Would free Metro fares get cars off the road in Los Angeles? Tolling drivers would pay for free rides on trains and buses—as soon as 2028

Could Los Angeles—home to the nation’s second-largest bus system and a growing rail network—be next?

Phil Washington, the head of LA’s countywide transit agency, proposed last year that by tolling drivers, the agency could offer free rides on trains and buses as soon as 2028—a strategy he enthusiastically predicted would get cars off the road and build the agency’s rider base, cutting down on carbon emissions in the process.

“We’re talking about saving mankind here,” he said.

Since then, Metro has launched a study of possible toll prices and locations and will soon begin analyzing new public transit pricing options as it plans for the next decade.

Right now, passenger fares ($1.75 per ride) add up to only around $300 million each year—just a small percentage of the nearly $2 billion it takes to keep Metro’s armada of trains and buses running. That means even a fairly limited toll system could easily generate the revenue needed to make transit free.