A proposal to make King County Metro fares free for low-income households could be approved in the coming months. File photo

A proposal to make King County Metro fares free for low-income households could be approved in the coming months. File photo

King County considers free transit for low-income residents

The program would target those at or below 80 percent of the federal poverty level.

A proposal to make Metro fares free for low-income households could be approved in the coming months.

The ordinance was recommended by committee to the King County Council, which will vote on whether to allow households earning less than 80 percent of the federal poverty level — and which are using one of six state programs — to enroll in a fully subsidized transit program. Those who qualify would be allowed to ride Metro transit free of charge.

The program’s net cost will likely be $6 million in the first year and average $10 million in subsequent years, according to county documents. The overall costs could be reduced if other organizations, such as Sound Transit, additionally participated. The county is in negotiations with Sound Transit and Seattle to try and include them in the plan.

The plan was presented Feb. 12 at a Mobility and Environment Committee meeting.

In 2016, the county updated its public transportation plan, which includes several fare categories. The Transit Riders Union worked with the county to make recommendations on how to better serve residents.

“This program that you’re considering today is really the first fruits of that work,” said Katie Wilson of the Transit Riders Union. “We are extremely excited to see this come to fruition.”

King County already has a reduced fare option for people earning below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. That tier of ORCA Lift gives riders trips at a reduced fare of $1.50, about a 45 percent discount.

The proposed program would target even lower-income residents. The federal poverty level for a family of four is about $26,000, meaning that same family would qualify if it made less than $21,000.

To receive the fully subsidized cards, individuals would also have to be using services from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Refugee Cash Assistance, Aged, Blind, or Disabled Cash Assistance, Pregnant Women Assistance, Supplemental Security Income or Housing and Essential Needs programs.

“By serving people who have very little or no income and cannot afford Metro’s existing low-income fare programs, the proposed program will fill a gap,” county documents state.

The county could expand the program in coming years to include more community agencies that serve people making less than 80 percent of the federal poverty level.

Some 54,000 people in the county could use the program. Around 30 percent of those are under age 18. If the eligibility lid were lifted to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, up to 261,000 people would qualify.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bothell-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bothell-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

File photo
State Supreme Court strikes down $30 car-tab initiative

Justices unanimously agreed that voter-approved Initiative 976 is unconstitutional.

A suspect in a carjacking hangs almost 60 feet up in a tree after climbing it to avoid police on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020 near Mill Creek, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After gunfire, Bothell carjacking suspect climbs a tree

He allegedly passed a trooper at 114 mph on a motorcycle, crashed, stole a car, fled gunshots and climbed 60 feet.

Hilary Franz (left) and Sue Kuehl Pederson
Wildfires, forest health are key issues in race to lead DNR

Republican Sue Kuehl Pederson is challenging incumbent Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

power grid electricity power lines blackouts PG&E (Shutterstock)
State extends moratorium on some electric, gas shutoffs

Investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities in WA can’t disconnect customers through April.

Cecil Lacy Jr. (Family photo)
Court: New trial in case of man who told police ‘Can’t breathe’

Cecil Lacy Jr. of Tulalip died in 2015 while in police custody.

A Sept. 10 satellite image shows smoke from U.S. wildfires blanketing the majority of the West Coast. (European Space Agency)
University of Washington professors talk climate change, U.S.-China relations

Downside for climate policy supporters is it can risk alienating moderate or right-leaning voters.

Sightseers at a Snoqualmie Falls viewpoint adjacent to the Salish Lodge & Spa on Feb. 19, 2020. Natalie DeFord/staff photo
25 COVID cases linked to Salish Lodge

Public Health is urging anyone who visited the lodge to monitor for symptoms or get tested.

The nose of the 500th 787 Dreamliner at the assembly plant in Everett on Sept. 21, 2016. (Kevin Clark / Herald, file)
Report: Boeing will end 787 Dreamliner production in Everett

Boeing declined comment on a Wall Street Journal story saying the passenger jet’s assembly will move to South Carolina.

Car hits hydrant and power pole in Bothell

Luckily there were no injuries

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Surge in consumer spending eases state budget challenges

A jump in tax collections cuts a projected $9 billion shortfall in half, acccording to new forecast.

Rendering of the completed boathouse. Courtesy photo/City of Kenmore
Kenmore project will bring public rowing to Rhododendron Park

The project will create a boathouse for both public and school district use

High speed rail and hub cities explored in Cascadia Corridor study

A new paper outlines a potential plan for the region.