LA Metro hopes to kick off a new reduced fare transit pass program for all college and university students in LA County by August of this year! It’s a revise of their current program, which offers a 57% discount but hasn’t succeeded in significantly boosting student ridership. (A study of 35 “universal” student transit pass programs across the U.S. conducted by UCLA researcher Donald Shoup in 2001 found ridership increases of 75% to 200%.) Metro has begun convening a working group involving staff from colleges and universities and local transit providers to study best practices and figure out the best way forward. The project is being supervised by Deputy CEO Stephanie Wiggins and Deputy Executive Officer Glen Becerra (also a Simi Valley Citycouncilmember), indicating that Metro regards the creation of a successful program to be a high priority.
Funding is part of the problem: In order to make successful student transit pass programs “pencil out,” some money is typically provided by the colleges, the students themselves, the transit agencies, and other government funding sources. Fortunately for LA County, the state of California now has a GHG Reduction Fund, and Move LA and a dozen statewide nonprofits succeeded last year in making student passes an eligible expense for GGRF money.
This year the same coalition of nonprofits (Sustainable Communities for All) is sponsoring a bill, AB 2222, authored by Assembly Majority Leader Chris Holden (his district includes Pasadena City College, which is keenly interested in student passes). His bill would provide $50M/year out of the GGRF for student pass programs statewide. Because the money would be allocated based on population and transit ridership, LA County could get as much as $20M/year.
Asm. Richard Bloom of Santa Monica—a member of the Budget, Transportation and Higher Education committees, and chair of Budget Subcommittee on Resources and Transportation—is also trying to set aside a one-time allocation out of the GGRF of $25-$50M for student passes this year.
We encourage you to indicate your support for Holden’s bill, which will be heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee on April 11 and Bloom’s budget play.
Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane helped to create the successful student transit pass program at Santa Monica College—40% of all students, faculty and staff now arrive on campus by Big Blue Bus. As a result Move LA has some ideas about how to maximize ridership with the program, based on SMC’s experience:
- Students passes could be an option available to part-time as well as fulltime students and even faculty and staff. Metro’s current transit pass program is only available to those who are fulltime.
- Student passes could be an option that’s available when students register for classes, and their registration cards could serve as their transit passes. Metro currently requires students to come to Metro or to apply on line and provide documentation of fulltime status—making it less likely that students who aren’t already transit riders will apply.
- Because offsetting the cost of the student passes requires funding from several funding sources, Move LA suggests a small portion of student registration fees could be applied to student passes — perhaps $15 or $20 a semester. Metro’s current student pass costs $43 a month, a 57% discount of the full $100 price for regular monthly passes.
Our vision is that Metro would implement a student pass program in cooperation with local transit providers who typically provide more targeted bus service to schools. If a program like this is implemented for the approximately 1 million college and university students in LA County ridership increases could be impressive—it could be the biggest and boldest student transit pass program in the U.S.!
And if student riders developed a transit habit they could become riders for life!