LA Metro to study possibility of eliminating all fares

CEO says he views elimination of fares as economic tool, chance to greatly increase ridership
RELATED TOPICS: TRANSIT | LIGHT RAIL | LA METRO | CALIFORNIA
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An LA Metro light rail vehicle passes a Metrolink trainset at LA Union Station. Metro's CEO said Thursday that the agency will study the possibility of eliminating all fares; one aspect of that study will be considering the impact on other LA-area transit systems.
TRAINS: David Lassen

LA Metro will study the possibility of eliminating all bus and light rail fares, CEO Phil Washington told Thursday’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors. If adopted, the proposal would make Metro the world’s largest transit system to go entirely fareless. A blog post on Metro’s website says Washington presented the idea as an economic development tool to improve mobility, put money back in the pockets of people recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and greatly increase ridership.

“Fare-free transit will help essential workers, moms and dads, students, seniors and riders with disabilities,” Washington told the blog. “I view this as something that could change the life trajectory of millions of people and families in L.A. County, the most populous county in America.”

The task force studying the plan is to report back to Washington and the Metro board by the end of 2020. Among the topics it will consider are:

— Possible local, state, or federal grants that might help pay for fare-free operation, as well as reallocation of Metro funds from sources like advertising or sponsorships.

— Potential impact on other transit agencies in Los Angeles county, both in terms of ridership and allocation of state and local funding.

— The current cost of fare collection in terms of equipment, staff, and enforcement.

— The impact of a fareless system on ridership and the riders experience, service levels and operations, and car traffic.

In fiscal 2019, the agency collected between $250 million and $300 million in fares, recovering about 13% of its annual operating budget.

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