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Transportation and Mobility

LAUSD Students Can Ride LA Metro Trains And Buses For Free — Once Their TAP Cards Arrive

A train departs a station in the foreground as the Los Angeles skyline is visible in the distance.
An Expo Line light rail train on Los Angeles' westside.
(Courtesy L.A. Metro)
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K-12 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will soon be able to ride L.A. Metro and several other transit lines for free.

LAUSD has sealed a deal with the county's transit agency to join its fareless transit pilot program. As part of that deal, the school district will pay Metro $3 per student each year of the program, which runs through June 2023. That works out to about $2.8 million in total.

Several other local transit operators — including Culver City, Norwalk, DASH, Montebello and Santa Monica — will also be free for students.

With roughly 435,000 students currently enrolled, LAUSD will be the largest district to participate, but it won't be alone. Six other local school districts have signed on to participate, and more are expected to join in the coming weeks.

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LAUSD Interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly called the program "a game changer."

“Our commitment in providing free transportation will expand our students’ world views," Reilly said in a news release. "They’ll be able to access additional educational opportunities such as internships, employment and other meaningful experiences and recreational activities outside of their immediate neighborhoods.”

While today, Oct. 1, is being touted as the launch of the pilot, students can’t technically ride free yet, because Metro still needs to send out hundreds of thousands of TAP cards. Agency spokesperson Dave Sotero told me:

Metro is sending [TAP] cards to Los Angeles Unified in weekly shipments and we will begin distributing [TAP] cards to students later this month and continue until all students who want to participate have received a card.

How To Register

The website to register student TAP cards is taptogo.net/fareless.

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Students ages 13 and older can register their TAP cards themselves, according to an LAUSD spokesperson, but students 12 and under will need a parent or guardian to register for them.

LAUSD's deal with Metro includes "affiliated charter schools," the spokesperson said, but independent charter schools that wish to participate will have to join the cost-sharing program independently.

Here’s where things get a bit cluttered for student riders:

Right now, Metro bus trips are technically free for all riders because the agency stopped collecting those fares amid the pandemic.

However, Metro plans to resume bus fare collection on its buses in Jan. 2022 — though by then LAUSD students and those from other participating K-12 schools and community colleges should have their TAP cards to ride free of charge, if Metro's card distribution plan goes well.

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Fares are currently being collected on Metro rail lines, so those trips will be free to eligible students — once they receive and register their TAP cards.

You can read more about the fareless transit pilot — and Metro’s work to possibly expand it — in the stories linked below.

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Updated October 4, 2021 at 2:57 PM PDT
This story was updated with more details from LAUSD on how to register student TAP cards online and which charter schools qualify under the district's agreement.