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learn / 2015

Universal Student Transit Passes for LA Community Colleges

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Move LA, a project of Community Partners

With the cost of education going up and the economic fortunes of families going down, students need a break. We’re working with LA Metro and community colleges in LA County to build support for prepaid fare-free student transit passes to: 1) make it easier and cheaper for students to get to school and jobs; 2) reduce traffic, driving and GHG emissions; 3) fill empty seats on transit and reduce the operating cost per ride; 4) encourage life-long ridership, and 5) make it easier to learn!


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Conduct research
  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Mobilize for systems change
  • Advocate with policymakers and leaders
  • Advocate for government agency (LA Metro) to launch a pilot project

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics?

  • Percent of community college students completing a certificate, degree, or transfer-related program in six years
  • Youth unemployment and underemployment
  • College matriculation rates
  • Students perceived sense of safety at and on the way to school (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.

LA is building transformational transit projects—an effort in which Move LA plays a significant role—and we are interested in creating a “transit-responsive” culture where people think about transit when deciding where to live, work, shop and play. Fertile ground for this lies with college students, so we are proposing a campaign to provide students with fare-free universal transit passes that are pre-paid from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), possibly air quality programs, and a very small increase in student registration fees.

This is a win-win-win-win! Programs like this across the US have demonstrated dramatic increases in student transit ridership and significant reductions in student driving, the need for campus parking, traffic congestion, air pollution and GHG emissions. Because students can fill empty seats on transit, these transit passes would boost overall ridership and reduce the cost per rider for the transit agency. With our transit expansion, a program like this now could create transit riders for life!

We’d like all 26 transit operators in LA County to offer universal transit passes to all college and university students. But community colleges may be the best place to start because most students commute, would likely use transit and stay local after graduation. More than 400,000 students attend 21 community colleges in LA County. Many come from the poorest neighborhoods and some commute as much as 30 hours a week to several campuses to get the classes they need. 75% work at least part-time and don’t carry a full load of classes, so they don’t qualify for LA Metro’s discounted student pass, which requires fulltime status. That leaves the students with the biggest financial challenges paying full fare ($1.75/ride or $100/month).

Our project would address several LEARN metrics. By making it easier and cheaper to get to school and work, it could increase matriculation rates and the number of students who complete college in 6 years. For students who must choose between spending the little money they have on either bus fare or lunch, a transit pass could save them from getting a ticket and a big fine, which might lead to quitting school. By putting more jobs within geographic reach, it could address unemployment and under-employment. If more students walk in groups between school and transit stops, it could enhance safety. School is hard enough. Move LA believes getting to and from school shouldn’t make it harder.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

We will consider our work a success if LA Metro institutes a pilot project on pre-paid, fare-free, universal, student transit passes with at least three community colleges. We will also evaluate our process of bringing students, colleges and transit agencies together to craft a pilot project that works for all of them. For example, we would expect to: • Meet with at least five community college student body presidents • Meet with at least five community college leadership staff • Draw at least 150 students to the conference in January • Hold briefings on at least two campuses (at the joint request of students and administration)
• Hold at least three meetings of a coordinating body of at least 10 people to chart strategy together • Develop and maintain a strong working relationship with LA Metro staff • Create a “Street Team” of 10 students at three to five campuses to use social media to increase interest in transit passes.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support