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Reduced bus fares for low-income riders coming to Everett Transit, Community Transit

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — For the estimated half of Everett Transit riders who fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, the agency plans to introduce a low-income fare rate.
Everett Transit is targeting July 1 to introduce it. The launch would coincide with the agency’s planned rate increase to $2 for adults and $1.50 for youth announced last fall, transit director Tom Hingson said.
The price options for low-income fares might be either $1 or $1.25 for adult riders. 
Community Transit, meanwhile, is working to introduce a low-income fare this July. The price would be half the regular fare, or $1.25 for local buses and $2 for commuter buses.
Everett Transit would figure out who’s eligible for its low income fare by working with state agencies. One method may be to offer the low income rate if you qualify for certain government benefits, Hingson said.
This year’s income thresholds to be at 200 percent of the federal poverty level are $24,980 for a single individual, $33,820 for a two-person household or $51,500 for a family of four. For anyone keeping score, the national federal poverty line for a single person is less than $12,490 a year, or less than $16,910 for two people, say a single parent with a kid or a live-together couple.
The three City Council members reviewing the proposal last week as part of a city budget committee like the idea of a low-income fare but said keeping up the percentage that farebox collections bring in is a particular concern.
Everett Transit recently saw ridership increase as predicted this year, Hingson said. 
Right now, over the next five years, fare collection is on target to put $8.5 million back into the public bus service’s coffers, or cover about 13 percent of the whole cost to run the service. Creating the low-income fare at $1 would reduce the fare return to $7.5 million by the agency’s estimates.
The committee’s members — Council President Scott Bader, Councilman Scott Murphy and Council Vice President Judy Tuohy — wanted more information before they could suggest whether to set the low-income fare at $1.25 or $1.
The committee was clear that senior citizen fare rates should not be increased.
A Regional Reduced Fare Permit through the ORCA card exists for seniors and disabled people. Getting an ORCA card to swipe your way onto a bus instead of carrying quarters is free if you are eligible for the reduced fare permit.
King County Metro and Sound Transit set their low income fare rate at half their normal adult fare. Those agencies charge $3 normally and their low-income fare is $1.50.

Community Transit seeking input
For Community Transit service, the low-income fare would be $1.25 for all local bus riders (routes within Snohomish County) and $2 for all commuter bus riders (routes that travel to and from King County). Adults and youth would pay the same low-income fare.
Under the program, residents would need to verify their income with a social service provider. To qualify, residents’ income must be no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services standard. Eligible residents would need to use an ORCA LIFT card to pay the reduced fare; they cannot pay cash.
More information is available at www.communitytransit.org/ORCALIFT
The public is invited to comment on this proposal by March 8 through:
• Phone: 425-353-7433 or 800-562-1375
• Email: FareChange@commtrans.org
• Mail: Community Transit, 7100 Hardeson Rd., Everett, WA 98203
• @MyCommTrans (Twitter)
• Facebook (Community Transit)
A public hearing before the Community Transit Board of Directors will be held at 3 p.m. March 7 in the Community Transit Corporate
Board Room, 7100 Hardeson Rd., Everett, accessible by Everett Transit Route 8 and Community Transit Route 105.
The public is invited to ask questions about the low-income fare proposal by joining Community Transit Live webcasts at noon on Feb. 12 and March 5 on the Community Transit Facebook page.

  

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