LAUSD, Metro partnership provides free transit rides to L.A. County students

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A newly approved program is providing Los Angeles County students access to free Metro bus and train rides from October through the end of June, officials announced Friday.

In a partnership between Los Angeles Unified School District and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the program will provide students from TK through 12th grade with unlimited rides at no cost from Oct. 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022.

Under the partnership, Los Angeles Unified will invest approximately $1.4 million per year for the next two years. In exchange, Metro will provide students with a TAP card that will not only give them access to all Metro-operated transportation but also transit rides run by Culver City, Norwalk, Montebello, Santa Monica and the Downtown Area Short Hop.

The fare-free student plan is part of Metro’s Fareless System Initiative, with Phase 1 offering free rides to K-12 and community college students in schools or districts partnering with Metro.

The initiative was launched in August 2020 as a way to help L.A. County residents amid the rising costs of living in the region and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A 2019 Metro survey found that low-income residents, who make less than $39,450 per year, make up approximately 70% of Metro’s ridership.

“Getting free Metro TAP cards into the hands of every Los Angeles Unified student will be a game changer,” Megan K. Reilly, interim superintendent for LAUSD, said in a statement. “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.”

Officials add that providing L.A. County’s students with free, equitable access to its transit system could boost school attendance, improve mobility and health, and ease traffic congestion.

In a statement, Mayor Eric Garcetti said “the costs of transportation should never stand between our students and opportunity.”

“Access to our systems should be a right, not a privilege,” Garcetti added. “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.” 

Osiris Powell, a senior at Susan Miller Dorsey High School in Crenshaw, said having access to Metro transit for free allows him to “save money and time so I can use that time on my studies and the money on food.”

“As a Fire Academy student, I feel safe on the Metro because I know the procedures and safety precautions to help people and myself,” Powell said. “The best part for the students at Dorsey is that there is a train stop right in front of the school.”

Officials say LAUSD is the largest school district to take part in the program, and Metro officials say the agency is working with more than 30 other schools and districts to bring into the student fare-free program.

Correction: An earlier version of this article gave incorrect dates for the program’s start and end dates. The post has been updated.

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