Low-income transit riders rejoice — your voices have been heard.
Cheaper and more plentiful transit tickets are coming after King County Executive Dow Constantine included a provision in the 2017–18 county budget to reduce the amount of money that social service providers have to pay for their clients’ tickets and increase county funding for the program to cover new demand. The King County Council passed the proposal Nov. 7.
The move came after the Transit Riders Union (TRU), a coalition of individuals and groups that advocates for expanded transit access, very publicly delivered petitions to Constantine’s office and the King County Council office in September calling for the change as well as cheap unlimited bus passes for those in need.
Constantine’s proposal meets many of the group’s demands by reducing the cost that social services organizations pay for the tickets from 20 percent of face value to 10 percent.
The number of tickets those groups are able to purchase is limited by the amount that the county can budget to cover the remaining 80 — now 90 — percent of the ticket price, so the proposal estimates it will increase the value of the county subsidy to $3.6 million to account for both the increased cost of the program and an expected increase in demand.
The legislation also clears the way for a “combo ticket,” a full-day light-rail pass with two bus tickets attached. The Transit Riders Union had advocated for the combo ticket because it isn’t possible to use a transfer between the light-rail system and the bus system, which made it more difficult for low-income people to make it to and from appointments.
Metro already made the combo ticket and has sold 704 books of them, according to a staff report to the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee.
The County Council voted in September to put another $650,000 behind the human services ticket program, noting that social service agencies reported they would be out of tickets by October. That brought the total funding to $3.2 million.
In a statement to the Transit Riders Union, Constantine committed to direct Metro to work with other transit agencies, local jurisdictions and potential partners to discuss how to provide assistance for the area’s low-income and homeless residents while coping with increased demand on the public transit network.
The TRU plans to celebrate its win, but its agenda for policy reform is far from complete, said Katie Wilson, cofounder of the group.
Other priorities include expanding access to street cars, winning a $5 pass for low-income folks and lengthening the transfer window, among others.