LOS ANGELES — It costs about a $1.75 to ride most buses and trains in Southern California, but for agencies like Metro, it can cost billions of dollars to keep them moving.

What You Need To Know

  • Metro’s annual budget for the 2024 Fiscal Year is $9 billion

  • $2.9 billion of the agency’s budget is spent on transit operations, which include fuel costs, operator fees, bus shelter maintenance and more

  • H.R. 7039, the Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act, would grant cities $20 billion a year for transit operations, for up to four years, for a total $80 billion

  • Local leaders and transit advocates are pushing for H.R. 7039 to pass in Congress to improve transit for the 2028 Olympic Games and beyond

Frequent bus rider, Karen Mack, who gave up her car last year with the goal of being more environmentally conscious, said she loves LA’s bus service.

“You know, it’s so productive," Mack said. "I always get my 10,000 steps in.”

But there are a few things, Mack said, that she wishes Metro could improve, including the infrastructure and maintenance around bus stops.

“There’s a bus stop on La Brea and Olympic. It was like a trash can was dumped on the bus stop. So, you know, that’s not inviting,” Mack said.

Mack was sitting next to Metro’s CEO Stephanie Wiggins and Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove on the 13 bus route heading down Olympics Boulevard when she brought up these concerns.

Riding alongside them was transit and mobility activist, and Executive Director of Move LA, Eli Lipmen.

Lipmen is raising awareness about a new bill in Congress, H.R. 7039 and called the Stronger Communities through Better Transit Act, that would dramatically increase funding for transit operations. Operations can include fuel costs, bus operator fees and more. Mack said investing in passionate bus operators is important to her because she finds that bus drivers often set the tone for her commute.

“I feel like the bus drivers are the ambassadors for Metro. They’re the main point of contact, and you know if people love their bus driver, you know, it’s going to make them want to ride the bus more.”

Metro’s current budget for these costs is $2.9 billion and comes mainly from sales tax and fare revenue.

If this new bill becomes law, it would provide agencies like Metro, $20 billion annually for four years, to use on operations funding, with a total of $80 billion.

Kamlager-Dove, who co-sponsored the bill, said that kind of money can make a huge impact in Los Angeles — especially ahead of the 2028 Olympics.

“The federal government really has to support and embrace those cities that are saying, 'Hey, I’m trying to do my part to get folks to use public transportation.' We have to incentivize and support those cities that are coming up with plans, and just need federal dollars,” Kamlager-Dove said.

As of right now, the bill has bipartisan support. But that could change if it’s amended on the House or Senate floor. Mack is hoping the bill will pass, because she wants more Angelenos to trade in their cars for TAP cards, just like she did.

“Buses have the opportunity to really be places of connection,” she said.