The Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners voted unanimously today to approve a proposal to have Pierce Transit join the ORCA LIFT low-income fare program, bringing its extent to all transit services that accept ORCA except Washington State Ferries. Pierce Transit’s ORCA LIFT fare will be $1, joining King County Metro, all Sound Transit services, the Seattle Streetcar, Everett Transit, and Kitsap Transit buses and intra-county ferries in charging just $1 for riders in the program. Pierce Transit’s low-income fare will take effect April 1.
Pierce Transit Senior Planner Lanai Tua presented the proposal on behalf of staff. 2% of Pierce Transit boardings are by riders who already have an ORCA LIFT card (due to transferring between PT and Sound Transit). 88% of respondents in a survey supported the change, while 2% opposed, with 30% of respondents being ORCA LIFT users.
Laura Svancarek from Downtown-On-The-Go was the lone public hearing testifier, via Zoom, in enthusiastic support.
The Sound Transit Board voted on January 31 to make permanent its $1 low-income fares, after a pilot program last year had dropped the low-income fares to that level.
Riders age 19-64 can qualify for the program if their income falls below 200% of the federal poverty level, and qualification is good for a year at a time.
Riders age 65+ already qualify for the Regional Reduced Fare Permit, with fares that are at least as low as the low-income fare. Riders under age 19 get to ride free, due to new state grants to transit agencies, on nearly every public transit service in the state, including all that accept ORCA, with the exception of the Seattle Center Monorail ($1.75 for ages 6-18).
ORCA LIFT is a program that started in 2015 with King County Metro, Link Light Rail, and the Seattle Streetcars. Kitsap Transit has had a low-income fare since 1985 and was the model for the program.
Services that charge more than $1 for their low-income fare include Community Transit ($1.25 local and $2 on 400- and 800-series commuter routes), the Seattle Center Monorail ($1.75), the King County Ferries ($3.75 to West Seattle and $4.50 to Vashon), and the Kitsap Fast Ferries westbound ($5).
Low-income fare programs are also available in New York City, Jacksonville, Miami, Columbus, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Salt Lake City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Honolulu, and Portland. Additionally, various mid-sized and smaller transit agencies across the country are still free to ride.