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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


A year after launch, ORCA LIFT shows how transit can help confront income inequality

Summary

ORCA LIFT, the nation's largest reduced-fare program for lower-income riders, is showing other metropolitan regions how transit can be part of the solution to the nation's growing income inequality.

Story

ORCA LIFT Logo
A year after King County Executive Dow Constantine launched ORCA LIFT, the nation's leading reduced-fare program for passengers who earn a lower income is connecting more people to job and educational opportunities. The program has gained attention in other metropolitan regions, including Boston and Charlotte, N.C., as an example of how regional governments can increase access to opportunity.

"The success of ORCA LIFT shows the rest of the country how transit can be part of the solution to our nation's growing income inequality," said Executive Constantine. "By helping more people get to that higher-paying job or college class, we are helping passengers climb the ladder of success."

The number of qualified riders who use ORCA LIFT cards has increased each month since the program started a year ago. A recent survey found that 42 percent of passengers have taken the bus and light rail more frequently since they received their ORCA LIFT card, which indicates an increase in productivity.

More than 3.7 million trips were taken with ORCA LIFT cards on Metro Transit buses and Sound Transit Link light rail during the program's first year. More than 25,000 King County residents have signed up for the program so far. Both transit agencies are now increasing access.

Executive Constantine, who is also chair of the Sound Transit Board of Directors, recently announced that the cards can now be used on all Sound Transit ST Express buses and Sounder trains, covering King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties.

Metro Transit recently started a new program, LIFT Kids, that waives the $5 purchase fee for an ORCA card for the children of LIFT participants.

An innovative approach to delivering service

ORCA LIFT has been profiled by national news organizations, including The New York Times, NBC's "Meet the Press," and The Washington Post, in part because of its innovative approach to helping people sign up for the program. Metro is tapping into the network of community partners that Public Health -- Seattle & King County created to help nearly 200,000 residents sign up for health insurance during the initial enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act.

Passengers can sign up for an ORCA LIFT card at more than 40 locations across King County, including colleges, food banks, human service providers, nonprofit organizations and health clinics. King County's one-stop approach to enrollment decreases the amount of time people waste traveling to multiple locations to sign up for programs that help them succeed. 

Relevant Links

ORCA LIFT Home Page
ORCA-To-Go Sales: Full-service assistance to connect people to opportunity
New York Times: Targeting inequality, this time on public transit
Seattle Weekly: What if we used Obamacare to help the poor even more?

 

Quote

The success of ORCA LIFT shows the rest of the country how transit can be part of the solution to our nation's growing income inequality. By helping more people get to that higher-paying job or college class, we are helping passengers climb the ladder of success.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Chad Lewis, Executive Office, 206-263-1250

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography