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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Class Act: An Assessment of Los Angeles Metro's U-Pass Program

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In 2016, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) introduced the Universal College Student Transit Pass (U-Pass), its reduced transit fare pass program for college and university students, with the expressed goal of increasing student transit ridership. An increase in college student transit ridership has great potential in Los Angeles County, where public transit ridership is declining, traffic congestion is worsening, and over one million students are enrolled in postsecondary education at public institutions. Researchers have found that reduced transit fare pass programs for university students are successful in increasing student transit use, generally with modest operational costs imposed on transit agencies. Is this true for U-Pass? A relatively young program, U-Pass raises questions for Metro staff about added costs and service demand on Metro buses and trains in exchange for increased ridership and student savings. Using ridership and survey data from the first two years of U-Pass, this research explores the relationships between U-Pass and student transit ridership, service demand and operating costs, and fare revenue.

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