Move LA and our partners statewide have been meeting with legislators since January to discuss the urgent need to fund frequent and reliable transit service. We’ve met with key leaders in the Governor’s office, the State Senate, Assembly budget staff and other legislators, and transit riders, bus and rail operators, and transit advocates have all made the case for discounted fares and funding for the expansion of active transportation and for public transit infrastructure, and fair wages for operators. And our efforts have paid off!
The Governor’s May Revision to the FY 22-23 Budget includes $750 million in grants for transit operators to offer everyone free transit for 3 months, as well as $9.6 billion for transportation infrastructure—including $1.25 billion for active transportation. Billions more from the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill (IIJA) is coming, and we are working to ensure the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) dedicates some of this funding for complete streets, transit and active transportation too.
But that isn’t all. We think there is an even bigger opportunity with such a historic surplus to fund a successful effort in Los Angeles that attracts riders back to the transit system. We learned this week about the astounding success of LA Metro’s Fareless System Initiative and its GoPass program, which makes transit free for K-12 and community college students.
The program is attracting 5,000 new student riders per week—students have taken 3 million trips since the program was launched last October—and 88 percent of riders are low-income, and a majority are Black and Latino youth! We take some of the credit for the success of Metro’s GoPass program since we began working with Metro in 2015 to develop a program similar to this, and our Just Transit student pass pilot in a South LA high school was the model for how a program could work.
LA Metro’s GoPass success is why we are once again working to create a California “Youth Pass” for every person 25 and under in the state of California. It will be our fifth try over a period of five years (not including the 2 years of COVID when the legislature was mostly shut down) of sponsoring legislation to create this type of program, and we are pleased to once again be working once again with Asm. Chris Holden, now chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Our new fare-free youth pass bill, AB 1919, got off the Assembly floor yesterday, May 26, with no opposition and is headed to the Senate Transportation Committee next! We'll keep you posted on the progress of this important bill—which will "grow" transit riders, maybe for life!—and keep you apprised what's happening next and what you can do to help ensure the success of this bill.
AB 1919 would create a five-year pilot program that would help offset the costs of the California Youth Transit Pass, a fare-free pass for youth 25 years or younger who live in California, regardless of immigration status. The program will remove socioeconomic barriers and make it easier for students to get to school, to work and to other activities, meantime reducing absenteeism and GHG emissions and increasing access to opportunity and quality of life.
We don’t need any more studies proving that climate change is here. Transportation emissions are having a major impact on climate change in California, and AB 1919 together with the funding already dedicated in the budget for maintaining transit service and paying operators fairly is a cost-effective public policy that will expand access to transit.