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Bill to give free transit to students vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would allow free public transit, including buses (pictured), for California students. Newsom said he felt the bill did not have enough funding allocations. (Justin Jung/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Jessica Gonzalez

Oct. 14, 2022 12:13 a.m.

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill in September that would have allowed many California students to ride public transit for free.

The proposed Assembly Bill 1919 would have allocated funds for transit agencies to provide students attending K-12 schools, California community colleges, California State Universities or University of California campuses with free transit passes.

In the bill’s veto decision, Newsom said that although he agrees with the bill’s goal of supporting public transit, there is not an allocation of funding in the current state budget to finance the proposed grant program. Additionally, he said in the statement, California should seek to emphasize other priorities in the state budget such as education and public safety.

Madeline Brozen, the deputy director for the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, said public transportation is important for Los Angeles especially, as the city has one of the largest ridership populations in the United States. High levels of public transit use have persisted even during the pandemic, as low-wage workers demonstrated a continual need for transit services to get to work, she added.

“Los Angeles … was the top region in the United States that saw the least amount of declines in transit ridership during the pandemic, really indicating the kind of relationship between who rides public transit being essential workers, low-wage workers,” Brozen said.

Samuel Speroni, an urban planning doctoral student and a graduate student researcher with the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, said free transit could provide financial support for students already facing economic barriers attending school.

Because of the often low incomes of young individuals, public transportation has great potential among the group, Speroni added. Students in particular often attend campuses that are unconducive to car ownership because of parking fees and typically contend with student loans, thus making transit services more appealing to them, he said.

Promoting youth access to public transportation can encourage newer generations to continue to use it as they become adults, said Julene Paul, an urban planning doctoral student. Paul, who is also a graduate student researcher at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, added that early habits of using public transport can lessen traffic congestion and environmental degradation in the future.

Brozen added the fact that AB 1919 passed through both chambers of the state legislature is a success in itself, as it demonstrates the broad support for the bill. Now that lawmakers are aware of the financial concerns associated with the bill, she said they can correct the issue.

Jacob Wasserman, a research project manager at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, said legislation like AB 1919 provides easier mobility to individuals who do not have access to personal transportation, adding that future legislation that addresses Newsom’s budgetary concerns could be successful.

“The lesson learned for the proponents of this is to include it in the state budget, as opposed to being its own separate consideration,” Wasserman said. “I think that it’s something that I could definitely see the state of California funding, especially for students who often use public transportation.”

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Jessica Gonzalez
Gonzalez is a national news and higher education contributor. She is a first-year transfer student at UCLA majoring in political science and minoring in Chicana/o and Central American studies.
Gonzalez is a national news and higher education contributor. She is a first-year transfer student at UCLA majoring in political science and minoring in Chicana/o and Central American studies.
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