Fresh off of its unanimous approval for the creation of a Transportation Benefit District needed for the sales-tax and car-tab increase that is expected to be on the ballot in April, the King County Council will have a hearing on Tuesday, February 18 at 1:30 p.m. on Metro’s fare change proposal.
The proposed low-income fare has been a pet project of the Seattle Transit Riders Union, and has received a lot of support from this blog’s staff. Editor-in-Chief Martin Duke called for a low-income ORCA long before TRU existed.
Answering the call to incentivize ORCA use by making cash fares more expensive than electronic fares, Metro is proposing to make the low-income fare only available electronically. That important element of the program will end up helping fund the program through travel-time efficiencies. It will also give non-low-income riders whose rides will have just gotten faster a reason to like the program, and thereby help the program survive.
But now, TRU and the Seattle Human Services Coalition are calling for the low-income fare to be reduced to $1. In principle, I’d love to see that. In practice, such an outcome would require the youth fare to also be rolled back to $1 (from its current $1.25) in order to avoid making the line for the low-income ORCA a lot longer and creating significant additional administrative burden in perpetuity.
Reducing service in order to fund the low-income fare helps nobody, which is why the implementation of the low-income fare should be contingent upon the passage of the sales-tax/car-tab increase.
Even if the low-income fare and the tax package aren’t explicity linked, the financial reality is that if the tax package fails, the county council will have to scrap the low-income fare program in order to preserve more service.
Everyone who wants to see the low-income fare program become a reality needs to get behind the tax package.
Thank you to all of the County Councilmembers for taking the lead in saving Metro bus service!