Metro Student Fareless Started Today, But Not for LAUSD Students

Mayor Garcetti announcing LAUSD studens [sic] ride free starting today - via KTLA5
Mayor Garcetti announcing LAUSD studens [sic] ride free starting today - via KTLA5
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It’s October 1 – the first day of Metro’s student “fareless” pilot program. Except it kind of isn’t.

Metro’s Fareless Service Initiative was first announced in August 2020; at that time Metro planned to “eliminate fares for all riders” starting in early 2020. Since then, FSI was trimmed to an initial phase that includes only students. Last week, the Metro board approved starting the student fareless pilot on October 1. (In some Metro announcements, the pilot is said to have launched in August 2021, which appears to be the date the program began test-service at three smaller school districts and three charter schools.)

Today, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, other Metro leaders, and LAUSD leaders staged a press event announcing the start of Metro’s student fareless pilot.

For participating school districts, students with student TAP cards ride free now through June 2023.

According to the Metro Fareless System Initiative webpage, the following districts are currently participating:

  • California School of the Arts – San Gabriel Valley (Duarte)
  • Centinela Valley Unified
  • Culver City Unified School District
  • Los Angeles Academy of the Arts and Enterprise (LAAAE)
  • Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)
  • North Valley Military Institute
  • YouthBuild Charter Schools

LAUSD is the largest school district in the county by an order of magnitude, so it’s a good thing that they’re part of the pilot.

My daughter just happens to be an LAUSD elementary school student. Even though the process for getting a student TAP card is somewhat cumbersome, she has one. Earlier today, I figured I would see for myself how the free student pilot was working, so I walked to the nearest Metro station and tapped my daughter’s student TAP card. Metro deducted a dollar from the card… so existing LAUSD student TAP card holders can’t ride free – yet. (Since the early days of COVID-19, Metro buses have been free for everyone – though that is set to end on January 10, 2022.)

The Metro student fares webpage currently has nothing about the student fareless pilot. When SBLA noted this on Twitter, Metro spokesperson Anna Chen responded that information is on the Metro Fareless Service Initiative webpage. That page has about 200 words, including :

…students ride transit without the worry of paying fare

Students attending participating schools can ride Metro and other participating systems wherever they need to go – to and from school, and for trips after school and on weekends, with no requirements on days or times for use

But the new fareless initiative requires students to obtain a student TAP card… and the page has no information for students or their parents on how to actually go about riding Metro for free.

Streetsblog has an email inquiry in to Metro about how and when LAUSD student free rides will work. Streetsblog will update this post when Metro responds.

At presstime Friday afternoon, Metro tweeted that “students will receive a special FSI TAP card from their participating school and register it on the FSI Web Portal following the instructions in the materials provided with the cards.” No word on who students or parents should inquire to at their LAUSD school.

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