Students seek funding for student transit passes after Gov. Newsom vetoes AB 1919

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Wednesday September 14, 2022

Students and advocates from across California expressed disappointment after Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 1919 (Holden) late Tuesday. AB 1919 would have allowed any K-12, community college or university student in California to take public transit for free. It passed both the State Senate and the Assembly with only one NO vote.

“It is time for the Governor and the Legislature to ‘get on the bus’ with free public transit for all California’s students,” said Eli Lipmen, Executive Director of Move LA. “Assembly Bill 1919 would create the next generation of transit riders and help achieve our state’s social equity and climate goals.”

 

Move LA has been urging the Legislature and governor to make transit free or to discount student passes for a decade, and during that time Move LA worked with LA Metro, now in the second year of its highly successful Fareless System Initiative (FSI) program that makes transit free for K-12 and community college students.

“Assembly Bill 1919 would mean that any California student—from kindergarten through graduate school—won't have to worry about access to transportation,” said Tamarah Minami, founder of Youth for Climate Justice. “While we are disappointed that Governor Newsom vetoed this bill, it is the legislature that refused to fund this program, despite our repeated requests, and instead funded billions in tax relief for households earning up to $500,000. That is not in line with their promises to prioritize climate solutions, and low income families.”

Despite a historic budget and $9.5 billion in tax refunds to Californian households earning as much as $500,000 a year, advocates were surprised the California Legislature could not find $126 million to fund the fare-free transit pass program for a year.

Move LA and coalition supporters, who spent a significant amount of time this year asking legislators to fund student transit passes, will now request funding in the FY2023 Budget as well as for support of Proposition 30. Prop 30 is a statewide initiative on the November 2022 ballot that will raise $100 billion over 20 years to address climate change and the clean air problem and includes funding that would be eligible to be used for transit pass programs like the one outlined in AB 1919. 

AB 1919 is supported by a broad coalition of California transit agencies, community colleges, nonprofit organizations, unionized student employees, the LA County and San Diego County Board of Supervisors, and individual students. The support is very strong because AB 1919 would have addressed several issues:

  • the difficulty transit agencies are having as they try to rebuild ridership post-COVID 
  • it would have helped low-income families who struggle with rising inflation because they would no longer need to give students money to get to and from school
  • studies have shown that free transit increases the likelihood that students will graduate from both high school and from community colleges.

Many of the bill’s supporters work with low-income families and disadvantaged communities and/or are concerned about the threat posed by climate change because transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (about 50%) and we need to reduce traffic and make our streets safer for walking and biking.

But the biggest value of fare-free programs for students is that the increase in educational opportunities. For example, Rio Hondo College in Whittier found community college graduation rates are up to 27% higher for students who receive free transit passes, and a comprehensive national study by the Kresge Foundation found that addressing transportation barriers for low-income students and students of color enrolled in 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities “can also be a solution to address equity in college completion.”

AB 1919 would also improve social welfare and reduce poverty. A Harvard study found that location and access to transit was the single biggest factor in the odds of escaping poverty and avoiding homelessness, and an MIT study found that discounted fare programs for low-income individuals resulted in more trips, particularly to health care and social services. This is why Los Angeles County, San Diego County, and now a new Clipper program in the Bay Area are all experimenting with fare-free transit for students.

“We will not stop asking legislators to recognize that access to public transit is a cost-effective way to alleviate poverty, improve educational outcomes, and address low transit ridership and high-car usage in California,” said Thea Selby, Trustee for the City College of San Francisco.

  • Gloria Ohland
    published this page in Blog 2022-09-15 16:30:36 -0700

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