Want to Give Discounted TriMet Passes to the Poor? Here's Your Chance

With less than a month left until TriMet's fare hike and Free Rail Zone elimination kicks in on Sept. 1, the transit agency is offering 20 percent fare discount to nonprofits that give tickets and passes to low-income riders.

But it's a limited-time offer. The deadline for the first round of applications—for $540,000 worth of fare discounts—is next Friday, Aug. 24.

That's a two-week window to apply: The application was sent out through the Nonprofit Association of Oregon on Aug. 8, says Johnell Bell, TriMet's diversity and transit equity director.

Didn't get your copy? The application is available here.

"We've received over 20 inquiries," says Bell. "We expect 30 to 50 organizations to apply."

The TriMet board agreed to a $1 million program in June as a last-minute sop to activists who bridled at raising ticket prices to a flat $2.50 rate and killing the Free Rail Zone downtown. Groups like OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon said the fare hike would inordinately affect the poorest riders.

OPAL director Jonathan Ostar says the discount isn't enough to make up for the hike.

"There's a whole swath of folks who don't qualify," Ostar says, "but barely keep their heads above the poverty line."

The discounted-ticket program has some requirements. "Organizations must use the fares to help low-income clients access services critical to employment, housing and personal stability," the applications reads.

Applying organizations are asked to check what services their clients might use TriMet to reach. Options include visiting food banks, Social Security, alcohol and drug treatment, dental care, mental health services or showers. ("Check all that apply," the application says.)

The program uses less than half of the $1.3 million TriMet has set aside for low-income riders. Bell says the rest will be used later, to give small grants to other nonprofits.

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