ORCA cards now free for certain low-income riders
As of this week, for the first time, certain low-income transit riders can get free ORCA cards with unlimited rides on King County Metro and Sound Transit buses and trains.
Katie Wilson, general secretary for the Transit Riders Union, said this move was a long time coming. Since its formation in 2011, the Transit Riders Union has had a mission to lower the cost of public transit for residents.
“We’ve been working to make our transit system more affordable for lower-income riders for really almost a decade now,” Wilson said.
People who earn up to 80 percent of the federal poverty level — that’s about $10,00 a year for a single person or about $21,000 for a family of four — and are part of one of six state benefits programs are eligible.
“That’s someone who’s living on SSI, or has absolutely no income or just very, very little income,” Wilson said.
Eligible programs are: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families/ State Family Assistance; Refugee Cash Assistance; Aged, Blind, or Disabled Cash Assistance; Pregnant Women Assistance; Supplemental Security Income; and Housing and Essential Needs.
The union hopes to soon see the program expanded to other low-income riders who are above the qualifying income line, but for whom Seattle prices are still a struggle.
“We would like it to be people eligible up to a higher income level, but this is really a first step,” Wilson said.
Wilson noted that the ORCA LIFT program, which offers ORCA cards with half-priced rides for people up to twice the poverty level — $25,500 for a single person or $52,000 for a family of four — encompasses more low-income residents, but can still be a challenge to afford.
“That’s great, but for the lowest-income riders, still $1.50 a fare or $54 a month, which is what the ORCA LIFT costs, is still really unreachable,” Wilson said.
To learn more or to see if you qualify for a free card, visit King County Metro’s website.