VIDEO: TriMet’s low-income fare program enrolls 25,000 in less than 18 months

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Transit cost savings estimated at more than $3.3 million since program opened to the public in July 2018

“They told me that this was help for people with low income, and so I took advantage of it,” said Maria in her native Spanish as she sat in a flower garden outside Centro Cultural in Cornelius.

The community center serves as a resource for the region’s growing Latino population. It’s also one of 14 community partner locations in the tri-county region, where the public can have their income level verified before enrolling in TriMet’s low-income fare program.

“We try to connect families who need services to services to help them navigate systems—the education system, the health care system and others,” explained Executive Director Maria Caballero Rubio. “Our clients come here looking for opportunities to improve their lives.”

Maria volunteers at the center, cooking in the kitchen and helping anywhere someone needs a hand. It’s a place where she feels safe and welcome and where she can be with people who speak her language and share her experience. It’s also where she learned TriMet offered a reduced fare for people who may be struggling financially.

“Before, I was asking my kids to give me money to help pay for my bus tickets,” explained Maria. “I’d say, ‘Son, I’m going to this place, can you give me money to pay for the MAX?’”

“It doesn’t seem like a lot for the average person, but for the person who’s working a minimum wage job or two… having to go to two different locations for work and maybe dropping off your kids… A bus ticket costs so much,” emphasized Caballero Rubio, “but multiply that by five or six when you have four kids and a husband or wife trying to get groceries and those kinds of things.” 

The program is open to anyone in Multnomah, Washington or Clackamas counties who has a government-issued ID and proof of income less than double the federal poverty level. For an individual, that’s about $25,000. For a family of four, it’s more than $51,000.

“It’s really exciting to me to see the relief in people that they don’t have to pay the full fare and that they can come here and access it, locally and close to home,” Caballero Rubio said.

Once qualified, TriMet issues participants a personalized Honored Citizen Hop card, to which they load funds to purchase fare. They receive a 50% discount on two-and-a-half hour tickets and day passes and a 72% discount on month passes. Over the course of a year, they can save more than $864 on transportation costs, when compared to buying Adult fare. 

“Low-income fare has been a godsend to our community. It’s something that people count on,” said Caballero Rubio. “If they can pay a quarter of what they would have to pay, that’s a little bit more money that they can use to pay for rent and pay for food and other things.”

“It’s a very good service,” Maria summarized. “It can help a lot of people.”

TriMet launched the low-income fare program following the state’s adoption of the Keep Oregon Moving Act. Also known as HB 2017, the legislation created the first-ever, ongoing, source of stable funding for public transportation. To learn more about the program and see if you qualify, visit trimet.org/lowincome.