Across the country discounted transit pass programs have been proven to reduce driving, car ownership and GHG emissions, and to increase transit ridership and access to economic and educational opportunities -- especially when targeted to key demographic groups including students, low-income households, seniors and people with disabilities. This is why Move LA is interested in creating dedicated transit pass funding from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and facilitating transit passes as part of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, which means they could be provided to renters in affordable housing developments.
A University of California Transportation Center survey of programs at 31 universities and colleges across the U.S. found that "during the first year of [student transit pass] program implementation increases in student transit ridership ranged between 70% and 200%." California has its own success stories including UC Berkeley's Class Pass program, which resulted in students transit mode share increasing from 14% in 1997 to 27% in 2008, at the same time that the student drive-alone share decreased from 16% to 7%. And Santa Monica City College's "Any Line, Any Time" transit pass program with Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus resulted in 2.5 million boardings in 2011-2012, with more than 40% of students, faculty and staff arriving at campus during peak hours via transit.
Transit passes for low-income residents of affordable housing developments near transit also provide low-carbon, affordable access to destinations: First Community Housing in the Bay Area provided 1,500 transit passes to their residents with the result that 22% reduced the number of cars they owned and 64% used their transit passes more than 4 times a week.
While the current Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) programs dedicate significant funding and policy emphasis on expanding public transit, smart land use and electric vehicles, the Low Carbon Transit Operations Guidelines list transit passes as an eligible investment but do not require transit operators to invest any allocated funding to non-capital operations funding or transit passes.
The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that about $2.3 billion will be available in the GGRF for this year's budget cycle. We are proposing that the Legislature make some of this funding available for a Transit Pass program, perhaps in a fund that is managed by Caltrans and distributed to county transportation commissions. More on this issue to come!