school, deal with high costs of living, and better connect them to jobs and other essential services. It does this by providing unlimited, free transit rides to K-12 and community college students in participating districts on Metro and 13 other LA County transit agencies.
The GoPass Pilot Program is phase one of Metro’s Fareless System Initiative, which aims to use free transit as a tool to help LA County residents deal with high costs of living and to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The GoPass Pilot Program is a targeted and strategic effort to markedly reduce transportation costs for students and their families, and it helps families with low incomes the most. Based on voluntary demographic information provided by participants in the program, 88 percent of GoPass Pilot Program participants come from families with low-incomes, and 53 percent of participating GoPass schools are within one of Metro’s Equity Focus Communities (EFC), where transportation needs are greatest. If the student’s school or district participates in the program, GoPasses are made available to them without having to fill out complicated forms or determine eligibility, lowering barriers to entry to the program.
Fundamentally, GoPass helps students get to school. In many California K-12 school districts, including LA Unified and Long Beach Unified, school bus transportation is not available for general education students. GoPass provides a free and reliable alternative to these students, many of whom live too far from school to walk and do not have access to a private vehicle. GoPass also contributes to academic success in community college. A 2021 study performed at Rio Hondo College showed that community college students in LA County receiving free transit passes have up to 27 percent higher graduation rates than those that don’t. And because GoPass is not just a way for students to get to and from school, it also provides improved access to jobs, health care, extracurricular activities, and essential services for students, and it provides a clean, green, and healthier way to get around the region.
With GoPass, many more students are using transit than under the previous student discount programs, helping Metro and partner agencies to restore ridership lost during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Metro offered reduced-price student passes through its K-12 Student and College/Vocational Reduced Fare programs. Based on data from those programs, in 2019, about 94,000 K-12 students held active Reduced Fare student transit passes, and about 17,000 community college students held College/Vocational passes. Today, thanks in large part to the GoPass program, K-12 students hold more than 305,000 active transit passes and community college students hold 60,000 active transit passes. In February 2023 alone, 2.4 million discounted rides were delivered to K-12 and Community College students on Metro, and 1.45 million of those rides were taken with a GoPass. By comparison, only 990,000 discounted Metro rides were taken by students in February 2019, a time when transit ridership was far higher.
Over the past two years, GoPass has been supported by numerous partners in the federal, state, and local governments and in the private sector, including:
- Senator Diane Feinstein, who supported the GoPass Pilot Program for all community colleges in LA County through Congressionally Directed Spending in 2022 in a grant administered by the LA Community College District,
- Target stores, which supported the expansion of the GoPass program into the Inglewood Unified School District in October 2022,
- The California Legislature, which through Assembly Bill (AB) 181, as amended by AB 185, provided reimbursement funding of up to 60 percent of Home-to-School transportation costs for public school districts and county offices of education (COEs) based on the prior-year-eligible transportation expenditures, including transit passes,
- South LA Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z), which included GoPass funding as part of $35M in approved grant funding for their South LA EcoLab project under the Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) grant through the Strategic Growth Council (SGC),
- Move LA, and many others that have provided consistent and ongoing advocacy for statewide funding for student transit pass programs in the State Legislature.
If you or someone you know is a student who might qualify for a GoPass, visit metro.net/gopass to learn more and see if your school offers the program.