Bay Area Program Inspires 'Free Transit Week' Proposal
LOS ANGELES, July 21, 2006 -- Southern Californians may get a chance to ride MTA buses and trains free for a week under a proposal being floated by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Villaraigosa, who is also on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Thursday asked transit officials to determine how much it would cost the agency to create a program in the Los Angeles area similar to one in San Francisco called "Spare the Air Days."
In the Bay Area, three days of free rides on buses and trains cost the Metropolitan Transportation Commission more than $7.5 million.
But the mayor said getting more people in Los Angeles to try buses and trains could drum up more regular riders, and improve air quality and reduce traffic congestion during the free week.
"With high gasoline prices and continuing air quality challenges in the region, there is a golden opportunity to further promote transit usage throughout Los Angeles County," Villaraigosa wrote in a letter to MTA CEO Roger Snoble. Villaraigosa says Bay Area ridership went up by ten percent when that region's transit agencies had their own free week.
The mayor asked also asked staff to look for the money to pay for the "Free Transit Week" and determine whether other transportation companies could participate.
Metro offers free rides when a new transit line opens, but has never provided free rides on all bus and rail lines for an extended period of time, said MTA spokesman Rick Jager.
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