Metro to explore proposal to eliminate fares for all bus, train riders, LA County officials announce

"Fare-free transit will help essential workers, moms and dads, students, seniors and riders with disabilities," Metro's CEO said.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new Metropolitan Transportation Authority exploratory task force will begin working next week on a proposal to eliminate fares for all riders on Metro buses and trains, Los Angeles County officials announced Thursday.

In a statement, Metro said the group will deliver a plan to the agency's CEO and board of directors by the end of the year as part of the Fareless System Initiative, or FSI. The proposal is expected to include possible funding scenarios and sources.

No other large transit system in the world has gone entirely fareless, according to Metro.

"LA Metro has a moral obligation to pursue a fareless system and help our region recover from both a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic and the devastating effects of the lack of affordability in the region," Metro CEO Phil Washington said. "Fare-free transit will help essential workers, moms and dads, students, seniors and riders with disabilities."

Washington said a fare-free transit would greatly increase transit ridership, take a noticeable number of cars off the road, help create more public spaces that better serve the majority of people and improve air quality.

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The median household income of its riders is about $17,975 for bus riders and $27,723 for rail riders, according to a Metro customer survey conducted last fall.

Following Thursday's announcement, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti backed so-called Operation FSI in a statement.

"I support fare-free public transit in Los Angeles, and in my role as Metro Board Chair, I'm working with @MetroLosAngeles CEO and team to bring that vision to fruition in 2021," Garcetti said on Twitter. "This is an important step toward a more equitable and sustainable future."

The task force will look at obtaining grants and re-prioritizing Metro funds, such as revenues from advertising or sponsorships that could be put toward eliminating fares, and it will examine possible effects fareless transit would have on other transportation agencies in the county.

In fiscal year 2019, which ended before the coronavirus pandemic, Metro collected between $250 million and $300 million in fares but had $1.9 billion in operating costs, a recovery of about 13%. That percentage has been in decline for the past 20 years and is expected to decline further as operating costs rise, the agency said.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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