The year 2017 saw adjustments to Metro Transit fares aimed at making public transit easier for all to use and understand and more affordable for those in need.
Youth ridership on buses, trains and streetcars increased dramatically last summer when King County Executive Dow Constantine launched a pilot program offering reduced 50-cent fares for youth paying with ORCA cards for Metro buses, to make it easier for young residents – particularly those who have limited transportation options – to take transit to jobs, internships, camps, and other activities during the summer, when youth ridership has historically declined. Sound Transit offered a reduced fare of $1 and Seattle offered $0.50 fares for the Streetcar. Metro distributed more than 11,000 free ORCA Youth cards during the promotion – twice more than originally planned. Excluding ORCA cards offered through other programs, Metro’s youth ridership increased to 376,000 boardings, up 35 percent from the previous summer. Youth ridership on Link light rail increased 42 percent while Streetcar boardings increased 25 percent.
Executive Dow Constantine announced a proposal in August to simplify Metro’s fares. Starting in July 2018, all regular adult fare Metro customers will pay $2.75 to ride the bus, no matter how far or what time they are traveling, thanks to adoption of the Executive’s proposal by the King County Council. The change will replace a fare structure that is one of the most complex in the nation, and eliminate surcharges for customers who travel across zones or during peak commute hours. About 65 percent of Metro customers will see no change or a fare reduction as result.
Metro developed the proposal after hearing customer feedback in support of simpler fare system. Discount fares for those who qualify for ORCA LIFT, youth, senior and disabled fares will not be affected. The King County Council also adopted the Executive’s proposal to increase funds available to a program that enables human service agencies to purchase bus tickets for their low or no-income clients.
Speaking of ORCA LIFT, the nation’s leading reduced-fare program for transit passengers who earn a lower income was recognized for its innovation with a Puget Sound Regional Council VISION 2040 award. “You have created a program that works,” said Josh Brown, Executive Director of PSRC, in October. “You’ve made it easy for people to sign up and use the transit system seamlessly with all users.” Launched by Executive Constantine in 2015, ORCA LIFT has recorded more than 12.5 million Metro boardings. Much of its continued success is due to the innovative partnership between Metro and Public Health – Seattle & King County, tapping into the effective network of community partners that King County created to help 200,000 people sign up for affordable health care.
Thanks to all our riders for a great 2017. Here’s looking forward to the new year.
Senior Strategic Communications Advisor to the Director of the King County Department of Transportation