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Board adopts updated fare compliance approaches, lowering ORCA LIFT fare and extending subsidized pass and ambassador programs

Funding for increased ambassador staffing will more than double fare checks

Publish Date

The Sound Transit Board today completed its adoption of a package of changes that update Sound Transit’s fare compliance approaches, including approving funding for ambassador staff to more than double fare checks. The Board also reinforced support for income-qualified riders, including lower ORCA LIFT fares that will be promoted through expanded marketing; extended subsidized pass programs; and increased options for resolving cases of non-payment.

“Before the pandemic, Sound Transit began a journey of working with our communities to update how we check people’s fares and respond to non-payment,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “We identified a vision of a system where everyone taps their ORCA card, and where people who don’t have the fare media they need can get it. Today, the Board solidified a new approach that Sound Transit will carefully implement while tracking its performance.”

Reduced ORCA LIFT fares, with focus on increasing enrollment

The ORCA LIFT program provides discounted fares to enrolled passengers with household incomes equal to or less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The Board set a goal of increasing enrollment in the program to 80 percent of likely ORCA LIFT riders in the region and approved lowering ORCA LIFT fares on Sound Transit services from $1.50 to $1.00 for a six-month demonstration period. During this time, staff will conduct public outreach and prepare a Title VI fare equity analysis to support a possible action by the Board to make the reduction permanent.

Extended fare ambassador pilot program

The budget amendment funds the fare ambassador pilot program through 2022. The pilot began in August 2021 based on passenger feedback and community engagement that expressed discomfort with fare enforcement officers who resemble law enforcement. Later this year staff will bring recommendations to the Board for a permanent Fare Ambassador program.

Extended participation in King County subsidized annual pass program

In September 2020 Sound Transit began participating in a program sponsored by King County to provide fully subsidized transit passes to passengers with income less than 80 percent of the Federal Poverty Level who qualify for and are participating in specific benefit programs. The Board extended Sound Transit’s participation until the end of 2024, or until a permanent program is approved.

Later this year the Board will determine its approach to zero youth fares, as well as consider other fare-related actions to address a shortfall in fare revenue caused by a reduction in ridership and a decrease in fare payment compliance.

Learn more about Sound Transit’s Fare ambassador pilot and fare engagement work at

Updated Policies for Noncompliance

Changes adopted by the Board:

  • Increase the number of warnings to two in a 12-month period
  • Update the agency’s policy on passenger interactions without proof of payment to include $50 and $75 fines as resolution options on the third and fourth interactions without proof of payment as well as non-monetary options for a passenger to dispute or resolve the fine
  • Authorize the CEO to establish alternative resolution and dispute processes, which may include signing up for a reduced fare program or completing an engagement activity
  • Remove collections from the process
  • Remove suspensions – passengers without proof of payment may continue to ride the system
  • Maintain the ability to refer cases of repeat non-payment to district court – but only for those without proof of payment five or more times within a 12-month period

The policy, which will go into effect on September 17, 2022, is at