Executive Constantine Announces Low-Income Fare on its Way

King County Executive Dow ConstantineKing County Executive Dow Constantine held a press conference Thursday to unveil details of how King County Metro will roll out its low-income fare program. The press conference followed the submission of the Final Report of the Low Income Fare Implementation Task Force.

The fare will be $1.50 per Metro trip, available only through ORCA, and will require the rider to go through a qualification process to demonstrate her/his income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. Requalification will happen every two years.

The qualification process won’t be cheap or easy for the county. But the application process and the low-income ORCA card will be free for the applicant. Metro will partner with Public Health – Seattle & King County to administer the qualification process. Public Health will work with other third-party agencies to set up more places riders can qualify. 45,000-100,000 riders are estimated to be eligible. The cost of the program — reduced fares plus administration — is expected to be $7-9 million a year.

The qualfication process will start up in February of 2015, with the new fare taking effect March 1, 2015. Kitsap Transit and King County Metro will honor each others’ low-income ORCA cards. (See page 2 of the linked document.)

The County Council still has to vote to implement the program. The vote is expected to be unanimous, given the council’s unanimous vote to create the Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee, and the council’s unanimous vote to set the fare level and create the Low Income Fare Implementation Task Force.

Other US transit agencies with low-income fare programs include Kitsap Transit, SunTran (Tucson, AZ), and The Ride (Ann Arbor, MI). Several other agencies offer low-income passes.

Editor-in-Chief Martin Duke was one of the first to publicly call for this program. The council’s decision to create the Low Income Fare Options Advisory Committee came about partially in response to social equity concerns when the Ride Free Area was discontinued in 2012, and partially at the behest of an organizing campaign led by the Seattle Transit Riders’ Union.

Comments

  1. Glenn in Portland says

    This sounds like it is going to be a bit ponderous and expensive to implement.

    I’ve never been able to qualify for such a program, so I can’t say how it works first hand, but my understanding about the way C-Tran in Vancouver and TriMet in Portland works is that the low income fare process goes through aid agencies. That way, a separate process doesn’t have to be established.

    For example:
    http://trimet.org/accesstransit/

    • Brent says

      Metro’s low-income fare is only offered through e-purse or monthly passes ($54 per month). It will make riding the bus less ponderous for everyone, saving service hours. $7-9 million is fhe gross cost per year. The net cost is less than that, and hard to calculate, since the improved riding experience will lead to higher ridership, and therefore additional fare revenue.

      Having the low-income fare in place will make it politically palatable to have cash-free zones, a cash surcharge on each of the non-low-income fare categories, and to get rid of paper transfers. By the time all that happens, the program might just pay for itself. For those of us who get held up daily and every two blocks by someone fumbling change, March 2015 can’t come soon enough.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        I have no argument with making it happen. It just seems like if a qualification process already exists (for example, I think C-Tran has one tied to food stamps, or some other program), then why have another set of qualifications and a different process?

        C-Tran also does not allow discounted cash fare. The low income ID must be shown at a fare vending office.

      • RossB says

        I think you made a very good case as to why this system will be beneficial Brent, but I think Glenn makes a very valid point. I think it would be a lot easier and a lot less costly if they simply tie it to food stamps. You would get every benefit you mention, but make it easier on the recipients (and Metro).

      • Brent says

        Tri-Met is one of the several agencies that offers a low-income pass, but not a low-income single-ride fare.

        The 200% qualification is aligned with several other benefits programs for which Public Health has experience handling the income verification process. The idea is that those who qualify for the low-income pass will be able to qualify for EBT and other programs all in one session. For those who have already qualified for other programs that use the 200% cutoff (or a lower percent), proof of having qualified within a certain recent time period should be sufficient to get the low-income ORCA.

      • jeik says

        Tying the pass to EBT means that the recipient also has to sign up for EBT. I don’t think it’s good to force people into one social program just because they need another, especially one with as much stigma as EBT. And DSHS is not a very efficient or easy service to access.

      • Mike Orr says

        You don’t have to accept benefits you don’t want. When I applied for financial aid in college I was offered a grant, work study, and a loan. I took the first two but turned down the loan because I’m very debt-adverse. It’s the same thing here: it’s a one-stop shop for several benefits, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept all of them. The one-stop shop is both easier on the applicant and saves administration costs, so it’s a win-win. If Metro had a separate qualification desk, it would still be the same process, so just as demeaning. We can’t base policies on people’s irrational fear of the letters EBT.

    • Ricky says

      Looking through this report I noted that there’s no mention of fraud prevention.

      My hope is that these new low income ORCA cards have a picture of the authorized user printed on the front. This is the same system that’s already in use for the Regional Reduced Fare Permit ORCA cards.

      I’ve noticed that the FEO’s on RapidRide are now asking to *see* your ORCA card (they won’t scan it through your wallet) to see if has a picture, looking to catch any cheaters.

      It would also be nice to see picture ORCA cards issued by schools to students (age 6-18) and make that the only way to pay the youth fare.

      • Brent says

        You bring up a good point. Fare enforcement officers rarely ask to see ID from someone holding a registered ORCA. So, someone who gets a free or reduced monthly pass from their employer can lend it to someone else. That someone else will only get caught if the FEO detected that the holder is a different gender from the registrant, or if the holder accidentally double-tapped, failed to tap, or otherwise didn’t sufficiently pay. I suspect white-collar pass fraud is rampant. That said, before ORCA, people who received free annual passes through their employer could report it stolen and get a replacement, without the original getting cancelled.

        I’ve seen a rider get his ORCA confiscated because he wasn’t the registered owner. I’ve seen someone get a warning because he is no longer eligible for the youth discount. I’ve seen someone get her ticket confiscated because it was the wrong date, and proceeded to pretend to talk loudly to a lawyer on the phone.

        Stealing an ORCA would be a rather stupid idea. It takes a matter of seconds for the card number to come up in the stolen database. For the same reason, buying a reduced-fare ORCA from a stranger would also be a stupid idea. The stranger can then report it stolen, and get a free replacement, and you get busted when you try to use it. Consider also that if ST/Metro have a system to warn the driver and/or security when a card number comes up as reported stolen, they probably won’t tell the public how that warning system works. My advice is: Don’t use somebody else’s card.

      • Ricky says

        I take that back… I look through the implementation plan and there is a process in place to prevent fraud. I still think having pictures printed on the front of these ORCA cards would be best.

        I think what bothers me the most about this is that there will be no cost to get a low income ORCA card, but we charge seniors and the disabled $3 to get a RRFP ORCA card. I’m not necessarily saying that there should be a charge for the low income card, but if they’re going to be free they should make the RRFP card free too.

      • Ricky says

        Brent,
        For all of its flaws, one thing the TAP card in Los Angeles got right was photo cards.

        Almost all reduced fare cards require a picture. The only exception is for students, who are required to carry a student ID while using the card.

        All employer subsidized tap cards have photos along with the employee and employer’s name printed on the front.

        The implementation plan on ORCA is that the low income cards will be registered to the authorized user. Before they can get a replacement card the old card will be deactivated. That should eliminate a lot of fraud especially if there is no other way to pay a reduced fare. But I feel like printing a picture on the front would be a nice safety net.

      • Brent says

        @Ricky,

        It really comes down to how easy it is for employers and human service agencies to take a picture and insert it into a card. It took a couple years for the county to roll out its combined employee ID/ORCA. If it was difficult for them, it will be even more difficult for outside entities. But you can ask Metro about the feasibility.

        Low-income and senior/disabilities passes are easier to do, because the applicant is actually walking into the office that specializes in taking the picture and producing the card. Youth cards can be done by mail, but require a copy of a photo ID.

        LA has low-income passes, with a rather shallow discount, but I don’t think they come with headshots.

      • Sam says

        This is a question for transit drivers. Let’s say I get on the bus, put a $1.50 in the fare box, then tell you I’m low income. Will I get to ride? And will you give me a transfer? Yes, I know the low-income fare is just for proven low-income riders with ORCA cards, but in my scenario, will I be allowed to stay on the bus and ride for $1.50?

      • Ricky says

        I’m not a driver… but I know what the rulebook states.
        The driver will likely tell you that the low-income fare can only be paid with an ORCA card and you need to insert another 75¢. But just like today, if you refuse the driver can’t physically remove you from the bus.

        If the driver is feeling generous, they’ll enter the code into the farebox for an underpayment of fare and let you ride. But, if you angered them, they might call into dispatch and have a deputy meet the bus and have you removed.

        In all cases I hope that with the introduction of the low-income fare, comes the end of paper transfers.

      • Brent says

        @RIcky,

        It bothers me as well that reduced-fare riders have to pay $3 to get a reduced-fare ORCA, and that everyone else has to pay $5, while every other bus agency in the country that has a contactless smart card charges no more than $2 for their card after rebates, and most don’t charge at all for their card.

        The solution is obviously not to charge anyone more for getting a card, but to reduce or eliminate the cost. If Metro and ST want everyone to use ORCA, don’t charge for it!

        If the agencies don’t want riders to treat the card as disposable, there are plenty of ways to do that, including setting electronic fares to non-quarter amounts, so that there will always be some cash value left on the card. Or charge a penny for the card.

        If Metro and ST are concerned about how to pay for the ORCA contract with its vendor, VIX (roughly $7 million per year) they are missing the whole point of the program. The program is supposed to pay for itself through reduced travel time and reduced fare evasion.

      • Anandakos says

        Sam,

        Since you are one of the nation’s leading transportation experts, the driver will probably know you on sight for the distinguished “guru” you are. And throw your ass off the bus for cheating.

  2. Sam says

    I agree with John D. Rockefeller. “Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.”

    Show me a person who enjoys a suite of various income-tested benefits, and I’ll show you a person who will do almost anything to avoid losing that perk. This low income fare alone isn’t that harmful, but when you add it to all the others many receive, it just discourages initiative and ambition, and further locks people into poverty. Ultimately, this isn’t helping people, it’s hurting them.

    • Southeasterner says

      You just described our nations heavily subsidized road system perfectly.

      As far as transit I think a big chunk of “qualified” recipients are going to be elderly and retired. One such person is my 80+ year old neighbor who takes the bus every day to visit her husband in a hospice facility. Add the cost of her medications, housing, etc.. she is definitely living under the poverty line.

      It would be interesting to see the breakdown in potential demographics a year or two in to understand who is qualifying/using the discounted fares.

      • Sam says

        Southeasterner, let’s say you’re a single mother who works part-time 20 hours a week at a fast food place. Because you’re in poverty, you: Get Section 8 and pay only $70/month for your $1400/month market rate apartment; Are on SNAP; Have an EBT card; Get a low income ORCA card; Free child care; 40% is taken off your utility bill because you’re on LIHEAP; Get a free cell phone and minutes through the Lifeline Assistance program (Obama Phone); Etc., Etc., Etc. Now, your manager comes to you and says he’s tapping you for the management training program. You’ll start working full-time, and start making a few dollars more per hour. But what that means it will take you just out of the poverty level and your ten to twenty benefits will go away and you’ll have to start paying full price for everything, including your apartment. Do you accept the promotion?

        And with that, I believe I have just won this argument.

      • Ricky says

        Seniors are one of the groups of people that already qualify for the Regional Reduced Fare Permit.

        The fare with the RRFP ORCA card is 75¢, lower than this new low income fare.

      • RossB says

        Wow, Sam, you really have a low opinion of people. I’m not talking about the poor, either, although that is obvious (speaking of which, I could show you plenty of people who “enjoyed the perks” of public assistance and did everything they could to rid themselves of the hassle and degradation of the that system). No, what I’m talking about is public policy makers. You must think they are all idiots. Somewhere, some PHD social scientist is slapping his forehead and saying “Jeesh — why didn’t I think of that? If we give them welfare, they might get dependent on it. They might actually have a disincentive to work, or just improve their financial situation in general. Sorry boys, we are going to have to rethink this thing again”.

        It’s funny that when right wingers suggest poking more holes into the already shredded American safety net, they use two, obviously conflicting arguments. One is that it builds dependence — the other is that private charity will do the job. Well, wouldn’t private charity build dependence?

        But I digress. Listen, Sam. I know you are an expert in all things, but has it crossed your mind that the people who put these programs in place considered these factors? Do you think that, maybe there are balances to the system, so that you really have no financial incentive whatsoever to refuse a raise. Because — I know this will be a shocker to you — the programs work on a sliding scale. Crazy, huh. It is basically like an income tax, only backwards. Speaking of which, your little essay reminds of the idiots who complain about high taxes, and how they reduce the incentive to earn more money. I even heard some fool talk about it on the radio. If he earns another fifty grand, then that puts him into the higher tax bracket, so he doesn’t want to earn that money. Apparently he couldn’t quite grasp the idea of a graduated income tax (the higher rate only applies to the additional income).

        But, like I said, you can argue dependence all you want. Feel free to cite studies comparing different systems around the world. While you are at it, why not join a physics discussion group and tell all the scientists why they missed some important ideas when it comes to subatomic particles. My guess is your just as qualified in both cases.

        Oh, and I guess you must be thrilled by the way things have gone in the last thirty years. Unlike a lot of countries in Europe, we have cut our social spending. We have reduced welfare (of all types). This has pretty much eliminated poverty in this country, as the poor have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Meanwhile, countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland endure stagnating economies, with low standards of living, failed school systems, and really high disparity of wealth. Oh, wait, I guess it didn’t work out that way.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        Have you ever talked to any of those that are in these programs?

        Most would gladly take such a promotion, as it also means they would spend far less time filling out paperwork to prove they qualify for all this stuff.

        I don’t, by the way, completely disagree that some of these programs don’t help the person out of poverty, but I disagree that the presence of such a program is the problem.

        Here in Portland, I volunteer at a homeless shelter that caters only to families that are making an effort to get into permanent housing. It is too complicated to explain in detail here, but the families spend several months filling out paperwork and going to various interviews at various locations. Their allotment of bus tickets from Multnomah County typically runs out far faster than the paperwork and interview process goes, further slowing the process as they then have to wait for the end of the month (when the government assistance money arrives and they can buy stuff on their own for a while) or for the next period for the Multnomah County reduced fare bus tickets to arrive.

        The whole process is far more work than actual employment, which is what most of these people would prefer to be doing.

      • Ricky says

        Speaking of which, I hope with this low income ORCA card King County can stop issuing those reduced fare bus tickets. It seems to take even longer than cash when people insert them into the farebox.

      • Brent says

        @RIcky,

        The low-income ORCA is a program aimed at low-income riders. The bus tickets are for no-income riders, to do things like get between appointments. The topic of the tickets came up repeatedly in the LIFOAC’s deliberations, but they kept their focus on the low-income fare product, while saying that more attention is needed to improve the high-administrative-cost ticket program.

        Phoenix and Santa Clara have no-income free pass programs, if you want to take a look at them.

      • Ricky says

        @Brent
        One of the things mentioned in the final report from the Low-Income Fare Program Implementation Task Force was giving agencies the ability to load money onto the ePurse of an ORCA card. Instead of giving someone 10 tickets, they could instead load $12.50 onto the card.

        As Martin pointed out in his editorial, handing someone a few tickets is like handing them cash, there’s no accountability. By loading value directly onto the cards it makes it more likely that the money goes to helping *that person* and isn’t bartered on the street corner.

      • Nathanael says

        Sam: you’re correct, there really is a poverty trap… where earning more money will disqualify you for (say) health insurance, so you’ll lose a fortune by earning more money.

        This poverty trap was created by right-wingers, because right-wingers keep insisting on having “means-tested” or “income-based” programs. Programs like Medicaid should simply be available to everyone, period, as public services, with no income limits. This eliminates the “poverty trap” effects.

    • Brent says

      I’ll let you decide, Sam: How much do you think you should pay for each comment you post here?

      • Sam says

        Did Bob Woodward have to pay to write for The Washington Post, or did they pay him? Does Thomas Friedman have to pay to write for the New York Times, or do they pay him?

        I rest my case.

      • Brent says

        Bob Woodward did his own research. I knew Bob Woodward. Bob Woodward was a friend of mine. And you, sir, are no Bob Woodward.

        But may I ask a personal, and totally off-topic, question: Do you have any children?

    • Sam says

      RossB, on the contrary, I think the policy makers are clever. They strategically use public assistance as a tool to placate the poor and prevent revolution. And use it to ensure partisan loyalty.

      PS, thanks for getting all worked up over my comment. You made my day.

      • RossB says

        Oh, those clever policy makers — reducing poverty to prevent revolution. Very tricky indeed.

        Don’t flatter yourself Sam. I didn’t get all worked up. But you might want to check yourself if getting other people worked up by your comments is what gets you off.

      • Sam says

        Ross, first off, one of the bloggers here has forbidden personal attacks of any kind. You saying I should “check myself” violates the TOS of this blog. Secondly, we here at the STB like to discuss transit and land use issues in a serious and professional way. There are plenty of other blogs and comment sections where flaming and ad holmium attacks are common. If you can’t abide by our rules, perhaps this isn’t the blog for you.

      • Anandakos says

        Sam. For the second time, there is no “we” at STB where you are concerned. There is “you, Sam” and everyone else laughing at your grandiosity

    • Mike Orr says

      “Show me a person who enjoys a suite of various income-tested benefits, and I’ll show you a person who will do almost anything to avoid losing that perk. ”

      You have to look at why those benefits exist in the first place. Without them, even more people would be homeless and starving, and those in poor health would be dying. Ayn Rand utopianism looks at the benefits as luxury items; but the alternative is going back to the 1930s when people wore newspapers in their shoes because they couldn’t afford socks.

    • says

      You are actually right. Please note I’m very left-wing and support social welfare measures. However, the way we do it in the USA is counter-productive. Most other countries don’t have the sheer *number* of programs the US does. Everyone, rich or poor, gets health care, and beyond that, the poor get a cash benefit and, if appropriate, help in getting a job or training for one, or child care if needed. But the governments don’t assume poor people are stupid and need their hands held every step of the way. Food stamps, a low-income transit discount, so-called “Obama phones”, Section 8, and home heating assistance exist because there is an attitude that the poor don’t have the sense to buy food, bus tickets, housing, communications, heat, etc. It would be *cheaper* for the government, *more respectful* to the needy, and generate less “moral hazard” to consolidate most of these programs into one.

      One major problem with having multiple programs is the effect of trying to get ahead, as you mentioned. It is possible to lose much more than you gain. Essentially the effect is the same as a >100% income tax rate.

      A singular cash benefit could easily be sliding-scaled in such a way as to not have this effect. Multiple “competing” benefits cannot without extremely careful coordination, which appears to be beyond either the ability or the will (or both) of the powers that be.

      My apologies for going way off topic but this is a serious issue. I have no intent to degrade or flame anyone.

      • Mike Orr says

        I’ve started leaning toward a guaranteed minimum income, which is similar to a negative income tax.

        I don’t understand what John means by the poor “don’t have the sense to buy food” etc, or what an Obama phone is.

      • z7 says

        The reason that benefits have to be given as goods (“in kind”), or in silos (food stamps can’t be used to pay rent unless you trade them) rather than cash, which is more efficient.

      • Nathanael says

        Mike: what John means is that right-wingers demand “food stamps” (rather than just giving poor people money) because they have a crazy fear that poor people might take the money and not buy food. Which happens very rarely, because, you know, most people buy food first, what with it being FOOD.

  3. John Bailo says

    From what I observe there seems to be a of people using the transit system — to access some Government service agency (DHS, Social Security, …)

    I think many people use these services when they could, if they had the savvy, do their business over the web.

    So, you get this endless merry-go-round in a self-justifying system.

    • Norah says

      Some people may not be able to afford internet access, or may not even have a computer. Some things may require them to be there in person.

  4. Dog and pony show says

    A way easier way to implement a low income fare is to simply sell the full price ORCA cards in bulk to the social service agencies. These agencies can then discount them in whichever way possible. Metro then pays the agency for the difference to support the lower fare. This eliminates the need for a new ORCA designation (which is a change order to the contract) as well as any additional responsibility to Metro besides a monthly invoice. Plus there is no stigma of any sort of different card, everyone has the same card. This also opens up opportunities for a sliding scale, which would be impossible to work with the ORCA vendor. Business accounts work the same way, different employers pay different rates but its all the same card.

    But of course this simple method doesn’t score any political points or pat anyone on the back.

    • Brent says

      Perchance, did you make this proposal when the LIFOAC and LIFITC were meeting? I’d be curious to hear any response you received.

  5. MrZ says

    ORCA in its current form still has a lot of barriers for everyone. Availability is still limited, as most transit facilities do not have ORCA machines, and there does not seem to be much effort made to outfit every Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and grocery store to sell or maintain orca cards. Further, it suffers from a lot of baggage brought on by the partner transit systems, a lot of consistency issues amongst the agencies (different rules for this or that depending on who’s bus you are on), and finally the fact we have not moved beyond the “monthly pass” and different day pass schemes to a more universal, and easier to understand and use 1,3,5,7,15,30, etc. day pass system region wide. Not to mention all the other different fare products, rules, nuances each system brings. Not to mention the card itself costs $5, which itself is a bit of a deterrent for people who may only be here a short time. I know a lot of people (myself included) who have an extra orca card they got (probally for free) that they use as a loaner card for friends and family.

  6. CharlotteRoyal says

    Has any one looked at the decrease of users, like myself which occasionally use E-purse to make Metro trips and simply drop cash onto their passes? I pay full-fare. I refuse to register my card online as I don’t like ST, CT, and KCM tracking my route usage.

    My frustration with this further increase in fares is that it exaserbates the “Portland versus Seattle” issue. How is it that I can purchase a nice TriMet day pass for $5, yet here in King County, transfers on Orca are screwy (I’ve had Xfers last as little as 1.5 hrs but up to 3 hrs regardless of numbers of buses taken), peak hour fares for regular schmucks are $3.25, and now I am further subsidizing others at the expense of higher fares? All the while, routes are being trimmed? This was the WORST time to pull that card.

    • MrZ says

      It would be nice if there was some coordination of fares, or at least media types with e purses amongst the connecting transit agencies in the Amtrak Cascades / I5 Corridor. But that would be a pipe dream, and a coordination night mare. Look at how many people have jumped on ORCA after it was rolled out. 0.

  7. Carl says

    So, do the costs of implementing this come out of the Metro budget, or is the county paying for it out of social service budgets. There are both the administrative costs, and the foregone revenue costs for subsidized rides. The reason that it matters is that critics are always wailing on about Metro’s high costs, and low farebox recovery. And while $9 million may not sound like much, it isn’t an insignificant increase in costs – and I suspect doesn’t include an allowance for foregone revenue.

    I also don’t understand why we have such a piecemeal system of support for low income. AFDC, food stamps, subsidized housing, utility subsidies, medical insurance subsidies now transit subsidies. Doesn’t it make more sense to have a unified support system, instead of doing it piecemeal?

    And how do we evaluate the efficiency of transit expenditures when you embed transfer payments or social support systems in the cost structure?

    • Mike Orr says

      It’s not really transferring them to poor people because they don’t get any cash. It’s just reallocations within Metro’s budget. Regular fares cover only 30% of the service. It could be 50% or 10% or 0% — the percentage is arbitrary. What matters is that Metro has fixed costs to provide the service, and they have to come from somewhere. If it comes from people according to their ability to pay, what’s wrong with that?

      The “lost” revenue will come out of the 25c fare increase, which I think is scheduled for the end of the year. But it won’t consume all of the increase, otherwise Metro would have not agreed to the fare, because it needs the increase to avoid cutting routes further.

      • Carl says

        I view transit as a transportation function with environmental and land use benefits, not as a social welfare program, although mobility for those unable to drive is clearly an added benefit.

        Since the cost of driving is not charged on an “ability to pay” basis, if you burden transit budgets with all kinds of added costs (such as dial-a-ride service and full ADA compliance) and then set fares on an ability to pay basis, then you keep giving choice riders more economic incentives to switch to driving, you reduce political support, and you are left with only the poor on transit. The more you keep choice riders on transit, the less you need minimum parking requirements, etc. There is virtuous cycle argument.

        And by putting extraneous costs on the transit budget you give more fuel to the Seattle Times editorial writers, who ride around in SOVs, who complain that Metro’s costs are too high and Metro shouldn’t get more tax revenue. At $2.25/2.50/3.00 our fares are already at the high end for bus fares, and the cost for two people to go to town for the day or evening are $9-10 round trip. There’s not a lot of room to keep raising fares without sending the message that those people should go to Bellevue, Southcenter or Lynnwood for their day or evening instead. And you encourage more sprawl instead of a vibrant city.

      • Brent says

        The low-income fare program isn’t just a “social welfare program”. It’s a way to reduce change fumbling drastically, both by immediately giving a strong incentive to pay using ORCA, and by removing the political barriers to other ORCA incentives (e.g. eliminating paper transfers and putting a cash surcharge on each of the other fare categories). It’ll also bring more political support to allowing fare enforcement officers to do their job, and enable operators to be bolder in reporting bad behavior.

        Even with a fare increase, I see this program as attracting choice riders, as travel times continue to decrease, and fare disputes go down.

        The program makes so much sense, even the Washington Policy Institute has been arguing in favor of it.

      • Carl says

        Your logic is pretty extreme

        Unless the majority of riders are low fare, this program itself doesn’t do anything to reduce change fumbling. And there are ways to drive ORCA adoption that have nothing to do with redirecting transit tax revenue towards transfer payments for low income residents. For example we could get rid of the $5 ORCA charge, and we could build in credits for paying with ORCA and for reusing the cards. E.g. a bonus amount every time you reload an existing card but not when you get a new card.

        Why not let general tax revenues provide the social subsidies, instead of redirecting our hard-fought transit revenue sources? I don’t see how it generates any political support for new sources of transit revenue, nor how it helps fare enforcement

      • Brent says

        “Your logic is pretty extreme

        Unless the majority of riders are low fare, this program itself doesn’t do anything to reduce change fumbling….”

        Don’t you just hate the lack of an edit button when you push “Post Comment” and realize you made a statement that was inaccurate on its face?

        Regardless, you had plenty of time when the LIFOAC was having its well-publicized meetings to offer alternative proposals. The horse has left the barn. The race starts March 2015. Do you have constructive ideas for improving the program?

      • Nathanael says

        Brent:
        (1) eliminate the $5 fee for ORCA; at most, make it a $1 fee *refunded when you return the card*
        (2) sell ORCA in all train stations and all major bus transfer stations — at least

  8. Mathew "RennDawg" Renner says

    This should not be allowed. I think I would allowed to use this and I do not want it. Everyone should pay the same fare.

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