By Raymond Nava
Assembly Bill 1919 was passed by the California State Assembly’s Committee on Transportation on April 4. AB1919 would require all transit agencies that receive state funding to provide free transportation to people who are 25 years old or younger. The bill was passed through the committee unanimously with bipartisan support.
AB1919 was introduced by Assemblyman Chris Holden. Under AB1919, the following agencies would need to comply with the change: the State Transit Assistance Program and the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program.
Functionally, these transportation agencies would be required to provide aforementioned individuals with free transit passes.
The legislative text of AB1919 specifies that local authorities, school districts and colleges would be required “to maintain their funding for free or reduced fare youth transit as provided in the 2018-19 fiscal year.”
AB1919 would require that passes be given to individuals who meet the criteria, regardless of immigration status.
The passes would be treated as full-price fares for the purpose of determining the amount the state would need to reimburse transit agencies as a result of AB1919.
The transit agencies would initially provide passes to individuals 25 years old or younger out of their own operating budget. They would then be entitled to reimbursements the next time the appropriation process begins.
Funds used to support this would come from the regular state appropriation process.
Holden said that transportation is an issue that relates to student success.
In a press release from his office regarding the bill’s passage in committee, Holden said, “We need to create a pathway to success for the students of today by reducing the barrier of transit.”
In a study published by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, it found that transportation use was strongly associated with individuals who could be classified as being of “student status.”
Three main points stick out from the study. The study said about 8% of people who are 18 years old or younger use many forms of transportation daily.
When widening the scope, the number jumps to 25% of youth that use it at least monthly.
The study said mass transit is depended upon by individuals aged 16-30 on a disproportionate scale.
AB1919 would allocate roughly $115 million for the creation of the free transit passes so transit agencies who may be struggling won’t have to add another financial burden their plate.
One other benefit, that may or may not be intentional, is that if AB1919 leads to more individuals using these agencies, the state could choose to increase funding for them.
This is funding in addition to the standard amount received during the normal appropriation process.
AB1919 still has a long way to go before it becomes a law, as it has only made it out of committee.
The bill will need to pass the full Assembly and the State Senate before it heads to the Governor’s desk.
Supporters of the bill may find it encouraging it was passed in committee on a unanimous bipartisan vote. This increases the odds that it could become a law.