March 1, 2015In addition to the low-income fare program that has been in place in Kitsap Transit since 1985, the new low-income fare program for King County Metro Transit that will take effect March 1, 2015, and the low-income fare that will take effect on Central Link Light Rail on March 1, Seattle Streetcar and King County Ferries are jumping on the low-income fare bandwagon. Per Rochelle Ogershok, King County Department of Transportation spokeswoman:

As of March 1, a low income fare of $1.50 will take effect on both the South Lake Union Street Car and Link Light Rail. These low-income fares will be the same as Metro’s, as will be the reduced fares for Youth and Senior/Disabled riders. The King County Water Taxi will also implement a low income fare as of 3/1/15. The low-income fare will be $3.00 for W. Seattle and $3.75 for Vashon.

Reduced fare program sign-ups have already begun at designated King County Public Health offices for people applying for Affordable Care Act coverage. Reduced fare program sign-ups begin at designated human service agencies January 15, 2015. Applicants must bring proof of identify and income. Reduced fare ORCA cards will be mailed to eligible participants starting February 1, 2015.

Here is what the single-ride fares on all 8 agencies participating in the ORCA PugetPass / multi-agency transfer agreement will be as of March 1, 2015:

Agency Service RRFP Youth Low-Income Full Adult
Community Transit local $1.00 $1.50 n/a $2.00
Community Transit commuter south/Everett $2.00 $3.00 n/a $4.00
Community Transit commuter north/east $2.50 $4.00 n/a $5.25
Everett Transit local $0.25 $0.75 n/a $1.00
Everett Transit commuter (Route 70) $1.00 $1.50 n/a $2.00
King County Ferries West Seattle ORCA $2.00 $3.00 $3.00 $4.00
King County Ferries W. Seattle cash/ticket $2.00 $4.75 n/a $4.75
King County Ferries Vashon ORCA $2.50 $3.75 $3.75 $4.75
King County Ferries Vashon cash/ticket $2.50 $5.50 n/a $5.50
King County Metro off-peak $1.00 $1.50 $1.50 $2.50
King County Metro 1-zone peak $1.00 $1.50 $1.50 $2.75
King County Metro 2-zone peak $1.00 $1.50 $1.50 $3.25
Kitsap Transit buses $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $2.00
Kitsap Transit foot ferries $1.00 $1.00 $1.00 $2.00
Pierce Transit bus $0.75 $0.75 n/a $2.00
Seattle Streetcar streetcar $1.00 $1.50 $1.50 $2.25
Sound Transit Tacoma Link $0.00 $0.00 n/a $0.00
Sound Transit Link Light Rail minimum $1.00 $1.50 $1.50 $2.25
Sound Transit Link maximum $1.00 $1.50 $1.50 $3.00
Sound Transit Sounder minimum $1.25 $2.00 n/a $2.75
Sound Transit Sounder maximum $2.50 $3.75 n/a $5.25
Sound Transit ST Express 1-county $0.75 $1.25 n/a $2.50
Sound Transit ST Express multi-county $1.50 $2.50 n/a $3.50

“RRFP” is the Regional Reduced Fare Permit, for seniors (65+) and riders with disabilities. The youth fare is for ages 6-18. Up to four passengers ages 0-5 can ride free with each paying adult on most services.

Community Transit is considering raising its full adult fares by 25 cents, which would take effect July 1, 2015.

Washington State Ferries also accepts ORCA, but does not accept the PugetPass or inter-agency electronic transfers.

The monorail’s fare system is currently independent, but the City of Seattle (which owns the monorail) is studying the costs and benefits of having the monorail integrate into the ORCA system, and is expected to take action some time in 2015.

35 Replies to “Low-Income Fares Coming to Streetcars and Foot Ferries”

  1. Looking at your table, I have to scratch my head (again) at the fact that the RRFP fare in King County is lower than the low-income fare.

    1. You realize the RRFP fare is mandated by federal law, right? It’s a terrible policy and I’d love to see it go away, but until the Metro’s stuck with it. There may be a good case the low income fare should have been lower, but I don’t see what the RRFP has to do with that.

      1. Ah, thanks. Didn’t realize that detail. As long as we’re accepting cash fare we can’t get too precise, so 1.25 is probably as high as we should go. I’d happily support that move, although I expect the revenue generated would be trivial. It would still be lower than the reduced income fare.

      2. Nor are the agencies required to offer the RRFP rates during peak hours, or to make the RRFP cash fare the same as the RRFP ORCA fare, although the RRFP off-peak cash fare still can’t be more than half the peak full adult cash fare.

        But as you can see, within the PugetPass pod, only King County Metro has a peak surcharge. Other agencies could arbitrarily declare a peak period, and remove or significantly reduce the RRFP discount during that period.

        Furthermore, the agencies only have to honor each others’ RRFPs because of their participation in the RRFP inter-local agreement.

    2. To keep things simple, why not let youth fare, RRFP, and low-income be the same, exactly one half of the full adult fare? Kitsap’s got it right.

  2. I know there are some who will read this post and then have a feeling of self-satisfaction and pride for living in a county that is supposedly compassionate and generous. Don’t pat yourself on the back too hard. Adding discount after discount and benefit after benefit to the poor and disabled only perpetuates and increases the cycle of poverty. It chains people to poverty, it doesn’t help them to leave it, which should be our goal as a society.

    1. I think I’lll go ask to have my hours to be cut, so I can qualify for that $1 discount on the Vashon foot ferry. Good tiimes!

    2. My husband and I qualified for food stamps back in ~1971, when we were poor and just starting out. We were glad to have them and they helped. Later, as our income grew, we were glad to have the extra income and not sorry that we no longer qualified for food stamps.

      I’m going to pat myself on the back for living and paying taxes in a county that’s compassionate and generous, even if it’s only supposedly so.

    3. You have no clue! I was on unemployment and got off as soon as I could. A small percentage of people abuse these programs, most (like me) use them as an opportunity to get our feet back on the ground and only when we need to.

      1. I thought Sam’s final episode was last night. Now that he is moving to CBS, I think his viewership will drop substantially.

    4. But look at the prime-time spot being wasted! Rush Limbaugh imitations long since went the way of Groucho Marx glasses. So Sam needs to start stealing material from fresh-from-under-the-cow idiots like David Brooks.

      Is Michael Medved still around? Hey, wait a minute….STB focus means….Dori Monson!


      1. Actually, it’s you guys who are in league with Dori Monson, what with your and his opposition to the waterfront tunnel.

        And I’m not interested in individual stories of overcoming poverty. I’m interested in the big picture and facts and tends. And the big picture says that the more money and freebees and handouts and discounts we’ve thrown at poverty, the worse it gets.

      2. “The state of Mrs Tachyon is a terrible Indictment on Society,” said Kasandra.

        “What’s indictment mean?” asked Johnny.

        “It means it’s wrong.”

        “That she’s got no relatives? I don’t think you can get them from the Governm—”

        “No, that she’s got no home and just wanders around the place living on what she can find. Something Ought to be Done.”

        “Well, I suppose we could go see her,” said Johnny. “She’s only at St Mark’s [hospital].”

        “What good would that do?”

        “Well, it might cheer her up a bit.”

        “Going hospital visiting won’t do anything about the disgusting neglect of street people and the mentally ill, will it?”

        “Probably not. She just might be a bit cheered up.”

        Kasandra walked in silence for a moment.

        “It’s just that… I’ve got a thing about hospitals, if you must know. They’re full of sick people.”

        … “I… just think we ought to do it. Anyway, I thought you did things like that for your Duke of Edinburgh award or whatever it was.”

        “Yes, but there was some point in that.”

        (My second quote from Johnny and the Bomb. Chapter 2.)

  3. Now, while Sam goes off the air for a commercial break, let’s get back to transit fares. Where like everything public, perspective swiftly blows out the bus window even when it doesn’t open.

    How much would it cost King County to lower its reduced fare rate to the Federal level? Or for the Feds to adjust their upward by the same amount- or both sides agree to have them meet midway in between?

    Also- wrong to assume that everybody using either pass is not paying anything into the system- anybody ever bother to count how many people who use these passes are still working- though likely making very low incomes in spite of it.

    So it’s very much to the advantage of the region and the county to see to it they get to work- and at least pay admittedly regressive sales taxes, and often still pay into Social Security.

    My RFPP comes to $54 a month. I expect to work some more, and goal-realistic or not- is still to turn back the switch on Social Security, to benefit people who really need it.

    Like everybody young, who’ll need all the help they can get to get the education to earn the money they need to rebuild the country we’ve left them.

    But meantime, need some break on my monthly pass to earn anything.
    But to take the heat off all passengers much less fortunate than I am- somebody with transit accounting experience and a calculator: How much more would everyone at this level need to pay to equal our fair share?

    And now- back to the Sam and Dori show.


    1. No, the person without a heart gives the person lying in the gutter a pillow and a blanket. The honorable person (myself) encourages and incentivizes the person lying in the gutter to get out of there.

      1. Yep, incentivize him by not giving him a break on his bus fare. Makes total sense, in Sam world.

  4. Yeah, I know. It’s really Regional Reduced Fare Permit, or RRFP. Wish those damn liberals would give me a bigger bulb tor my reading light down here. Maybe the street sweeper would quit rolling the broom over me, too. Keeps me awake even with this pillow.

    But I’m serious about how much national, state, and local effort goes into minute accounting for what our lowest paid or completely unpaid people get. Bet those accountants would give a lot to be transferred where their services were really needed in 2008.

    Especially since it looks like that situation is far from past. Hotel accommodations would smell better, though book-keeping much worse. Bob Cratchit’s generation probably used clothespins, but our guys can get hazmat suits and respirators.

    One thing conspiracy theorists across the political spectrum are right about: illegitimate power always uses minor irritations like the poor as distraction from richer and better armed dread diseases.

    Passage early on in 1984 shows the hero suddenly thrilled by sound of a huge riot in the streets. Big Brother is toast at last.

    But turning a corner, he sees a giant mob of the poor, by definition and reality not Party members, fighting over pots and pans on sale. Worked for Big Brother. And all his “here’s a quarter get lost” brothers too.

    So here’s an urban story unfortunately but unavoidably connected to a comment above:

    Two curb level drinking buddies are finishing off some vintage Ripple. One says: “Y’know, last night I was lyin’ here in the gutter (ungratefully doesn’t mention blanket and pillow) and a pig come by and fell in the gutter and fell asleep right next to me.

    “Then my parish priest come by, and says, ‘My son, one is known by the company he keeps!”

    And his buddy asks: “So, did ya get up?”

    Answer: (This advertisement is approved by the National Pork Commission to confirm the quality, discernment, and health-consciousness of its product. As witnessed by the fact that the pig got up and left, but the sub-prime lender just yelled to a passing liberal and demanded a Swedish adjustable mattress.)

    And also that society stop giving transit breaks to the poor, so they’ll develop the initiative to get into fields where they’ll get a lot more and bigger breaks by becoming too big to fail. Including both complete bailouts end of prosecution for both loitering and reputable-banker imitation.)

    Now everybody use your various passes on the trolleybus so it’ll get its headlights off me so I can sleep!


  5. Seriously, these types of programs get routinesly abused. Look at the existing paper transfers. We’ve all seen the fare evader with a wallet or purse full of paper transfers from days or months past. While Orca will be great for some, what will prevent some from selling their RRFP for cash? …and then the Region car tab payers like myself are paying for someone undeserving of the program.

    What kind of failsafes will be enabled to ensure abuses will be mitigated?

    1. Seriously, these types of programs get routinesly abused. Look at the existing paper transfers

      In what sense is a low income fare program and paper-based transfers the same “type” of program? What would that type be?

    2. There are certainly a few loopholes here. Given that only 30 days of payroll stubs are required, someone who works intermittently can use the month that they earn less than the normal amount to qualify. Or someone working multiple jobs can choose to show only the stubs that have income below the limit. There is no exemption from the low income fare program for adults who are still claimed as a dependent on their parent’s tax return, so students can show the paycheck from the jobs that they are taking and still qualify. Although this is less an issue since the major universities have U-Pass, it is a loophole for these individuals.

      To qualify for the Affordable Care Act, you have to provide an estimate of your income for the year, and that estimate is verified with IRS data on past income. If you make too much money, you have to repay your ACA subsidy at the end of the next tax year. Someone could qualify based on a month’s income in the low season and retain the low income fare benefits for two years. There needs to be more electronic verification, a requirement to report changes in income, and information sharing with the IRS similar to that with the ACA exchanges. Periodic income audits need to be done, similar to Lifeline telephone service, and the subsidy amount should be calculated on a monthly basis, and billed if it were found that the person turned out to be ineligible.

      1. At first glance, that sounds like a very good idea. But how much would it cost to set up such verification? And would it even be legal for the IRS to share data with King County? I’d recommend waiting for a year or so to see how much the program costs with the current standards and at least get some ballpark figure or even overestimate of how much this extreme verification might save.

      2. The IRS has information sharing programs with local agencies. Generally in most states that have income taxes, the local agencies contract with the state since that is easier, but in Washington local agencies would need to contract with the IRS.

        I don’t have too much of a problem with TANF or SNAP (food stamp) users being given low income transit since those programs have their own verification. The SNAP threshold is the same as the low income fare threshold, so I don’t see the purpose of having King County intercepting these people instead of just telling them to qualify using SNAP. They can also obtain food benefits this way.

    3. To do so he or she must first be sure to sell the pass to another geezer. But why do so when that geezer is already eligible for an RRFP?

  6. Your feelings about paper transfers are shared by just about every transit driver in the world. Starting the time wasted reading them. Even worse dislike than for change- which drivers at least used to be able to take pride in the skill it took to count it.

    But while no system is uncheatable- in the old days drivers occasionally stole change instead of counting it- the best all-around strategy is to get the passenger’s money, preferably for at least a month in advance, into a vault well out of the way of operations, as fast as possible.

    Turnstiles and fare inspectors can then check electronic cards to prove right to travel. For RRFP, reason senior cards don’t carry photographs is that any time officers have suspicion, they can ask to see age ID.

    Don’t know about low-income cards. Do owners have to carry ID showing permission? Something like that would work….

    But the Star Trek Prime Directive of any system of transit accounting should be to get as much fare money as possible while delaying service as little as possible. Wonder if it’ll take a Freedom of Information order to get the cost of one minute of operating delay.

    Reason I won’t concede that Tunnel operations lamed by fare-collection constitute a dead horse no longer in need of beating. Maybe Seabiscuit
    could win in a walk with a farebox chained to his leg. But nobody will buy my movie script with that scene in it.

    In real life, fareboxes make a New Flyer crawl like a last trip to the glue factory. Fare machines, card readers, and fare inspectors. Works for SF Muni.
    Maybe we can steal the idea and sell it for revenue.


    1. Low-income ORCA cards issued in King County will look like normal ones out of the vending machine. The card is registered to the individual recipient, allowing FOEs to check ID from time to time (which only works on fare-inspected services).

      If the recipient sells or loses the pass, and asks for a new one, the old one is deactivated. (The turn-off feature wiped out a large swath of white-collar pass fraud in 2009.)

  7. Since nobody has asked why low-income card recipients get their card for free, I’d like to suggest a way to satisfy Metro’s/ST’s need to get cardholders not to treat ORCA as disposable, so the $5 fee is no longer needed for that purpose:

    Wayt Technology. WIth each purchase of a card, the vending machine runs through a 3-minute non-ASMR explanation of the value of the card to the holder, repeating several times its most important use to the rider: Allowing him to board faster. At the end of the 3 minutes, when the card is finally dispensed, the recipient remains unconvinced that the card is for his own convenience, but wants to never have to go through that speech again.

    Thanks to Mark’s poetry for motivating my thinking cap to come up with this idea. And thanks to Wayt Technology for helping us become One with Transit!

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