Thanks to action by the state Legislature, King County Metro soon will be moving forward with a zero fare for youth and accelerate its progress on zero-emission bus projects.

The Move Ahead Washington transportation package includes more than $640 million over 16 years to support Metro bus and paratransit service, RapidRide and zero-emission bus construction projects, and a new fully subsidized fare for youth 18 and under.

The nearly $17 billion legislative package is pending Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.

Funding supports transit and sustainability projects, subsidized fares for youth

Metro would receive an estimated $31 million per year, as well as another $12 million to $14 million per year for special needs transportation services.

To be eligible for the state grant funding available under this legislation, Metro would offer fully subsidized fares to all youth, ages 18 and under. Metro plans to coordinate subsidized youth fare efforts with regional transit partners, an essential step to create a seamlessly connected regional transit network that best serves all customers. Metro expects to develop a program that distributes ORCA cards to students throughout King County, allowing youth to use ORCA cards on transit without charging a fare. Metro plans to submit a policy change for fully subsidized youth fares to the King County Council for approval by the state’s Oct. 1 deadline, with card distribution proposed to roll out in 2023 and expanded over time.

In addition to the annual funding, Metro would also receive $30 million toward projects, which include:

  • King County Metro South Annex Base Electrification: $10 million
  • King County Metro RapidRide I Line, Auburn segment: $8 million
  • King County Metro RapidRide H Line and Burien/Ambaum Boulevard improvements: $7 million
  • King County Metro South Base Campus Electrification: $5 million

“Funding from Move Ahead Washington will help King County Metro provide frequent and reliable transit service that powers our regional and state economies,” said King County Metro General Manager Terry White. “By moving forward with subsidized ORCA fares for youth, we will build the next generation of transit riders – which supports our long-term climate goals by reducing emissions and improving the public health of our community. Metro’s electrification projects will help transition our fleet to all-electric battery buses, a move that combats the climate crisis and advances social equity.”