January 30, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 5

News

County council names members of group to advise on creation of low-income transit fare

By Rosette Royale / Interim Editor

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The King County Council appointed 21 members to serve on an advisory panel that will explore reducing fares for low-income county residents who use regional public transportation.

Hailing from a spectrum of groups and interests, members include human- service providers, low-income riders, business leaders and local, county and state officials.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what the process will be like,” said Katie Wilson, a panel member and organizer with the Transit Riders Union.

On Jan. 23, Councilmembers approved Wilson and 20 others to hammer out a potential low-income fare program. The council voted in early October to create the panel.

The advisory panel’s inaugural meeting takes place Jan. 30 in the King Street Center, 201 S. Jackson St., 8th Floor Conference Center, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. The panel will meet every three to four weeks, though the next meeting has not been scheduled.

The panel will examine several key issues: pinpointing barriers low-income people face in using transit and how fares affect use for those riders; reviewing different fare options; identifying funding sources for low-income fare programs; and exploring a fare program for low-income riders that would also be considered by Metro and other regional public tranist agencies, including the joint governing board of ORCA, One Regional Card for All.

The panel will make recommendations to councilmembers in July.

In December, a coalition of 27 social justice groups and unions, including the Transit Riders Union and Real Change, proposed a low-income fare of 75 cents, equivalent to fares for seniors or riders with disabilities (“Unions, human service agencies press council on low-income bus and light rail fares,” RC, Dec. 26, 2012).

The current one-zone, non-peak fare on Metro is $2.25. Sound Transit bus fares range from $2.50 to $3.50, and the light rail costs between $2 and $2.75.

Advisory panel meetings will be facilitated by consultants from BERK, a public policy firm.

In an email sent to panel members,  BERK consultant Allegra Calder asked members to consider a number of questions, beginning with: “Based on what you know today about the Committee’s charge — what are you hoping to accomplish through this process? What concerns do you have?”

In her email reply to consultants, Wilson wrote that she hoped any low-fare program would cover riders who truly need it and that the application process would not be “degrading.”

“The funding part is important,” she wrote, “because I think it’s really important that there’s not a trade-off between funding this program and maintaining bus service.”

Along with Wilson, committee members include Rob Beem, board member of North Urban Human Service Alliance; Marilyn Mason-Plunkett, president/CEO Hopelink; Ginger Kwan, executive director for Open Doors for Multicultural Families; Alison Eisinger, executive director of Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness; Katheryn Flake, bus rider; On Ho, King County Women’s Advisory Board; Jerry DeGrieck, senior policy advisor to Mayor Mike McGinn; Marilynne Beard, Kirkland deputy city manager; John Hodgson, Kent city manager; Londi Lindell, North Bend city administrator; Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association; Patrick Bannon, president Bellevue Downtown Association; John Resha, principal legislative analyst, King County Council; Kelli Carroll, principal legislative analyst, King County Council; Chris Arkills, transportation policy advisor, King County; Elissa Benson, King County Office of Performance, Strategy and Budget; Deborah Doyle, economic services administration, Department of Social and Health Services; Katy Miller, project manager, homeless housing program, King County; Dennis Worsham, regional health director, King County; and Kevin Desmond, general manager, Metro.

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