This story was originally written for El Pasajero, Metro’s Spanish-language blog. Find the story here
The entire family of Marco Antonio Mejia relies on Metro public transportation for their commutes. The bus takes his sister to work, his mother to her doctor’s appointments, and Marco Antonio to the adult school in Panorama City. If any of them decides to take additional trips, to run errands and visit relatives, the total trips for the family average between 35 to 40 per week. With a regular fare of $1.75, their total transportation expenses could be as much as $70 per week or nearly $280 per month —an amount difficult for them to afford.
However, in 2019 Marco Antonio learned about a Metro program called Low Income Fare is Easy (LIFE), which helps low-income riders with a subsidy for their commutes. This program grants unlimited free Metro rides for the first 90 days. After that, participants receive 20 days of free rides per month or discounts on passes from any of the 13 participating transit agencies, including LADOT, GTrans, Long Beach Transit, and others (you can find the entire list here).
“That discount has helped me a lot… What I save on fares is used to cover the rent, pay bills or buy basic needs at home,” says Marco Antonio, who adds that the process to apply for the program was easy for him. “The application that I filled out was in Spanish and the lady who helped me also spoke my language.”
The person who guided him through the process is part of the International Institute of Los Angeles (IILA), one of the two organizations that collaborate with Metro and manage the LIFE program; the other is FAME Assistance Corporation. Both hold community events in various cities in Los Angeles County to provide information about the LIFE program and answer passengers’ questions at sign-ups. They are also in charge of processing applications received during signup events as well as those that arrive through the Internet, regular mail, and Metro customer service centers.
IILA events coordinator Nichole Corwin says the organization focuses on areas in the San Gabriel Valley, Lancaster, Pomona, and some parts of the San Fernando Valley like Sylmar, Van Nuys, and Glendale where they usually set up information tables at train stations, community fairs, senior centers, festivals, and even swap meets.
“When we talk to riders, we find that some are already paying for a monthly pass and others are completely unaware of the program, so they’re happy to hear about the free rides they can use,” says Corwin. She adds that the subsidy is a great help since the price of gas continues to rise and some people have to commute to work, while others need transportation because they are looking for a job.
To fill out the LIFE program application, all you need to provide is your name, address, and phone number, show a photo ID — local or foreign — and see if your income is within the eligibility limits (check the eligibility table here). To verify the latter, you can show check stubs or a card or letter that verifies your participation in an assistant program [such as EBT, Medi-Cal, Calfresh, etc.]. If you do not have any documents at the time of applying, you can also self-certify your income by checking that option in the LIFE application.
“Our collaboration with Metro is important and works thanks to the good communication that we maintain in search of solutions and trying to help the community,” says Corwin. She adds that people can find out instantly if they qualify for the LIFE program. They only have to wait 24 hours for their TAP card to be activated. “If you don’t have a TAP card, we give you one for free,” emphasizes Corwin.
Michael Cortez, Metro’s interim director of community relations and who leads the LIFE program, explains that many riders think the discount fare program ends after the 90 days of free rides, but that’s not true. “The benefit continues,” he says. “After the first 90 days, you will be eligible for 20 free rides each month [for Metro trains and buses]. If you don’t use all the trips, they will roll over to the next month and start to accumulate.”
LIFE customers that ride Metro will only be allowed to load the 20 free rides option, which includes two hours of free Metro transfers. After you use all 20 free rides in a month, you will load Stored Value (money) on a TAP card to pay per ride on Metro and participate in fare capping –a system that starts July 1. With fare capping, you will never pay more than $5 in a day or $18 within seven days. Once you reach the 1-Day or 7-Day fare cap, rides are FREE! which makes Metro 1-Day, 7-Day and 30-Day passes no longer necessary. For more information on the change, click here.
In the case of people over 62 or people with disabilities who already have a reduced fare, they can still apply for the LIFE program and use a combined discount for trips. “We want the community to know that there are options, that the process is quick and easy, and that this program can make a difference for a family of three or more,” Cortez explains.
The application is available in Spanish, English, and seven other languages. For more information call (323) 466-3876 or visit: https://www.metro.net/riding/life/
Sign-up events for July
- Friday, July 7, 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
LIFE Sign-Up Event at Long Beach Transit
130 E. 1st St., Long Beach, CA 90802
- Friday, July 7, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
LIFE Sign-Up Event at Pomona Transit
100 W. Commercial Ave, Pomona 91768
- Monday, July 10, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
LIFE Sign-Up Event at El Monte Transit
3501 Santa Anita Ave., El Monte, CA 91731
- Saturday, July 15, 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
South Gate Fun Run at South Gate Park
9520 Hildreth Ave., South Gate, CA 90208
- Tuesday, July 18, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Parks After Dark at Allen J. Martin Park
14830 E. Giordano St., La Puente, CA 91744
Categories: Transportation News