Metro to Offer Reduced Fare for Qualified Low-income Riders

Metro bus service will become more affordable for tens of thousands of our customers next March when we introduce a reduced fare for people with low incomes.

Riders who qualify for the fare will pay $1.50 for travel at any time of the day, in one or both of our zones. The fare for seniors and people with disabilities who have a Regional Reduced Fare Permit will remain lower. For more information about 2015 fares, click here.

The new low-income fare is grounded in King County's commitment to equity and social justice. We want King County to be a place where everyone has an opportunity to succeed. For Metro, that means we’re striving to provide equitable access to our bus system.

After Metro fares were raised four times in four straight years because of our funding shortfall, county leaders were concerned about the impact on our low-income customers. They formed an advisory committee that recommended a low-income fare. County Executive Dow Constantine proposed the fare, and the County Council adopted it last February.

Here's an outline of how the low-income fare will work:

  • The income eligibility amount is up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level (that's $23,340 for a single person in 2014).
  • The fare will be available only on an ORCA card that will look and work just like the regular ORCA card, but be programmed for the low-income fare. The low-income ORCA card will be free.
  • Card holders can put E-purse value or passes on the card at ORCA vending machines at Link stations and some transit centers, at 74 retail stores, at the Metro customer service offices in downtown Seattle, online or by phone. Our ORCA To-Go mobile sales vans will also be visiting community centers and events. For more information about ORCA cards, click here.
  • We want to make it easy for people to apply, so we're contracting with human service agencies around the county that will verify applicants' identity and income level and provide ORCA cards to those who are eligible.
  • Public Health—Seattle & King County will coordinate the agency network and also verify applicants' eligibility. Public Health has lots of experience with this type of service and we're delighted to have them as a partner.

You'll be seeing a lot more information about the low-income fare early next year, when we launch a public outreach campaign. We want to start getting low-income ORCA cards in qualified riders' hands in February, so they're ready to go in March.

Metro is proud to be one of the first large transit agencies in the country to offer a reduced fare for people with low incomes. More important, we're extremely pleased that travel for work, education, health care, and other needs will be more affordable for many of our customers who rely heavily on our service.

Contributor Kevin Desmond is general manager of King County Metro Transit, an agency that operates 186 bus, trolley and dial-a-ride-transit routes, providing more than 118 million passenger trips each year (about 403,000 trips each weekday) in a service area of more than 2,000 square miles. Stay up to date on local transit news by reading News from Metro's General Manager.