More than 10,000 ORCA cards distributed for low income residents

Jan 25, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: 11:35 am
Orca cards...
The SHA is starting a new program to allow low-income residents an easier time getting around by offering free unlimited-use ORCA cards. (Oran Viriyincy, Flickr)
(Oran Viriyincy, Flickr)

The Seattle Housing Authority (SHA) is starting a new program to allow residents staying in their low-income housing an easier time getting around the Puget Sound region by offering free unlimited-use ORCA cards.

The SHA Transit Pass program will benefit more than 10,000 SHA residents by helping them save money on transportation and encouraging increased transit use.

ORCA cards now free for certain low-income riders

On Tuesday, Mayor Bruce Harrell and the Seattle Department of Transportation announced a new partnership with SHA to progress toward greater sustainability.

“Our vision for a vibrant Seattle is dependent on a sustainable transportation system where neighbors can get where they need to go swiftly, reliably, and affordably. The SHA Transit Pass equitably expands access to opportunity and helps us meet our sustainability goals through a simple – and proven – premise: Given increased access to free and affordable transit, neighbors will take advantage. As we work to create connected neighborhoods that are easy to get around, partnering SDOT and SHA represents a One Seattle approach, aligning our shared values and working together to improve outcomes for our residents.”

The program is an expansion of the 2019 pilot program, which provided ORCA cards to 2,000 low-income residents. The program was a success, with 91% of participants using public transit more frequently, with 84% using public transit at least three times a week.

On average, participants save $104 a month.

This program is funded by the Seattle Transit Measure, a voter-approved sales tax that expires in April 2027, and is set to last until Dec. 31, 2026.

“This new partnership between the Seattle Department of Transportation and the Seattle Housing Authority to offer adult SHA residents free access to public transportation throughout our region opens up the world to entire families as well as seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and others living in SHA communities,” said Rob Brandon, SHA executive director. “Most of those we serve have to make difficult choices on how to spend limited budgets. Now they can get to jobs, school, medical appointments, the grocery store, and other important activities without worrying about the cost.”

This partnership between a low-income housing program and an accessible public transit initiative is the first of its kind at this scale in the United States, according to SDOT.

If you think that you qualify for a free ORCA card, you can apply online here.

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More than 10,000 ORCA cards distributed for low income residents