Credit: Community Transit

Community Transit’s Board of Directors approved a proposal Thursday afternoon to create a low-income fare category, and make the fare half the regular fare, rounded down to the nearest quarter. The new fare category will take effect July 1.

CT will be only the second agency in the ORCA pod where low-income ORCA users will save 50% or more on their fare, joining Kitsap Transit.

Each low-income ORCA card is free for first-time recipients, and is charged the low-income fare for each service that has a low-income fare. All the agencies, except Washington State Ferries, honor transfer value from trips on other ORCA-paid services, for 2 hours from time of payment. All but WSF also honor monthly PugetPasses. Loaded ORCA product will remain the only medium for getting any of the low-income fare discounts.

Everett Transit is in the middle of its comment period on three proposals, two of which would establish a low-income fare category, and the second of which would make that low-income fare a half fare. ET’s Option 2 would also make its youth fare (for riders 6-18) a half fare.

In an unusual turn, CT is the first agency in the pod not to match its low-income fare to its youth fare. Since the Regional Reduced Fare Permit fare (for seniors 65+ and riders with qualifying disabilities) is already ubiquitously a half fare, mostly due to federal law, CT won’t end up having four different fares on each route.

If ET moves forward with one of its low-income fare proposals, that would bring the ORCA Pod to having eight agencies (as of when the monorail starts accepting ORCA, projected to happen in September) that have a low-income fare, and two that do not: Pierce Transit and Washington State Ferries. However, PT’s and WSF’s youth fares are half fares.

12 Replies to “Community Transit Second ORCA Agency to Adopt Low-Income Half Fare”

  1. They really need to just roll all of these into one fare: a lower-cost fare with different reasons that people qualify. They could add and subtract reasons as needed for eligibility for the lower fare, but it seems weird to segment it that way.

    1. We are. The categories will be the same: Adult, Youth & Reduced. Under the reduced category, customers will have to option to qualify as s senior, disabled or low-income. Personally, I’d like to see simply a “Standard” fare and “reduced” – that’s it. Milwaukee has this.

  2. I’m curious which would cost CT more money:
    A) having to apply staff time to verify if youths qualify for low-income fares, or
    B) just dropping the youth fare to the reduced fare

    1. Can any child in school and not working call themselves low income, regardless of the income level of their parents? The tax returns in their own name would show nothing but a few pennies of bank account interest.

  3. Still worried if this will affect CT System Expansion… not a lot of decent connections around Paine Field, with some – ET Route 70 – in dire risk of closure.

    That said, this was something the CT Board and CT Exec very much wanted. There are others regionally who want fare relief for working families and kiddos – like me – with the very regressive state tax code. So we will see if CT will serve the areas crying out for new service or stand pat.

    1. I don’t think this will effect the routes much at all. Farebox recovery rate is about 20% for Community Transit (or at least, that is their goal). Low income riders make up a small subset of that, so this is a very small financial hit. Decisions like the one you are talking about will be independent of this change.

  4. More handouts provided by those who pay full fare. That’s called socialism. The money collected should be spent on expanding and improving service, not reduced by offering select groups a discount. How would you feel if prices at a restaurant were higher so that some could get a discount or free meal?

    1. Peter;

      This is called running a public utility. Not a private business. Also sports arenas do charge a reduced youth fare, for instance.


    2. You mean, ahem, more handouts to all riders, including those who pay full fare, by those paying sales tax, and more handouts to employees by employers providing transit passes as a benefit.

      So, do you want fares raised to the level of fully covering the cost of providing the service?

    3. Please be honest when you drag out the “Everything must pay its own way” argument.

      If we were true to the market, then roads would be private entities, charging a toll for usage. Desirable neighborhoods would command higher fees to cross their domain.

      This ‘transit-is-socialism’ argument is disengenous since the model is only applied to non-automotive conveyances. Roads aren’t paid for by the people driving on them. The gas tax is applied across the board, so that even if one adds up all gas-tax portion of the fuel burnt on a particular highway, it hardly covers the maintenance of the roadway.

      Instead, the EXCESS gas tax I PAY is funnelled to highway mega-projects. (SR-16/I-5; I-405).

      So yes, I agree…. Let’s raise fares to cover the cost of the highway.
      That means those who USE a highway Pay for THAT highway. Not me,
      Don’t tax me for something I don’t use.
      That would be Socialism, wouldn’t it?

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