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With Metro Fare Hike, King County Offers Reduced Rate To Low-Income Riders

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Come March 1, King County Metro rates will increase by 25 cents — the fifth increase in seven years. Alongside that rate hike, the county is offering relief to low-income riders with a reduced fare. 

To say rider Kendall Craig relies on the bus is an understatement.

"Before moving downtown, I was I guess what you'd call homeless.  So we ride the bus everywhere: to food banks, to doctors appointments, to school, from school — everywhere,” she said.

Craig also works as a restaurant crew chief 30 hours a week, not enough to get paid healthcare.  On a recent day, she was at a county service center in Pioneer Square to get help finding insurance, but she has also learned she’s eligible for an ORCA Lift Card. 

The card works like a regular pre-paid bus pass, but for Craig and others who qualify, the fare is discounted to $1.50, almost half the new regular fare.

"My husband and I were adding it up. It'll save us at least $100 a month, if not more,” Craig said.

Metro estimates anywhere from 45,000 to 100,000 riders will enroll in the reduced fare program.  The trick is getting people signed up. The county saw an opportunity to piggyback with other efforts, like enrolling members in the health exchange or qualifying them for food stamps. And the county is creating a one-stop-shop model at 40 locations where the public can sign up for services simultaneously.

"I think our biggest thing is to let people know what's available, that they don't know what's available for them,” said Willie Allen, an outreach worker with Public Health - Seattle & King County.