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King County to roll out low-income $1.50 Metro fare in 2015

In November, Seattle voters will have their say on creating a new tax base to help fund Metro bus service in the city even as service cutbacks are scheduled to begin in September. Metro fares are also already slated to rise another 25 cents next year. The county is moving to address some of this continued belt-tightening and reduction in service by creating a new reduced-fare program.

“People whose household incomes are less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level will qualify for the new rate, by using a special type of ORCA farecard — not cash on the bus,” the Seattle Times reports.

The county estimates between 45,000 and 100,000 low-income residents may qualify for the new cards but the Times says officials aren’t sure exactly how high demand will be — only San Francisco’s Muni system has attempted a similar program. A single person with a yearly income of less than $23,340 will qualify, a family of four earning below $47,700.

While the new program will cost Metro millions in “lost” fares at a time of continued cutbacks, it also addresses one of its primary objectives of helping all of the county’s citizens continue to utilize its public transportation resources.


Executive announces structure for reduced-fare program for lower-income Metro bus riders

Metro will partner with Public Health – Seattle & King County to administer the program

Acting upon new recommendations from an independent task force, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced today how King County will implement a reduced-fare program for lower-income bus riders by March 2015.

King County Metro will be the second major transit system in the nation to offer this type of fare.

“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,” said Executive Constantine. “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, 2015, 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.

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12 thoughts on “King County to roll out low-income $1.50 Metro fare in 2015

  1. and THIS is why I urge everybody to give the City a big fat NO vote on this little “transportation” bullshit plan the Mayor and his cronies put on the ballot this fall.

    1. It WILL jack your taxes as a homeowner. Do you want this on top of the parks you just had forced down your throat?

    2. RENTERS will pay FAR more in the long run. Only an idiot would raise tenant rent only enough to cover just this little property tax increase. Landlords are guaranteed to raise rents enough to turn a profit from this and every other tax increase.

    3. If Metro is so broke, then they can’t afford this reduction in fares for what could easily be half their daytime riders.

    Metro is SERIOUSLY mismanaged. A big fat NO on this fall’s transit issue on the Seattle ballot is a must!

    Metro, “Mayor” Murray and KC Council: pull your heads out of your tail ends RAISE fares on the bus. Your continued mantra is that reducing tax revenue from the rich is stifling growth and reducing services. Now you want to decrease revenue. You’re only going to reduce services and stifle the ability of Metro to serve passengers.


      • In fact, by seperating out low income fares it makes it politically easier for Metro to raise fares. Some of the pushback against raising fares has been the disproportional impact on low income riders.

    • I think it’s great to have a multi-level fare system. Kids and disabled already get different rates, why not make it easier for low income people to get around. It’ll help the economy by giving them more money in their pockets. Sure the money will eventually come from somewhere but it sounds like you are a fan of taking the money from the poor.

      • Good point. Every public transport system in the country (and the world) relies on subsidies and tax $$ already (not just fares), so it’s already happening. This can only increase the likelihood of people having access to jobs, which is in everybody’s best interest. It’s not like it’ll lead to a bunch of low-income people riding the bus around just for something to do.

      • Exactly, Jim.

        Housing prices are driving those with lower incomes out of their neighborhoods. Let us at least provide them with affordable options to get to work, entertainment, whatever they need Metro to take them.

        I’m all for tiered pricing. As a homeowner, if I have to pay a lil more in property taxes I’m okay with it.

    • I consider a public transportation system like an elevator. An elevator is certainly not cost-effective. It is necessary for the tenants on the upper stories but it is useless for those on the lower floors. Yet they all pay because without elevators, a high-rise would not function.

      Public transportation is the glue that holds a big city together and makes it healthy and liveable. Without it, we’d be a motley collection of individuals who would never have to engage with others. Because we’d spend most of our time surrounded by the walls of our cars.

      Individual traffic poisons the air of everybody — and we don’t even pay for it. It requires many square miles of parking space that could be used for much prettier things. It prevents people from enjoying their own streets because they would be severely injured, and instead delegates unshielded humans to tiny strips along wide roads. Oh, and it makes us fat.

      Public transport forces us to engage with other citizens and it helps us re-conquer our downtowns as places where people gather to mingle with other people (see Portland).

      I wish we had a State income tax to pay for this and other necessary services. Because currently, we tax poor people more than those who are better of. But that’s another matter and as a homeowner I will be glad to pay those few extra bucks.

      • Hear, hear. Spot on. If anything we should be spending most of our transportation dollars on making mass transit more available and more desirable than personal transit. We should actually get rid of all public/street parking and make it as impossible as possible to drive a personal vehicle. Our survival as a species and society actually depends on it.

      • “We should actually get rid of all public/street parking and make it as impossible as possible to drive a personal vehicle.”

        Yeah because that will solve anything. Parking is already impossible to find and it takes forever to find a spot. Many of us LIKE to drive cars and in many cases NEED to drive cars. I live in the city but work outside the city. For me to take a bus to work would take me well over an hour and a half. To drive my car, it takes 20-30 minutes. I value time with my family and I’m not about to be forced onto a bus and add a couple hours onto my commute just to appease the anti-car crowd. More smart and available parking is needed not less. Many government workers and others have take home work cars because they need to respond to a variety of different locations throughout the day in many different geographical locations. Others have families and it is difficult to usher 3 kids and two adults onto a bus crammed full of people. Who do you call when you need to buy furniture or big items? Someone with a car. This whole anti-car mentality just makes no sense. There will always be a need for both cars and public transportation. The city needs to plan for adequate parking, adequate public transportation and roads that can accommodate the increasing amount of traffic that Seattle is getting.

        With that said, I extend the middle finger and a big F you to Amazon and Microsoft for bringing in so many out of towner entitled brats, paying them huge salaries for doing really little to nothing for 40 hours a week, driving up rental prices by huge percentages, making any kind of housing unavailable and overall killing the uniqueness and quirkiness of Capitol Hill and the city as a whole.

      • @ iluvcaphill: Hyperbole much? Getting rid of all street/public parking is totally unrealistic and is not going to happen. And to say that the survival of the human race depends on your proposal is just plain…..the only polite word I can think of is “nuts.”

    • If you’re going to go on a mouth-frothing rant, please at least get your facts right. This proposal won’t raise property taxes–it’s funded via a sales tax increase and car registration fee. Frankly, as a property owner and transit user on the Hill, I wish it were a property tax increase instead, since our transportation system is closely connected with land use and property values and it would be a more stable source of revenue than a sales tax that’s dependent on purchases. Also, we need to broaden our tax base to withstand the worst effects of a recession. I’d much rather have a lower sales tax in exchange for a 3-4% income tax, for example.

      Secondly, the parks measure wasn’t “forced down our throats.” It was voted on by the public, and it passed. To claim otherwise is nonsensical. You may not agree with a majority of your neighbors, but too bad. That’s democracy.

    • A good idea would have been actually voting for that income tax proposition so everything wouldn’t have to be paid for by sales tax, property taxes, and car tabs. But since we apparently can’t pass good ideas, I’ll vote for this.