K-12, Community College Students Can Ride Metro For Free Beginning Nov. 1

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Beginning later this year, K-12 and community college students in Los Angeles County will be able to ride public transportation for free under a new program approved Thursday.

The L.A. County Metropolitan Transit Authority Board of Directors gave final approval to a 23-month pilot program that allows K-12 students and anyone enrolled in community college to ride Metro fare-free beginning on Nov. 1.

The program is expected to cost about $49.9 million in lost revenue over two years. 41 of L.A. County’s 87 school districts are interested in participating in the program.

A majority of the pilot program, $41.5 million, will be paid by the $1.9 trillion federal American Rescue Plan which was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.

Metro currently offers fare discounts to people who make $39,450 a year or less, people age 62 and older, veterans and people with disabilities, K- 12 students and people in college or vocational school.

Low-income riders make up 70% of Metro’s users. While the board did not vote Thursday to implement the fareless system initiative for low income riders, it did vote to develop a plan to double the number of participants in its LIFE Program, which assists low income L.A. County residents with free or subsidized transit access.

Metro fare revenue currently pays for transit operations and maintenance, but Metro receives additional funding through sales tax and state and federal grants. Additional funding options for the pilot program identified by Metro officials include advertising revenue, cost-sharing and grant funds through the Traffic Reduction Program.

The pilot was developed in part to test for whether Metro can transition into a universal fareless system that eliminate fares on its train and bus service for all riders.

Buses, which have been fare-free during the pandemic, will return to collecting fares in January.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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