Transit Riders Union Human Services Bus Ticket Campaign

The Transit Riders Union (TRU) is organizing to ensure that everyone in our community can access transit options, especially with the recent expansion of the Light Rail and subsequent changes to some bus service.
As a reminder, the ORCA LIFT low-income fare is now available for anyone in King, Snohomish, or Pierce county who makes less than 200% of the federal poverty limit ($23,760 for a household of 1, $40,320 for a household of 3). Visit www.orcalift.com for more information!

The following information was shared at our April 21 General Membership meeting, and prepared as a guest blog post by Katie Wilson, General Secretary of TRU. PDF version here.


Human Services Bus Ticket CampaignTransit Riders Union
progress report & call to action
April 25, 2016

Progress!

  • The problem: Toward the end of last year TRU started realizing that the expansion of Link Light Rail and the Metro bus service restructure would raise barriers for people who use bus tickets, since the tickets and paper transfers are not accepted as proof of payment on light rail.
  • The pressure: After a letter and meetings with councilmembers produced inconclusive results, we started a petition and announced a public action for April 16th. The KC Exec’s office quickly got in touch to tell us they were working on a solution.
  • 2016 0426 bus and light rail passThe solution: This “combo-ticket” will be available starting mid-June, at a cost $11 for a booklet of 10. (It is priced at 20% of the value of the bus tickets, with no extra cost for the light rail pass.) It will also be possible to swap out tickets already purchased. Until then, King County Metro has said that if organizations purchase Sound Transit Link day passes at $1 each, they will throw in twice as many bus tickets for free (Contact: Brandon Banks, brandon.banks@kingcounty.gov, 206-477-6664.)

More in the works…

  • Raising the cap: Since we’ve heard from many organizations that they were not allocated their full ticket request this year, we have also urged county councilmembers to raise the cap. Councilmember Dave Upthegrove has been very responsive on this issue (call or email him to say thanks!) and we understand that legislation is in the works to raise the cap in the near future, hopefully in May.
  • Reducing the “match”: Clearly many organizations are unable to purchase enough tickets not because of the cap, but because of the cost. We’ve begun push for the tickets to be priced at less than 20% of face value, and Councilmember Upthegrove has expressed willingness to have this conversation. We don’t have any firm commitment yet, though, so we need your help. If the cost of the tickets is a burden for your organization, please address this issue in the survey (see below)!

For the future

  • Card-based solutions: One thing that has emerged clearly through this campaign is that for many low-income, no-income and homeless people, acquiring enough tickets to meet their transportation needs is a time-consuming and frustrating daily process. Although some need for single-use tickets will remain, many people could be better served by an unlimited monthly ORCA (or ORCA LIFT) pass, or a card that could be refilled by social service organizations at a deep discount. We have suggested this to Metro and to councilmembers and they have expressed a willingness to explore options.

What you can do

  • Take the survey by Friday, May 6: King County created an online survey of organizations that distribute the tickets, to help them assess the program and make decisions about raising the cap and reducing the match. The deadline was April 8, but since the word seems not to have got out to everyone, they have opened it back up till May 6. If you submitted a response between April 8 and April 25, it was not received (even though the survey still appeared to be live), so please fill it out again! The survey can be found at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/B73JFLB
  • Stay in touch: Transit Riders Union will continue working with the Coalition on Homelessness, but if you’d like to get direct communications on this specific issue from TRU, email or call Katie Wilson (contact info below) and introduce yourself.

Contact: Katie Wilson, General Secretary | 206-781-7204 | katie@transitriders.org
Transit Riders Union | P.O. Box 20723 | Seattle, WA 98102

All Aboard! Act now to support the Reduced Metro Fare.

Metro Bus

If you’re an able-bodied 19-64-year-old in King County, a one-way bus trip will set you back $2.25-3.00, depending on peak hours and zones being traveled. A transfer ticket will keep the money for your return-trip in your pocket, but only if you get back on the bus within two hours; otherwise, it’s another $2.25-3.00. While Metro tickets are significantly cheaper than parking, on top of the additional combined cost having and maintaining a car, we at the Coalition know that even a one-way bus ticket is out of reach for many in our community.

The Coalition, along with friends and allies at Transportation Choices Coalition, the Seattle Human Services Coalition, Puget Sound Sage, OneAmerica, and the Transit Riders Union, has been a strong voice for a reduced transit fare for people who are low income. Now, we have a real chance to make this happen! See below for what YOU can do to make this a reality! 

King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed a reduced Metro fare that incorporates many of our recommendations.  People living up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) would be eligible for a reduced fare of $1.50. In King County, nearly a quarter of the population is at or below 200% FPL. Eligibility would last for one year. At this rate, eligible riders could get a monthly ORCA pass with unlimited rides for $54.

While we are very pleased to see such a progressive and innovative proposal, we are urging the King County Council to further reduce the fare for people who are working to make ends meet.  There will be a special election this April, to raise revenue to save 600,000 hours of bus service: we are asking King County to use this opportunity to ‘buy down’ the fare to $1.25.

Metro is facing a $75 million budget shortfall, and there are 20% service cuts looming.

Why? Our local options for raising money to fund basic infrastructure, like public transportation, are limited by the State’s authority. Washington state’s lawmakers have not voted for more progressive taxes that would allow us to continue (and expand) services. In Executive Constantine’s words, “We’ve done everything within our means to keep people moving. We are out of time for a statewide solution that includes a local option. We must move forward on our own.” Now, the County has limited options to prevent service cuts.

In order to “move forward” we must pass a ballot measure up for public vote on April 22, 2014. The Executive is proposing to prevent bus cuts by increasing the sales tax by one tenth of one percent, and implementing a $60 car tab fee (there will be a partial rebate for some car owners, based on household income). It is frustrating that these two options are flat taxes, that will disproportionately burden poor and working people.  However, this is precisely why we have leverage to make the Reduced Fare happen!

Here’s what you can do right now:

  1. Call and Email your King County Councilmembers. Tell them you support the Reduced Metro Fare proposal, but that $1.50 is still too high, and we need a fairer fare. [Author’s note: I  just used this very link to look up who my King County Councilmember was. I found Larry Phillips’  phone number and left him a voicemail in just three minutes. You can do this!]
  2. Encourage others to do the same!

Here’s what you can plan to do next week:

  • Show your support for the Reduced Fare at King County’s Public Hearing on Tuesday, Feb 18 at 1:30 p.m.
    • Location: King County Council, Room 1001, King County Courthouse (516 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104)
    • Use the time devoted to public comment to share your message!