CIRCA 2011 Citizens line up along 3rd Ave. while the King County Council holds a hearing on Metro cuts.
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  • CIRCA 2011 Citizens line up along 3rd Ave. while the King County Council holds a hearing on Metro cuts.

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Like a rare Pokémon, some positive mass transit news appears! King County Executive Dow Constantine announced this morning a new reduced-fare program for low income bus riders.

Here's how the program, approved by the county council and set to take effect in March, works:

  • The reduced fare will take effect March 1, 2015, and will be $1.50 a ride.
  • Riders who qualify must use an ORCA card and cannot pay with cash. No fee will be charged for a new card or renewal. A $5 fee will be charged to replace a lost or stolen card.  
  • The eligibility threshold for a person to qualify for the low-income fare is 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, currently $23,340 for an individual.
  • Eligibility must be re-verified every other year. The low-income fare will expire 24 months after the card is issued. After expiration, it can be used as a regular adult fare card.

"By next March, we will have raised Metro fares five times since 2008. Off-peak fares will have doubled," says Constantine. That's due in part to the state legislature's unconscionable refusal to fund transit or let us tax ourselves in order to do so.

Throwing a local lifeline to the people whose livelihoods often depend on transit is common sense. They're announcing the program today because "we want people to know well in advance so we can reach everybody who's eligible," says Chad Lewis, a spokesperson for the county executive's office.

The King County Public Health department, which is facing some serious budget cuts, "proved to be successful" at enrolling more than 165,000 county residents for health insurance under Obamacare, according to the county. So, Lewis says, public health workers are going to be involved in spreading the word about the reduced-fare option throughout the county. An estimated 45,000 to 100,000 riders will be eligible.