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Metro Transit will test $1 fare for low-income families

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Low-income residents living in the Twin Cities may soon be able to save on transportation costs.

Metro Transit is aiming to launch a six-month pilot program Dec. 1 that would allow low-income families who don't already qualify for reduced-fare passes to pay $1 per ride.

Currently it costs $1.75 to ride the bus, but the price goes up to $2.25 during rush hour, Metro Transit's website says.

The low-income fare pilot program, which was presented at a Sept. 28 Metropolitan Council meeting, is part of the Transportation Committee's efforts to reduce barriers for potential riders – and one of those barriers is cost.

Who would qualify, and how?

There are about 230,000 low-income families living in the Twin Cities who could be eligible to take advantage of this reduced-fare program, officials said at the meeting.

They are at or below 50 percent of the area median income – for a family of four, that's $43,000.

There are still questions about how Metro Transit will certify households for the program and distribute bus passes for those eligible in the region, but initially the agency is looking to partner with the Metro Housing and Redevelopment Authority (Metro HRA), which serves roughly 7,000 low-income households every month.

Metro HRA, which already certifies families as low-income through its housing assistance programs, would send offers of participation to the families it serves, who then can use it to redeem the offers online, in person or through the mail to get a reduced-fare GoTo card.

Metro Transit is estimating 30 percent participation through Metro HRA, which could add up to a potential loss of $500,000 in six months.

What officials want to learn from the pilot program:

  • How much revenue Metro Transit will lose.
  • If the program increases ridership among low-income pass holders.
  • If it can be easily implemented on a wider scale.
  • And a host of other things.

The goal would be to eventually expand the program beyond the Metro HRA to other area HRA programs, as well as low-income families who may not receive housing assistance programs.

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