Move LA has been making the case for unlimited and universal student transit passes for almost five years now because we believe that free and discounted transit pass program will increase declining transit ridership in LA County and improve access to economic and educational opportunities while at the same time reduce the driving, traffic, GHG emissions, the need for students to own a care and the cost of getting an education.
This belief is based on good, analytic data showing that access to transit for students can have a whole range of other benefits:
- A 2012 study by Safe Routes to School National Partnership estimated that 20-30% of morning traffic could be generated by parents driving their children to school;
- A 2015 study by Harvard University found access to transportation is the single biggest factor in the odds of escaping poverty and avoiding homelessness;
- A 2016 University of Minnesota study found that their student transit pass program resulted in lower estimated annual emissions of 93% for nitrogen oxide, 89% for particulate matter, and 59% for CO2, compared to the previous yellow bus program. In addition, annual reductions were estimated at 18,304 trips and 158,400 vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) from replacing yellow buses and 2,038,784 VMT from personal vehicles.
- Alameda County's pilot program, which has been running since 2015, is providing bus and BART transit passes to high school students; 14% of students reported missing fewer days of school than they did during the prior year and involvement in non-school-based afterschool activities and after-school jobs increased dramatically (by 77% and 238% respectively) for student participants.
- A study by the LA County Department of Public Health found that securing free transit passes for all students from preschool to college could lead to: 1) families saving $750,000 per year in fines for fare evasion and $2.5 million per year on student transit passes, 2) students receiving more instructional time, 3) schools receiving an additional $125,000 each year for every 1% decrease in unexcused absences, and 4) fewer vehicle emissions resulting in healthier families and communities.
- And studies conducted by Dr. Donald Shoup (2001) on student transit pass programs show that these programs reduce the cost of attending college by up to $2,000 and Dr. Nuworsoo (2004) show that deep discount group pass programs are useful instruments for increasing transit revenue and ridership.
A number of major cities like Paris, Chicago, and Seattle are currently researching or expanding their transit pass programs for students; our partners at Investing in Place wrote a great article about those programs as well as the current programs being offered in Los Angeles County.
Big Announcements Last Week On Student Passes
Last week, Los Angeles took a major step in providing unlimited and universal student transit passes to students in the LA Unified School District and the LA Community College District. In partnership with SLATE-Z and the LA Promise Fund, LA Metro began distribution of U-Pass TAP stickers to the rising Junior class at Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles. These stickers go directly on students' IDs and can be used on all Metro buses and trains as well as 10 other municipal bus systems. This is the first-of-its-kind program where high school students will receive passes at a group rate. This pilot program is being funded by a grant from the 11th Hour Project after our organizations won a Just Transit grant.
We will be tracking the outcomes of this program with the goal of sharing the results with the LAUSD and Metro Boards to make the case that expanding this program to more high school students can improve school attendance, increase involvement in extracurricular activities, and decrease vehicle miles traveled, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution.
Also happening this week, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmembers Mike Bonin and Paul Krekorian, and LACCD Board President Mike Fong announced that LADOT's DASH Bus Service would be FREE for LAUSD and LACCD students with a Metro student discount TAP card. This is funded through an existing stream of $$ coming from Caltrans HQ for low carbon transit programs, a program that Move LA advocated to fund through California's cap-and-trade auction proceeds.
Move LA was quoted in both Streetsblog LA and Curbed LA on this exciting development but what piqued our interest the most was when Mayor Eric Garcetti speculated that "maybe Metro will be next.” We hope that we will soon see Metro take similar action, laying the foundation for transit ridership resurgence which we believe should be the 29th project in Metro’s plan for the 2028 Olympics. In fact, all municipal and county transit operators should leverage these existing state funds to subsidize student transit passes as an effective policy for ridership and transit access, and we will continue to encourage State and local leaders to invest in these types of programs.
The coming decade looms large for anyone who has been at the frontlines of fighting climate change and air pollution. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concluded we have just 12 years to reduce global emissions or the consequences could be irreversible.
Our politicians have shown the leadership that can help get us there: Governor Jerry Brown set a goal of deploying 5 million ZEVs by 2030; Governor Gavin Newsom wants to dump diesel by 2030; LA Mayor Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia set a goal of zero emissions at the ports by 2035. And by 2031 the South Coast Air District must meet federal standards for air quality or face certain penalties and loss of funding.
All of this will take major public investments in incentives and infrastructure—and that’s where voters come in! We can dump diesel, improve air quality, and conquer climate change if we can match the State of California’s investment in clean transportation.
We need to drive clean transportation technologies like zero-emission vehicles to the marketplace faster and at scale—light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles! Simply put, we need to get to economies of scale quickly in order to make ZEVs cheaper than their gasoline and diesel counterparts. Then the marketplace itself can take over.
We also need to drive near-zero emission heavy-duty trucks to the marketplace because we must dump diesel now—it’s toxic to our neighbors, especially in the frontline communities near freeways and ports. While zero-emission trucks are the goal, it may take a long time to develop the technology that allows these trucks to travel across the country, and even longer to install charging infrastructure that will take them where they need to go. This is why we believe near-zero heavy-duty trucks are part of the solution.
There is an advantage to near-zero in the short term because we must also capture and use short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), which are 100 times more powerful than CO2. They also decay more quickly, but only after the damage is done. Near-zero trucks can be fueled by biomethane, one of the major SCLPs—80% of which is produced by dairies and cattle ranches, landfills and waste-water plants.
Regulating heavy-duty trucks to make them comply with California’s climate goals isn’t an option, because they are regulated by the federal government, not states or localities.
Addressing these concerns requires major investments, and we need to make big progress in a decade. We learned when passing Measures R and M for transit that we can raise serious money at the ballot box to help achieve seemingly impossible goals—these measures together are raising $120 billion over 40 years for transportation, 70% of that for transit.
The State of California is already investing big bucks in the fight against climate change. Now we need to double down on that investment at the local level. And we know how to do this because we have done it before.
So what if we could vote to end climate change? Would you?
Is it Time for Move SoCal?Read more
1) Attain federal clean air standards with full implementation of the Mobile Source Plan of the 2016 AQMP:
Diesel emissions are the most pressing challenge to air quality in Southern California by far. Diesel emissions are a toxic air contaminant, second only to smoking as a cause for cancer. Disadvantaged communities near freeways are especially burdened. The 2016 AQMP relies on incentives to accelerate deployment of zero- and near-zero-emission heavy-duty trucks and equipment at a cost of over $1 billion/year. This scale of effort can only be funded by a regional ballot measure.
2) Address climate change head-on:
California is leading the way in the fight to conquer climate change. Our progress in replacing fossil fuel power with clean renewables has been so great that our #1 priority now should be reducing GHGs from the transportation sector, still the biggest source of GHGs. The economies of scale for manufacturers could yield significantly reduced costs for car buyers around the world—and make a big difference in the effort to conquer climate change. We plan to urge inclusion of very significant funds to accelerate deployment of zero-emission light- and medium-duty vehicles and charging facilities.
3) Modernize and electrify Metrolink, Southern California’s regional commuter rail system:
Modernizing our 530-mile, 5-county regional commuter rail system is a golden opportunity to create high-capacity, high-efficiency, higher-speed, zero-emission electric regional transit linking the region’s core communities. Double-tracking and modernizing the system and providing the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (which operates Metrolink) with funding for reliable, frequent and more affordable service will build ridership and address climate change head on.
4) County transportation commission local return program:
We should include significant funds for investments in clean local transit systems and the expansion of active transportation in each of the Air District's 4 counties. The measure would fund each county transportation commission and respect the authority of each to establish their own transit project priorities, specifically referencing each county’s Long Range Transportation Plan.
Move LA proposes placing a regional ballot measure before voters in the South Coast Air District in 2020—which includes nearly all of 4 counties—to fund the transformation of our existing regional Metrolink commuter rail system into a high-velocity regional transit system.
It will require major investments to electrify the 530-mile Metrolink system, and to double-track—even triple-track—wherever needed to significantly enhance service and enable all-day express service on one or more lines, and to connect to regional airports like Ontario Airport.
To accomplish this we propose a regional half-cent sales tax measure, which can also fund implementation of the 2016 Air Quality Management Plan, ensuring we finally meet federal clean air standards and achieve major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
To succeed Move LA needs to identify and come together with regional partners to create a new regional coalition, which we hope to call Move SoCal—if our partners agree!
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Think back to 2006. Worsening traffic congestion in LA County was on everyone's mind, and all over the media.
In response, a local coalition convened by Move LA worked to convince LA Metro and LA Mayor Villaraigosa to give voters an opportunity to invest in a dramatic enhancement of the county's transit systems, a ballot measure that won approval with 67.9% of the vote. LA Metro under Mayor Garcetti's leadership returned to the ballot in November 2016 with Measure M, which also extended Measure R. Voters said Yes by 71.1%, providing LA Metro with $120 billion over the next 40 years.
During this same period downtown Los Angeles has undergone a remarkable revival, recreating a real urban core for the region. And the digital and high-tech industries have seen opportunity to expand to LA.
Is LA on a roll?
Maybe. Maybe not.
New industries arrive and create prosperity for some. Yet a housing affordability crisis has ensued and created displacement, uncertainty and homelessness. Many of the people who are working full-time cannot afford to make rent. More than 50,000 people are living on the streets in LA County. Traffic congestion has not ebbed, and transit ridership is way down, despite voter support for solutions.
Is this a Tale of Two Counties?
Transit ridership falls because of fare increases and service cuts: Job losses during the Great Recession combined with fare increases and service cuts lead to an 11% transit ridership decline from 2010-2015.
Transit ridership continues to fall because of rising housing costs: New industries bring new high-income residents. LA County housing costs rise. Gentrification, displacement and an increase in homelessness follow.
Regional and global transportation-related challenges reach the tipping point: Air pollution, climate change and traffic congestion threaten regional health and prosperity.
The decline in LA County transit ridership has prompted many theories about the reasons why—from Lyft and Uber to cheaper gas prices to an increase in car ownership among new immigrants. We, however, have a different take on why ridership has declined, and explain our rationale HERE, with numbers to back up our POV. But as importantly, we have some ideas about how we can rebuild ridership while also serving populations that would really benefit from more, better service.Read more
When Phil Washington, CEO of the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, asked that we “Re-Imagine Los Angeles”—as his proposal to the Metro Board last December is now called—he linked the possibility of introducing congestion pricing with making transit free and more frequent in LA County.
While the idea of drivers having to pay to drive in some places at some times may alarm more than some Angelenos, the idea that the revenue could be used to make transit free and frequent is intriguing, to say the least. It suggests maybe we can eradicate congestion without waiting for land use changes (more housing near jobs and transit, etc.) to get us there, and fix Metro’s declining ridership. This has never been tried in the U.S.
Congestion pricing was originally proposed in response to a request from Metro’s Board of Directors that CEO Washington find a way to pay for the acceleration of 8 of the 28 projects the board wants completed before the 2028 Olympics, at a cost of $26.2 billion. The other 20 projects were already scheduled for completion by 2028.
But concerns have been expressed about both congestion pricing and completing 28 projects by 2028, in part because pricing could hit low-income drivers hard. Metro and its boardmembers have all committed to prioritizing equity should congestion pricing be implemented, though how that will be done has not been decided.
Free and frequent transit—and an expanded bus system—could be an antidote, with attendant benefits including reduced GHG emissions, and relief from the public health burden on residents who live near heavily trafficked freeways as well as the public safety threat to pedestrians and bicyclists.
The interest expressed by the LA Times and by Metro’s Board of Directors, with caveats of course, indicates that free and more frequent transit might be the sugar that could make the medicine of congestion pricing go down. The Metro Board voted last week to move forward with a 12-24 month study.
Move LA spoke with CEO Washington on Feb. 12. These are some of the things he said in the interview:
“It’s mind-blowing to think about what congestion pricing could allow us to do. The sky would be the limit. It’s not a money grab. We also have to think also of the environmental and public health benefits. I simply do not see a downside to saying yes to congestion pricing.”
“A lot of people have expressed concerns about the equity impacts, and yes I wholeheartedly support making equity the front and center issue. But it’s very important that people understand there’s nothing equitable about the current transportation system. Cars are very expensive to own and operate. And it’s black and brown low-income people who breathe in the most emissions from freeways. Moreover, low-income people work 2 or sometimes 3 jobs to make ends meet, and traffic congestion makes that very difficult.”
“I am convinced the best way to get rid of traffic congestion is through congestion pricing. Only a few cities in the world have tried it. When London began congestion pricing it was opposed by 70% of the people. Now that it’s been in place for several years 80% support it.”
“This really is an opportunity to change the way we live in Los Angeles. The revenue stream could be large enough—depending on the type of congestion pricing and how widely we employ it—that it could also fund free transit. And it would guide drivers—and employers—toward the right decisions about when to get on the road.”
“Reducing congestion is part of our mission as a transit agency. This strategy can make it possible for us to achieve our mission. But the other half of the congestion equation is providing the transit alternative. Which we are able to do because of Measure M.”
“It’s clear that this plan to move forward has to be phased in, beginning with a study and then a pilot project. Because I fully believe that—as in London—the pilot will be so successful that people will want more.”
“Once congestion pricing is implemented the next step will be to increase transit options and make transit free. Together with congestion pricing this will help make biking and walking safer and reduce air pollutions and GHG emissions—which might be considered unintended but critically important benefits as well as an inheritance to leave for our children. We have built the greatest transportation infrastructure in the world, which helped make our nation great, but we have not continued to update and take care of it.”
“Free transit would also start with a pilot. Maybe it could begin with seniors and people with disabilities. Maybe we could provide free transit for community college students. We did make transit free on election day last November and during the teachers’ strike, and in the past we have made it free on Earth Day. Each time we netted a ridership increase of about 6-7%. Transportation is the 2nd highest household expenditure after the rent or mortgage. So making transit free would have a real impact.”
“At Metro we have been thinking about congestion pricing for a long time—we recommended an exploration in our Strategic Vision Plan, approved by the board last year. It’s one reason I created the Office of Extraordinary Innovation, and they will write the scope for a feasibility study. If the board says ‘Go’ on February 28—and the board has been, for the most part, supportive—we’ll start exploring the options, which could yield between $12 billion and as much as $104 billion over a decade, depending on what kind of congestion pricing, how much it costs, and how widely it is deployed.”
“We are the most populous county in America, we own the most vehicles, and we are innovative—no other agency has partnered with the private sector on microtransit and partnerships such as the one we’ve just begun with Getaround, a car-sharing program to help people get to and from 37 stations. We’re making scooters part of our first-last-mile strategy. And we are committed to setting standards including a guaranteed 20-minute ride from downtown LA to LAX. We are committed to stepping into a big leadership void in transportation when it comes to congestion. It is our mission.”
Please join us at the Conference Center of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on March 1 in downtown Los Angeles! This is the event where we built the coalition and momentum to pass both Measures R (2008) and M (2016), and this year we have another proposition—a 4-county ballot measure to dump diesel and conquer climate change! (Note LA Mayor Eric Garcetti once said we stage the biggest panels in the known universe!) Register HERE.
7:30 a.m. NETWORKING w/delicious hot breakfast + coffee = reason to come on over early! (See menu below!)
8:30 a.m. WELCOME Move LA Director Denny Zane and Board Chair Marlene Grossman
9:00 a.m. KEYNOTE LA Metro CEO Phil Washington on congestion pricing, free transit and more!
9:20 a.m. PANEL#1 REBUILDING TRANSIT RIDERSHIP IN LA COUNTY CA Sen. Ben Allen (Chair, Environmental Quality) • CA Sen. Holly Mitchell (Chair, Senate Budget) • Asm. Chris Holden, (Chair, Asm. Utilities and Energy) • Mike Fong (President, LA Community College District Board of Trustees) • Margaret Quinones-Perez (Chair, Santa Monica College Board of Trustees) • UCLA Professor Emeritus Donald Shoup • UCLA graduate student Romel Lopez • Devon Deming (Director, LA Metro Commute Services) • Stephanie Ramirez (AARP Associate State Director) • Lillibeth Navarro (Executive Director, CALIF) • Brandi Orton (Government Relations Director, St. Barnabus Senior Services)
10:45 a.m. BREAK
10:45 a.m. PANEL#2 PROTECTING AND BUILDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING NEAR TRANSIT W/O DISPLACEMENT Cynthia Strathmann (Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, SAJE) • Mariana Huerta Jones (Alliance for Community Transit Los Angeles, ACT-LA) • Natalie Hernandez (Climate Resolve) • Larry Kosmont (Kosmont Companies) • Cecilia Estolano (Estolano LeSar Advisors) • Sue Himmelrich (Western Center on Law and Poverty)
12 Noon LUNCH KEYNOTES: CA Sen. Kevin de Leon (former CA Senate President Pro Tem) • Mary Nichols (Chair, California Air Resources Board)
12:30 p.m. PANEL#3 VISION 2020: DUMP DIESEL, CONQUER CLIMATE CHANGE, ENHANCE METROLINK & CLEAN TRANSIT ACROSS REGION CA Sen. Fran Pavley (Ret.) • Stephanie Wiggins (CEO, Metrolink) • Ron Miller (Executive Secretary, LA-OC Building & Construction Trades Council) • Danny Curtin (Director, California Council of Carpenters) • Cesar Diaz (Legislative & Political Director, CA State Building Trades) • John Hakel (Director, SoCal Partnership for Jobs) • John Boesel (President & CEO, Calstart) • David Grannis (Founder & CEO, pointC, LLC) • Joe Lyou (President & CEO, Coalition for Clean Air and Governor's Appointee to the South Coast Air Quality Management District's Governing Board) • Marc Carrel (President & CEO of BREATHE California of LA and also of Emphysema Foundation of America) • Adrian Martinez (Staff Attorney, Earth Justice) • mark! Lopez (Executive Director, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice) • Quentin Foster (Director of California Climate, Environmental Defense Fund) • Dawn Wilson (Manager of Air, Climate & Transportation Electrification Policy, SoCal Edison) • Tanya Peacock (Public Policy & Planning Manager, SoCal Gas) • Todd Campbell (VP of Public Policy & Regulatory Affairs, Clean Energy Fuels) • Rory Stewart (Policy & Program Associate, LA Business Council) • Tracy Hernandez (CEO of BizFed).
2:30-3 p.m. CLOSING REMARKS
*Breakfast menu: Seasonal fresh fruit, fluffy scrambled eggs, breakfast potatoes, crispy bacon, scones & assorted pastries, butter and preserves, orange juice, freshly brewed coffee and assortment of teas.
Here we go dreaming big again. It's what we do. This is version 17 of our Vision 2020 Straw Man. We had 33 versions of our Measure M Straw Man. Call or email us and weigh in on what you think should be different.