Downtown circulator bus eases access to services

This bus gets you to solid ground.

A pilot project to provide free rides for people living on low incomes and those who access health and human services in the downtown area began Monday, October 1.

~English: Downtown circulator bus flyer 
~Español:
Ómnibus de servicio gratuito para el centro 

Two buses, a 23-passenger vehicle and a 19-passenger vehicle, run a fixed 4.5 mile route with seven stops located near services such as Harborview Medical Center, Downtown Emergency Service Center, Social Security Administration, Downtown Public Health Center and more.

This sticker, affixed to Metro bus signs, identifies each circulator stop.

The buses operate Monday through Friday, with the first bus leaving Harborview at 7 am and driving in a clockwise route through town. The last bus leaves Harborview at 4 pm. Buses arrive at each stop approximately every 25 to 30 minutes. The stops are identified by a sticker affixed to the standard Metro bus stop signs.

The decision to end the Ride Free Area was part of a compromise to pass the Congestion Reduction Charge that kept Metro from immediate 17% cuts. The free downtown circulator is an effort by Solid Ground, King County and the City of Seattle to provide transit services to people who live downtown and those who access downtown housing, food, health care and other services.

“Solid Ground’s focus is creating a response that meets the needs of this underserved population,” said Gordon McHenry, Jr., President & CEO of Solid Ground, which operates housing, food, homeless prevention and other programs aimed at helping people move from poverty to thriving.

“Given fiscal constraints, a downtown circulator is a practical response to the needs of people who are the least advantaged in our community. Solid Ground’s drivers understand the population being served and have experience providing transit services in the downtown core,” McHenry said.

The pilot project is a three-way partnership with Metro Transit providing vehicles, the City of Seattle providing $400,000 in funding that was previously allocated to support the Ride Free Area, and Solid Ground handling the operations. Solid Ground’s Seattle Personal Transit program has operated ACCESS transportation through contracts with Metro for more than 20 years.

Circulator stops:

Stop #1: 9th & Alder — closest stop to:

Stop #2: 4th & Yesler — closest stop to:

Stop #3: 1st & Marion — closest stop to:

Stop #4: 1st & Pine — closest stop to:

Stop #5: 1st & Bell — closest stop to:

Stop #6: 9th & Virginia — closest stop to:

Stop #7: Boren & Seneca — closest stop to:

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Metro passes for seniors and disabled folks cost more

(Editor’s note: The following dispatch is from the pen of Patricia Ann, who works part-time with Solid Ground’s Volunteer Resources Department and lives on a limited income.)

Today, Robin Knudsen of Solid Ground’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) asked if I knew anything about the changes in King County Metro’s reduced fare passes for seniors and disabled folks. Evidently the Regional Reduced Fare Permit was being discontinued. One of the RSVP volunteers had asked her for information, and she asked me because she knew that I have a Regional Reduced Fare Permit. I had not heard, so I went online and found out that the Monthly/Annual Reduced pass is being replaced with the PugetPass, which will cost seniors and disabled folks $27 a month.

I am fortunate because I paid $3 for the permit and $99 for a full year of monthly passes instead of paying $18 a month, which would have totaled $216 a year. I was able to get the savings because I have a job and do not depend solely on my monthly SSDI check and because I have a credit card. My Reduced Fare Permit is yearly, ending in May. So, I will not have to pay the $27 per month until April. Many of my neighbors at Jefferson Terrace, a Seattle Housing Authority high-rise, are living on very low fixed incomes of $600 to $800 in Social Security payments with no cost of living increase for the third year in a row. This change will be a real hardship for them.

While it is true that the PugetPass will cost less than many other passes, what is missing from this is an understanding of exactly how much money many seniors and disabled folks are living on. An individual living on $700 a month ($8,400 a year) will pay $27 a month ($324 a year) or 3.8% of their income for bus transportation. The increase from $5.50 a month in 2007, to $9 a month in 2008, to $18 a month in 2010, to $27 a month in 2011 is a 409% increase in three years! Fixed incomes have not been rising accordingly!

RSVP’s low-income volunteers who cannot volunteer without transportation assistance will be most affected. RSVP provides partial mileage and bus pass reimbursement to these volunteers who need it the most. This change will stretch limited program resources further, affecting the volunteers’ ability to serve agencies such as Asian Counseling Referral Services (ACRS), Port of Seattle, congregate meal programs, adult day care programs and homeless shelters.

King County Metro Public Disclosure: 206.684.1005

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