MTA board votes to extend GoPass Pilot Program

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The board of directors of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority voted April 25 to extended the GoPass Pilot Program, which offers free rides for students, through June 2025.

The board voted unanimously to extend the pilot, and also approved a motion to make it permanent. According to documents, the program is expected to cost $23.5 million in the 2024-25 fiscal year.

GoPass provides a free transit pass intended to help lower students’ overall educational costs and improve their academic performance by providing them with reliable transportation to attend schools, get to work, medical appointments and enjoy leisure activities. It is good for students in kindergarten through 12th grade as well as community college students.

First implemented in 2021, the program has grown with 123 school districts and more than 1,400 schools participating in the program. The program was expected to end in June 2023, but the board approved a one-year extension through June 30, 2024 — and it was extended once again last week.

To cover the cost, which is already split between the transit agency and participating school districts, the MTA will look to secure additional funding at the state and federal levels.

At the state level, the MTA is looking into AB 610 to acquire state funding for student transit passes, and AB 181, which offers Home to School Transportation reimbursement up to 60%, and last, Transformative Climate Communities Grants, which fund infrastructure projects that benefit California’s most disadvantaged communities.

On the federal side, the agency is looking to receive $4 million from a Reconnecting Communities Grant, as well as renewing its grant for $1 million through the Congressional Directed Funding to help expand the GoPass program to all community colleges in Los Angeles County.

“It’s an obvious tool for both expanding ridership and helping kids actually get to school,” board member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker said during the April 25 meeting.

She also acknowledged that there are some schools that struggle to participate because of its cost. Dupont-Walker said she hopes the agency will look into implementing an equitable solution to ensure lower-income schools can participate and benefit from the program.

L.A. Mayor Karen Bass, chair of the board, had previously introduced a motion calling for the program to be made permanent.

Her motion instructed an analysis of the pilot, which will also examine possible funding sources to offset the program’s cost to the agency, identify barriers to cost sharing for schools that have less money compared to those who can afford it, and the program’s impact on ridership, as well as student outcomes.

The MTA also will look at expanding its Low-Income-Fare-is-Easy Program, which offers discounts to low-income riders. A report is expected to come back to the board by the end of June.

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