The board at Seattle’s Sound Transit formally adopted a $1 fare for ORCA LIFT riders on Sound Transit services, effective March 1. The move follows the completion of a six-month demonstration project implemented in September 2022 at the board’s direction.
"A person’s income should never be a barrier to traveling and accessing opportunities. By formally adopting the $1 ORCA LIFT fare we continue to reduce cost burdens for transit-dependent riders," said Dow Constantine, Sound Transit board chair and King County executive. "This change helps individual riders while contributing to healthier and stronger communities."
The financial impact of this action is estimated to be approximately $25 million through 2046 and is included in the Fall 2022 Long Term Financial Plan.
During the demonstration project, Sound Transit conducted public outreach and prepared a Title VI fare equity analysis. The outreach showed that 88% of people who responded to a survey or provided comments at a public hearing supported the $1 ORCA LIFT fare or further reductions in the fare.
In May 2022, the board directed Sound Transit staff to take ongoing actions to increase ORCA LIFT enrollment to 80% of the likely market. Between August and early December 2022, ORCA LIFT enrollments in Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties increased 22%, reaching more than 53,000 active customers. Efforts will continue to enroll the approximately 84,000 customers required to reach the goal of 80% of the market.
"Sound Transit Fare Ambassadors are on our vehicles every day, educating passengers about reduced-fare programs like ORCA LIFT and the subsidized annual pass program we participate in with King County Metro," said Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm. "We still have our work cut out for us to continue to reach deeper into the communities that would benefit the most from increased access to the resources essential for health and wellness including health care, education, healthy food, and even the region’s stunning natural areas through more affordable transportation options."
Last year Sound Transit also implemented free fares for youth 18 and younger. These actions are part of Sound Transit’s multi-year efforts to make its fare practices more equitable.