State audit criticizes Metro's reduced rate bus ticket program

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by ALLEN SCHAUFFLER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 6:59 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 30 at 7:00 PM

A state audit is criticizing King County for lax management of Metro's cut-rate bus ticket program for low income and homeless riders.

Some of the county's homeless say those tickets have been withheld and misused for years by the people running some of the shelters.
Camp Unity in Kirkland split off from Tent City 4 last year. Many there say the nonprofit running that camp, called "SHARE," used bus passes from Metro as tools of intimidation, in some cases to force participation in political protests 

"You get 15 people to come down to the sleep out tonight - this is specifically last October I'm thinking of -  or tell them I'll take the tickets away,” said Steve Wiggins.

Wiggins means the protest outside King County headquarters over bus tickets. He says they've been trying to tell county and city leaders about this for some time.

Dozens of letters written by former Tent City 4 residents were sent to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and County Executive Dow Constantine specifically saying their bus tickets were being withheld if they went behaving the way camp organizers wanted them to behave.

“And made us sleep out at the King County Administration Building and was not allowing us to have bus tickets that was a 21-day sleep out,” said Amalie Eastern

They say the letters never produced a direct response but King County is tightening up the program. A state audit released today finds the county does not ensure the reduced fare tickets are used for their intended purpose, that organizations that get them aren't held accountable for the way they’re used, and that the county doesn't monitor those organizations to make sure the people they're meant for are getting them.

Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond says changes are already happening.

"We're going to have to work with the various client groups to find out a way to better track utilization of those tickets,” he said

King County's Department of Community and Human Services says organizations now have to provide detailed information about where the tickets are stored, how they're used, and who has access to them.

Camp Unity, which doesn't have tax-exempt status yet, has not qualified for the Metro's reduced-price program.

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