Asm. Chris Holden's AB 1919—to make transit free for all students in California—awaits a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Sen. Anthony Portantino, on Aug. 1. Sen. Portantino, who represents LA County's foothills from Sunland-Tujunga to the City of Upland in San Bernardino County where there are many schools and colleges, is an important figure in deciding whether transit will be free.
There are seven senators on the committee (five are from Southern California), who will be considering a long list of some 400-500 bills that "impose a state-mandated program," which AB 1919 would do.
We believe student transit pass programs are one of the best returns on the investment of public dollars and will convince students that transit is an important means of transportation and a great way to save money. It also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions since vehicles on California's roads are responsible for more than half of California's GHGs.
The Appropriations committee is a difficult hurdle because there are so many bills being considered, but one very compelling thing you can tell committee members is the amazing success of LA Metro's Fareless System Initiative (FSI). This free-fare program for K-12 and community college students in LA County began in October 2021 and has been very successful, even in spite of COVID and its variants:
- last May FSI was attracting about 5,000 new riders a week (fewer now because school is out for the summer)
- students have taken more than 5 million trips since the program began (and Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins has set a goal of 15 million trips by July 2023)
- more than 700,000 TAP cards have been provided to students (which provide access to both trains and buses).
We urge you to call or write to these committee members and tell them to support AB 1919. You can do that by phone—all you have to do is call the phone numbers on the Take Action page and speak to whomever answers. You will only be asked for your name, where you live, and the bill that you are supporting—you can explain why you support it but it's not necessary. Or you can just write to committee members using the links to their offices or the comment form at the bottom of that page (it's really easy and brief).
Committee members besides Sen. Portantino include Sen. Patricia Bates (vice chair), representing parts of Orange and San Diego counties; Sen. Stephen Bradford, representing a dozen cities around the ports of LA and Long Beach; Sen. Brian Jones, representing parts of San Diego County; Sen. Sydney Kamlager, representing cities from Century City to South LA; Sen. John Laird, representing Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo Counties; and Sen. Bob Wieckowski, whose district encompasses the central and southern portions of the East Bay and South Bay in Northern California.