Seattle will give free transit cards to all public housing residents

  • Date: 02/25/2023

An estimated 10,000 people will receive the black farecards at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $2.2 million per year, city staff said.

“We will not be the city of our dreams, we will not be a world class city, unless and until we realize or recognize the value of people that come from limited means that are lower income,” Mayor Harrell said.

The SHA farecards are funded by a sales tax voters passed in 2020, and they’re valid through 2026. It formerly subsidized free ORCA fares for all youths, but the 2022 Legislature passed statewide free youth fares, underwritten by new carbon taxes. That move gave SDOT a new cash source that it shifted to public-housing residents, explained Laura Lee Sturm, transportation access manager.

It’s just the latest in a series of fare discounts. Besides youth and public-housing cards, Seattle has provided 2,200 free-fare “ORCA Recovery” cards to restaurant employees and other essential workers in the Chinatown International District, Pioneer Square, Othello and Rainier Beach neighborhoods, until at least Aug. 31, 2023. Another 1,300 community college students in Seattle hold free-fare cards.

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