The Long Beach Transit’s board of directors voted today to let students attending K-12 schools and community colleges in the city to ride for free in an 18-month pilot program.

Transit chairman Michael Clemson called the program “really exciting.” Transit Director Sumire Gant noted that while the program doesn’t pay for parents to use transit, “at least we’re paying for the kids.”

Mayor Robert Garcia expressed “enthusiastic support” for the transit’s participation in the program through a letter read aloud during the public comment portion of the Nov. 2 transit board meeting.

“This is a great first step,” Garcia said. “I’m pleased to see this move forward.”

With the vote, Long Beach will join Los Angeles Metro’s Farefree System Initiative, which was started in August 2020 as a way to provide free transit services to low-income riders, who make up about 70% of Metro’s ridership. The program will last 18 months, according to Long Beach Transit President and CEO Kenneth McDonald.

The program will start in two to three months, according to a Long Beach Transit staff report.

Approximately 36% of Long Beach Transit users are students, according to a 2020 survey. The K-12 school districts located within Long Beach Transit’s service area include Long Beach Unified School District, Paramount Unified, Bellflower Unified, Los Alamitos Unified and Los Angeles Unified.

Long Beach City College, Compton College and Cerritos College also fall within Long Beach Transit’s service area. The program doesn’t include Cal State Long Beach.

Long Beach Transit officials said school districts and transit agencies that participate in the program will pay for it. Implementation of the student fare-free system would lead to a loss of $3.5 million in revenue, though that would also be covered by federal funding, according to transit officials. Transit anticipates an additional $150,000 in funding from participating school districts.

Staff writer Sebastian Echeverry contributed to this story.

Long Beach Transit to consider giving students free rides

Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.