LOS ANGELES — The public transit system serving the second-largest city in the U.S. is looking into providing free transportation to all K-12 students.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro’s) board of directors approved a motion in its Jan. 23 board meeting for a study on the potential program. At the board's direction, Metro’s CEO, Phillip A. Washington; officials from Los Angeles Unified School District (USD) and other school districts in Los Angeles County; and officials from local municipalities and the state will conduct research and submit a report by April 2020 on offering the service to young students for free.
The report would include data on existing free transit services offered to students, such as the City of Los Angeles’s DASH to Class program, Metro’s Just Transit pilot with Los Angeles USD and other school districts. It would also provide cost estimates and information on potential funding; the impact on ridership, service, and fare revenues; and results from school district surveys that would determine students’ interest in public transit and transit dependency.
LAist reports that transit agency officials said that offering free rides to all schoolchildren in Los Angeles County could potentially increase school attendance, improve mobility, alleviate traffic congestion, and “instill an appreciation for public transit in a new generation of riders.”
The motion, according to the news source, was initially titled “Free Transit for Los Angeles Unified School District Students." Although some board members were opposed to approving a report that didn't take into consideration students countywide, others, along with two L.A. city councilmen, said that the study should first research the district to determine whether it is feasible to expand such a program to other districts.
Austin Beutner, the superintendent of Los Angeles USD, told the transit agency’s board of directors that many of the district’s schools serve impoverished families and that the ability to afford a bus pass could stand in the way of a student’s access to education, LAist reports.
Beutner also asked the board to consider allowing Los Angeles USD’s school buses to use Metro's dedicated bus lanes to help reduce students’ commute times, according to the news source.