King County, Partners Help Provide the Tools Needed to Escape Poverty

The challenge of making ends meet for your family and growing your business can be a daily struggle when you are focused on escaping poverty. One of the more expensive challenges is just getting around town. Connecting with clients and customers, and getting products, is all part of the daily grind. But when transportation becomes costly and time-consuming, that eats away at the bottom line.

People – business owners, clients, and customers – might have more tools at their fingertips than they know.

For years, King County Metro has played a key role in providing mobility for people who can’t afford the transportation choices that many of us take for granted. We’ve found that the same tools – and some new ones – that work for customers can also serve the needs of business owners.

Options = Opportunities

In King County, we want the keys to greater independence to be easier to get. Transportation options offer opportunities and connect people to the work and education that are essential for coming out of poverty.

I work with people of color and those who earn lower incomes to help connect them with affordable transportation services that can transform their lives in meaningful ways. We’re strongest when we are able to show how King County’s services meet their needs, sometimes in combination across programs and partnering with local non-profit organizations like Ventures.

ORCA LiftDamon is someone who has seen the positive effect of how King County’s ORCA LIFT program can help a business. The program provides a $1.50 fare for riders who have an income that qualifies.

In 2015 when King County launched the ORCA LIFT program, Damon signed up. He was a college graduate who returned to Seattle to help his mother run the family business, selling their family recipe for hummus. They get around riding the bus, connecting with clients, distributors, meeting family.

ORCA LIFT makes a young entrepreneur’s life easier,” he said at the time. Following the recent two-year anniversary, it was time for us to touch base with him again.

“Being able to be mobile helps with mental well-being while going through the hassles of running your own business,” Damon said. He continues to use the program and says he is still grateful King County offers it.

Riders took 5 million trips in 2016 using ORCA LIFT reduced fares, which leaves money in their pocket to do other things in life that move them forward. Two years into this program and we continue to hear the stories of how everyday people benefit.

Damon’s story shows that as businesses examine how to succeed, public transportation can help. Whether it’s connecting with your customers, your clients or your products, public transportation is a resource that can save people money – and that frees up scarce resources for other important choices.

Damon’s story shows that as businesses examine how to succeed, public transportation can help. Whether it’s connecting with your customers, your clients or your products, public transportation is a resource that can save people money – and that frees up scarce resources for other important choices.

This is also why Metro is offering a special 50-cent reduced fare for youth who ride Metro buses this summer and use ORCA cards to pay fares. Sound Transit is offering a $1 youth fare.  Metro established the pilot program to encourage more King County youth to ride transit and provide a low-cost option to get around town and connect with opportunities such as summer jobs or internships.

Metro is providing free cards to youth who do not already have one. All youth between the ages of 6-18 are eligible. More information about the Summer Fare here.

Pro tip: Avoid cash

Even the simple step of switching from cash to an ORCA card saves money, making the transfer free within a two-hour window. Or make the move to purchase a monthly bus pass on an ORCA card, which is again cheaper than paying as you go. With new light rail choices and more frequent bus service – and service later at night and on weekends – our community of riders has grown beyond your typical weekday commuter.

Mobility is a basic human need, but with the right tools we can help make it easier and less expensive, and making that kind of a difference helps everyone.

Learn more about ORCA LIFT online, (y ORCA LIFT en Espanol). Now is a good time to check the date on the back of your card in case it is time to renew.

Ventures invited Metro Transit planner Penny Lara to write about the intersectionality of poverty and transportation.