One-time increase will assist human service agencies in meeting growing demand
StoryThe Metropolitan King County Council today gave its approval to making additional reduced fare bus tickets available for low-income residents. In response to receiving an increase in requests for subsidized bus tickets, the Council adopted legislation providing a one-time increase to a program that provides subsidized bus tickets to human service agencies.
“With more people being left out in the cold by this tough economy, making additional subsidized bus tickets immediately available will help provide those most in need with transportation to and from shelters, services, and jobs,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee and prime sponsor of the legislation. “Metro’s Reduced Fare Bus Ticket Program is essential for making public transportation available and affordable to those who depend on it most. I thank SHARE for their advocacy in bringing this shortfall to the attention of my colleagues and me.”
“As a bus commuter on the #41 and the former director of an emergency services organization, I have seen first-hand how vital public transportation is to all members of our community,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, co-sponsor of the ordinance. “Today’s action will help those struggling in this economy to access shelter, job training, and needed services.”
“The recession has hit low-income individuals hard, and today’s action will continue to provide them access throughout Metro's service area,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
“The testimony we have heard was a very clear reminder of just how vital this program is to not only the low-income and homeless population, but to also the growing number of county residents who have had their lives changed because of the current economic downturn,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “This is a unique situation that called for a unique response.”
“Many people in our low-income communities depend upon transit to access services and get to work and school,” Councilmember Julia Patterson said. “But mobility issues are only part of the challenges facing homeless and low-income populations. I’m pleased to support this short-term fix for additional bus tickets and I’m hopeful that we will continue working to find long-term solutions to assist communities in need.”
“We are working to create a transit system that serves all King County residents. Today’s action is one step. But we must continue working to find a stable and reliable funding source for both transit and human services in our region,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, Chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee.
“This one time subsidy is certainly helpful to our low income residents who depend on bus service,” said Reagan Dunn, chair of the Council’s Regional Transit Committee. “I do believe we need to take a more comprehensive look at this issue to assist individuals who count on our bus service for their basic survival, especially since the end of the Downtown Seattle Ride Free Area.”
The Reduced Fare Bus Ticket Program provides subsidized bus tickets to eligible health and human service agencies in King County that serve persons who are homeless and/or low income. The participating community service agencies pay 20 percent of the value of the tickets, with King County subsidizing the remaining 80 percent of the tickets' value through forgoing the fare revenue. The County’s current subsidy is $1.8 million a year.
The current economic crisis, combined with the elimination of the Downtown Seattle Ride Free Area, has meant that human service agencies have seen an increase in the number of individuals and families needed tickets through the Reduced Fare Bus Ticket Program.
To meet the growing demand for bus tickets, the Council today approved a one-time subsidy of up to $250,000 to the Bus Ticket Program—with the additional tickets distributed by the health and human service agencies that are currently part of the program. The increase will be funded from money set aside in 2012 to mitigate elimination of the Downtown Seattle Ride Free Area.