An obscure program to provide free bus tickets to the poor is coming under fire. Millions of the tickets are not getting to the folks who need them.

We're being told there's zero tickets, said homeless protestor Lantz Rowland. He and others are camping out at the King County Administration building, hoping to get more low income Metro bus tickets.

Someone is saying the bucket is empty, he added.

Last year, the county guaranteed Metro ticket help for the homeless, when the council passed a $20 car tab increase, a fee designed to avoid deep bus service cuts.

But most of the free and discounted tickets are unclaimed and not getting to the people who need them.

There are millions of tickets waiting for the poor to use and we're going to do everything to make them available, said King County Council member Julia Patterson.

The Metro program allows drivers to donate tickets. When a driver gets car tabs in the mail, they get a coupon for free Metro bus tickets too. A driver can donate the tickets to the poor, but it's in very small writing and you don't see an address where you mail your donation. About 90 percent of people don't know about the program and toss the paper.

Metro said the return rate is nearly 10%, with over 5,000 requests to donate tickets.

At a time when Metro's Free Ride Area is gone, there could be as many as five million bus tickets that go unclaimed.

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