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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 largest reduced-fare program for lower-income riders, is connecting more people to job and educational opportunities. The program has gained attention in other metropolitan regions, such as 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 riders have taken the bus and light rail more frequently since they received their ORCA LIFT card.

More than 3.7 million trips were taken with ORCA LIFT cards on Metro 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 connecting riders with the new card. 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 care during the initial enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act.

Riders can get ORCA LIFT cards at more than 40 locations across King County, including community colleges, food banks, human service providers, nonprofit organizations, and health clinics. King County's one-stop approach to connecting people with services that help them succeed decreases the amount of time they waste traveling to multiple locations.

Metro staff members will be at the new Link light-rail stations at Husky Stadium and Capitol Hill beginning March 26 to help qualified riders sign up for ORCA LIFT cards.

ORCA LIFT complements other programs offered by Metro and Sound Transit, such as the Regional Reduced Fare Permit for the elderly and disabled, the Seattle-King County human service ticket program for the homeless, and reduced fares for youth ages 6 to 18.

 

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

Rochelle Ogershok, Department of Transportation, 206-477-3838

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography