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King County Metro Transit

ORCA LIFT can get you where you need to go!

Do you take the bus? Then the ORCA LIFT program could be a great resource for you! If you qualify for the program, you could be paying just $1.50 to ride! The extra exciting news is that ORCA LIFT is expanding to Sound Transit buses on March 1st–there has never been a better time to enroll. ORCA LIFT is already making a real impact on bus riders. A few months ago, I helped a woman named Maria enroll in the program. Maria takes the bus into Seattle every day for her full-time job, so she purchases an unlimited monthly pass. Buying the pass was already a challenge for her, but when the price increased to $99 in March of 2015, it became even more of a financial strain. Now, with her new ORCA LIFT card, Maria pays only $54 to take the bus as much as she needs to, which adds up to real savings.
Affordable access to public transportation is an issue that is coming up in cities nationwide. Seattle is at the forefront of the movement to increase transit access through discounted passes. When transportation is affordable, the whole city becomes accessible; people can afford to get to a job interview outside of their neighborhood, or simply go to work every day like Maria. Having a reliable form of transportation is invaluable, and we are proud to participate in the ORCA LIFT effort that is leading the way and setting a positive example for other cities.

So now you’re probably wondering: “how can I sign up?” The ORCA LIFT application is done in person, and you actually receive your activated card on the spot! Another cool thing is that once you have your ORCA LIFT card, it is good for two years—no need to reapply yearly like other benefits programs.

How does it work?

You get a card that looks and works just like a regular reloadable ORCA card, except every time you use it, you’re charged a discounted rate.

How do I know if I qualify?

Eligibility for the ORCA LIFT program is based on income. If you are already enrolled in Washington Apple Health (Medicaid), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Basic Food (Food Stamps), you automatically qualify for the program and we can easily confirm your eligibility online or you can bring your award letter when we complete an enrollment.  If you are not already enrolled in one of the above programs, check to see if you are income-eligible (and get lots of other information here).

Where can I sign up?

Enrollments for ORCA LIFT must be done in person. Luckily, WithinReach will be at the Northgate Transit Center on Tuesday, March 15th, 3:30-5:30 (with coffee!) to sign you up.

Can’t make it on March 15th? We will also be back at the Northgate Transit Center, from 3:30-5:30 on these Tuesdays: March 1st, April 5th and 19th, and May 3rd and 17th. See you there!

There even more dates and locations where you can sign up! Call the Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or King County Metro Customer Service at 206-553-3000 to find your closest enrollment location.

What should I bring?

  • Income verification
  • Identification– Driver’s license (any state or county, photo ID from any state, county, or country, Armed services ID with photo, ID from any foreign consulate, Passport from any country, school photo ID, Tribal ID, US certificate of citizenship, naturalization (signature, photo) any other form of government issued ID issued by a government agency of any country
  • If you do not have a government-issued photo ID, call Metro Customer Service or check King County Metro’s website for a list of acceptable documents.

Other questions? Call the Family Health hotline at 1-800-322-2588 or go to to find out more.

Tags: King County Metro Transit   Northgate Transit Center   ORCA LIFT   Seattle   Sound Transit   

Taking Action to Address Transit Inequality

By Jessica Vu, WithinReach Outreach & Enrollment Specialist, AmeriCorps
Of the many issues that Seattle-area residents face daily, transportation is one of the most pressing. From mass transit service cuts to inadequate traffic infrastructure, several factors have long affected King County residents’ ability to commute to and from work.
Of these factors, one of the most straining is consistently rising public transit fares. As a response to rising fares, King County officials have implemented a reduced-fare transit program called ORCA LIFT, which provides individuals and families with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level with ORCA cards that charge just $1.50 per ride on King County Metro Transit buses, as well as on many other buses in the area. The $1.50 charge is $1.00 less than regular off-peak fares and $1.25 less than regular peak fares after the most recent fare increase; LIFT clients also have the option of purchasing a reduced-cost monthly pass.
The program, which went into effect on March 1, 2015, is one of the first of its kind in the country, and certainly the most ambitious in scope. ORCA LIFT could potentially reach close to 100,000 transit riders, many of whom rely on public transportation to commute to work from outlying areas as the cost of living in Seattle proper continues to rise. The program stands alongside the minimum wage increase approved by City Council last year as an example of efforts made by King County officials to fight growing economic disparities throughout the region.
To help manage the tremendous logistical undertaking involved in rolling out the ORCA LIFT program, King County Metro has called on over 40 community organizations, including WithinReach, to help administer cards and conduct outreach for the program. WithinReach’s in-person outreach team enrolls clients in ORCA LIFT at seven different sites throughout King County. Call our Family Health Hotline at 1 (800) 322-2588 for more site information. Through our robust and established outreach network, many clients in the past few weeks that came to us seeking food or health resources have also been able to walk away with an ORCA LIFT card in hand.
Because King County Metro—in partnership with King County Public Health—has created a program with relatively generous and client-friendly guidelines, people are often surprised at how painless the enrollment process is. After one of our in-person outreach team members verifies a person’s identity and income, the client is registered in the database and is given an active ORCA LIFT card on the spot, which is valid for two years after being issued without need for additional income verification. After experiencing how strictly overseen many public assistance programs are—and how meager the benefits can be—it has been very refreshing for WithinReach to take part in this progressive campaign to help alleviate inequality, and to be able to show people that efforts are being made to address their needs. We can only hope that these efforts will demonstrate to the rest of the country that reduced-fare transit programs not only work, but are well worth the undertaking.


Tags: AmeriCorps Outreach   Bus   Family Health Hotline   Inequality   King County Metro Transit   ORCA LIFT   poverty level   Public Transit   reduced transit fare   rising costs   Seattle   transit rider   Transportation   

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