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King County Metro and Sound Transit have partnered to create a new, subsidized annual pass program, allowing qualified riders to travel on select transit in our region with subsidized fares.

Background

In response to a 2019-2020 budget request by King County Council, Metro worked to establish an income-based fare program for those who cannot afford the current reduced fare options. To create an equitable implementation plan, Metro collaborated with a stakeholder advisory group, prioritizing the mobility needs of priority populations, including people of color, low-income residents, limited or non-English speaking communities, and immigrants and refugees.

Who is eligible?

Customers who reside in King, Pierce, or Snohomish County and are enrolled in one of the six state benefit programs:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)/State Family Assistance (SFA)
  • Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA)
  • Aged, Blind, or Disabled Cash Assistance (ABD)
  • Pregnant Women Assistance (PWA)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Housing & Essential Needs (HEN)

To apply or for more information about these programs, visit washingtonconnection.org or call (877) 501-2233. Expansions are expected in 2022 to serve more customers that have household incomes at or below 80% of the federal poverty level.

How to apply

Starting October 15, 2020, eligible customers can enroll through the following agencies:

  • Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Community Services Division

     DSHS Customer Service Center
    Phone: (877) 501-2233
    Hours: Monday - Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm
  • Public Health - Seattle & King County

     Community Health Access Program (CHAP) Line
    Phone: (800) 756-5437
    Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm
    (closed 12:00pm-1:00pm)

     ORCA LIFT Office
    Address: 201 S. Jackson, Seattle, WA 98104
    Hours: Monday & Wednesday 10:00am – 4:00pm
    (closed 12:30pm - 1:30pm)

     Federal Way Public Health
    Address: 1640 S 318th Pl, Federal Way, WA 98003
    Hours: Monday, Tuesday & Thursday 10:00am - 4:00pm

How do I ride?

Tap your ORCA card to board

You are just a tap or scan away from your next ride. The process varies slightly depending on which transit system you are boarding.

Tap your card
Tap your card as you are boarding

As you board the bus, tap your ORCA card on the card reader inside

Tap your card
Tap your card before boarding

Before boarding Link light rail, RapidRide, the Sounder commuter train, and the Seattle Streetcar, tap your ORCA card on a yellow card reader outside/on the platform. When you exit Link and Sounder, re-tap your ORCA card to complete the trip

Scan your card
Scan your card

When boarding the Water Taxi, Access, the Seattle Center Monorail, Via to Transit, and Trail head Direct, the loading agent or cashier will scan your card

How do I ride on other transit systems?

Your subsidized annual pass will only cover your fare on certain transit systems. To ride on other systems you will need to pay your own fare. The easiest way to pay is with your ORCA card. Be sure to load your E-purse with money before your trip.

What is an E-purse?

An E-purse (electronic purse) stores money on your ORCA card to pay your transit fare later. E-purse funds don't expire. Load as little as $5 and as much as $300.

How do I add money to my E-purse?

Choose one of the 5 options below to add money to your E-purse.

Option 1
Option 1

At a customer service center

Option 3
Option 3

At orcacard.com

Option 4
Option 4

Call (888) 988-6722

Option 5
Option 5

At select retailers

What can I ride?

Fare 100% paid by your subsidized annual pass on the following services. For other transit services, you can ride at a reduced fare using your E-purse.

King County Metro buses
RapidRide
Access
Via to Transit
King County Water Taxi
Seattle Center Monorail
Seattle Streetcar
Sound Transit express buses
Link light rail
Sounder commuter train

Other reduced fare options

Customers who do not qualify for the subsidized annual pass may qualify for reduced fares via our ORCA LIFT program (income-based for people at or below 200% of federal poverty), through the Regional Reduced Fare Permit (for seniors and people with disabilities), or through an ORCA Youth Card, (for youth ages 6-18).

Overview and FAQ

Overview

Starting in October of this year, residents of King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties who are at or below 80% of the federal poverty level and are enrolled in one of six state benefit programs can obtain a subsidized annual pass valid for travel on King County Metro and Sound Transit services. Eligible customers can receive a subsidized annual pass at DSHS, Public Health, and Catholic Community Services across King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.

Currently, the six state benefit programs are:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) / State Family Assistance (SFA)
  • Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA)
  • Aged, Blind, or Disabled Cash Assistance (ABD)
  • Pregnant Women Assistance (PWA)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Housing & Essential Needs (HEN)
Starting in October, eligible customers can receive an ORCA card loaded with a subsidized annual pass. Customers with the subsidized annual pass can ride at no charge on King County Metro and Sound Transit services. The subsidized annual pass is valid for up to 12 calendar months and is renewable each year, provided eligibility requirements are met.
Metro is still planning to launch the program, but the timeline has been delayed until fall. Eligible customers will be able to apply for the subsidized annual pass starting in October. Due to COVID conditions, the enrolling agencies will provide a combination of enrollment options including in-person, over the phone, and online. Enrollment options will vary based on the agency.

At launch, eligibility will be limited to individuals living in King, Snohomish, and Pierce County who are enrolled in one of the six following state benefit programs:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) / State Family Assistance (SFA)
  • Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA)
  • Aged, Blind, or Disabled Cash Assistance (ABD)
  • Pregnant Women Assistance (PWA)
    Note: PWA is a cash assistance program and should not be confused with WIC or Pregnancy Medical
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Housing & Essential Needs (HEN)

Customers who are enrolled in one of the six state eligible benefit programs can receive their subsidized annual pass at all Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS) locations in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties, at Catholic Community Services, and at some Public Health – Seattle & King County locations.

Due to COVID conditions, DSHS, Public Health, and CCS will be offering the following enrollment options at the time of program launch:

  • DSHS Current DSHS clients or individuals applying for DSHS benefits can call DSHS to receive their subsidized annual pass. Eligible clients will get their subsidized annual pass mailed to them.

    (877) 501-2233 Monday - Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm

  • Public Health Customers can apply for the subsidized annual pass over the phone, online, or at the Downtown (ORCA LIFT Office) and Federal Way Public Health storefronts. If applying online or over the phone, eligible clients will get their subsidized annual pass mailed to them.

    ORCA LIFT Office
    201 S. Jackson, Seattle, WA 98104, M/W 10:00am – 3:00pm
    (closed 12:30pm - 1:00pm)

    Federal Way Public Health
    33431 13th Place S, Federal Way, WA 98003, T/Th 10:00am – 3:00pm
    (closed 12:30pm - 1:00pm)

    Community Health Access Program (CHAP)
    800-756-5437 Monday - Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm
    (closed 1:00pm – 2:00pm)

  • Catholic Community Services (CCS) Customers can apply for the subsidized annual pass at Catholic Community Services location: Randolph Carter Center and outreach events.

    Randolph Carter Center
    100 23rd Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144

This program will only subsidize Metro and Sound Transit trips. This program is provided by King County, with Sound Transit joining as a two-year pilot.

To ride on other transit agencies, customers may be able to use their ORCA LIFT or RRFP card to ride at a reduced fares on transit agencies beyond Metro and Sound Transit.

Customers will be responsible for adding value to their cards (via E-purse) to ride on transit agencies that are not Metro or Sound Transit.

The subsidized annual pass will cover all trips from Metro to Metro, from Sound Transit to Sound Transit, and from Metro to/from Sound Transit.

Transfers between Metro/Sound Transit and the other transit agencies will not be covered by the subsidized annual pass.

If a customer uses their subsidized ORCA LIFT card to pay for travel on Community Transit, Pierce Transit, Kitsap Transit, or Everett Transit, standard transfer rules apply for transfers within and between those transit agencies.

No, there will be no visible difference between a regular ORCA LIFT card and an ORCA LIFT card loaded with a subsidized annual pass.

All eligible customers that enroll in the subsidized annual pass program will need to get a new ORCA LIFT card that will be valid for 2+ years. Current cards will be blocked within 7 days.

  • Any unused funds will be transferred to their new ORCA LIFT card
  • If their current ORCA LIFT card has a Puget Pass, that card will be blocked at the start of the next month

All RRFP cardholders that choose to enroll in the subsidized annual pass program will also need to get a new ORCA LIFT card that will be valid for 2+ years. RRFP cardholders whose RRFP cards will expire within 12 months will automatically have the subsidized annual pass added onto their ORCA LIFT card.

RRFP cardholders whose cards will remain active for at least another 12 months and have one of two options:

  • Have the subsidized annual pass added onto their ORCA LIFT card and keep their RRFP card as is.
  • Request to add the subsidized annual pass onto a new RRFP card and keep their ORCA LIFT card as a regular ORCA LIFT card (without a subsidized annual pass).

No, subsidized annual passes for eligible youth will be added onto ORCA LIFT cards, not youth cards. Parents/guardians can request a subsidized annual pass for their youth 6+ if they are included as part of the household on their state benefits.

Contact DSHS to see if you are eligible to enroll in the state benefit programs.

Eligibility for the six state benefit programs requires income at or below 80% FPL, plus additional requirements. The additional requirements are unique to each program, but may include factors such as available resources.

Metro is planning to expand the program as early as 2022.

The program will launch in October 2020 with the current eligibility criteria. In 2021, Metro and Sound Transit will utilize evaluation data to identify gaps and priority groups for potential program expansions. Starting as early as 2022, program expansion could include extending eligibility to include additional state or local benefits and/or offering more enrollment sites.

Customers may be eligible to obtain a Youth, ORCA LIFT, or RRFP card to ride King County Metro and other transit services around the Puget Sound at reduced fares. We want customers to get connected to the reduced fare program that’s right for them. See supplemental chart below for more information.

Nothing will change until a customer needs to re-enroll after 12 months. An ORCA LIFT card can continue to be used to ride at a reduced fare until the date printed in red on the back of the card, regardless if a customer’s income changes. The subsidized annual pass will be valid for up to 12 months, regardless of whether a customer’s enrollment status in one of the benefit programs changes.

We will be developing the process for renewing the subsidized annual pass in spring 2021 and will be ready advance of renewals starting in fall 2021.

To replace an ORCA LIFT or RRFP card that was loaded with the subsidized annual pass, customers should contact Metro’s reduced fare phone number, 206-477-4200. The remainder of the subsidized annual pass will transfer onto their replacement ORCA LIFT or RRFP card.

Customers can choose to have their replacement card mailed to them or can arrange to pick up their replacement card once it's ready at the King Street Center Pass Sales Office. Replacement cards will be offered at no cost to customers.


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