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King County executive announces reduced-fare program for lower-income Metro bus riders

Metro Transit will offer reduced fares starting in March for lower-income bus riders. - COURTESY PHOTO, King County
Metro Transit will offer reduced fares starting in March for lower-income bus riders.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO, King County

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Thursday how King County will implement a reduced-fare program for lower-income bus riders by March.

King County Metro will be the second major transit system in the nation to offer this type of fare, according to a county media release.

"One of the ways we create opportunity is by helping people get to work, get to school, and get to the services they need to reach their full potential," Constantine said. "This reduced fare program will ensure that those who have lesser means still have access to opportunity."

The reduced fare will be $1.50 for those who qualify. It takes effect on March 1, the same day that all regular Metro fares will increase by 25 cents – the fifth fare increase for Metro riders since 2008. In that time, off-peak fares will have increased by 100 percent.

King County Metro busThe Low-Income Fare Implementation Task Force spent weeks examining Metro's proposed structure (PDF) for the new fare program. In their letter to the executive and King County Council delivering the final report and recommendations, Task Force members praised the county's emphasis on equity and social justice, and said the program "will make a major contribution to the county's effort to create a more equitable community where everyone can realize their potential."

"I applaud the great work of the Task Force members, many of whom served on the Low-Income Fare Advisory Committee that recommended King County implement a low-income transit fare," said Councilmember Larry Gossett, who was the primary sponsor of the motion that created the original planning committee.

Riders who qualify must use an ORCA card and cannot pay with cash. No fee will be charged for a new card or renewal. A $5 fee will be charged to replace a lost or stolen card.

The eligibility threshold for a person to qualify for the low-income fare is 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, currently $23,340 for an individual.

Eligibility must be re-verified every other year. The low-income fare will expire 24 months after the card is issued. After expiration, it can be used as a regular adult fare card.

The low-income fare will be limited to one card per person. Each card must be registered in the ORCA system to an eligible adult.

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