Next March, King County Metro’s low-income riders will be able to ride for a lower fare of just $1.50. Metro estimates upward of 100,000 people will qualify for the new fare card. To qualify, an individual will need to make $23,340 a year or less or $47,700 for a family of four. The Seattle Times reported this new program will cost between $7 million and $9 million, plus $3 million in startup costs, with a $4.75 million decrease in fair income.
The pass is expected to increase ridership by 1 million bus trips. While that number sounds impressive, that calculates to only 1 percent, since Metro had 119 million riders last year, according to the Times. At the same time, fares will increase by 25 cents for regular riders, and this November, Seattle voters will once again be asked to approve a 0.1-percent sales-tax increase and $60 car-tab fee. This would save bus service in the city after a previous vote failed to save it from cuts countywide.
It seems problematic to offer low-income fares and then ask others to pay a higher fare and increase taxes and fees, but this is a necessary move for Metro. Seattle’s average apartments cost more than $1,000 a month, and people who have an income lower than those Metro suggested need the help. But they’re not the majority of the ridership. While it might make those who don’t qualify for the low-income pass wince, it’s important Seattle has equal opportunity for transportation and a functioning bus system.