ST Considers Distance-Based Light Rail Fares

2923755386_f0db8f19f1Sound Transit is considering distance-based fares for the Link light rail system that is expected to begin service this summer. Under this plan, users would pay a base fare to ride the system, with an additional fee per mile on the train. Proposed fares are:

  • A $2.00 base fare with an additional 5-cent per mile charge, if the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel were free for light rail riders.
  • A cheaper $1.75 base fare with the same  5-cent per mile charge, with the fare also being levied in the Transit Tunnel.

Riders with the upcoming Orca smart card would tap the card to a reader both when entering and leaving a train. Those without cards could purchase tickets at the station, with ticket vending machine that will apparently lets the rider choose his destination. Security on board the train could verify your ticket/Orca purchase, and citations and fines would be given to those who boarded the train without paying. There would be no turnstiles and most riders would be operating under the honor system.

According to an ST press release, the maximum fare would be either $2.50 or $2.75 for the entire route between Westlake Center in Downtown Seattle to Seatac Airport. (Due to planned bus fare increases, Metro route 194 — the airport bus — will cost $2.75 during peak hours by January 2010.)

ST has scheduled three public comment meetings and the board will formally consider this plan in the coming months.

From my own perspective, I think charging based on distance is smart. While unfeasible for most bus lines in the county, it makes sense for light rail. It subtly incentivizes people to think locally and manage their trips their better, and it makes sense that people who take the train shorter distances don’t share the same burden as those who ride it the full length. This sort of pricing scheme will ultimately reflect relatively small cost differences on the current line, but one can easily see that as light rail expands to Lynnwood, Federal Way, and Redmond that cross-county, long-distance commuters will end up paying higher fares than in-city commuters. In my world, that’s how it should be — not to punish those who live far from urban areas, but to price transit like the commodity that it is.

What do you think? Do distance-based fares make sense; should ST stick to a single, unified fare; or should there be another type of fare system? Let us know in the comments!




Comments

  1. Mike Skehan says:

    Does anyone know how many bus routes have to leave the tunnel (and which ones), when Link starts operations? I know some do, and it may have a bearing on how many choose to ride free in the tunnel on Link, if a lot more free buses are up on the surface.
    In other words, riding Link for free in the tunnel may not be a big deal, so why do it?

    • John Jensen says:

      Something else to keep in mind is that tunnel stops will still have to have ticket vending machines and Orca infrastructure regardless, so keeping Link free downtown won’t save those costs.

      On the other hand, it is sort of confusing to have one system free in the tunnel and another not free.

    • I don’t know which buses leave the tunnel for the when link starts, other than the 194. I’ll look into it.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      I’m pretty sure none do. I was told that when the tunnel reopened, the tunnel routes that would be there when Link went into operation were the only ones they returned to the tunnel, so there wouldn’t be another change.

      • Well, it’s not none. The 194 is gone when link opens.

      • Sean Blakey says:

        The 194 isn’t getting kicked from the tunnel; the 194 is being killed.

      • John Thacker says:

        That’s true for Central Link, AIUI. However, I remember reading a Sound Transit document that indicated that once University Link and East Link were open, more buses (and perhaps all of them) would have to leave to the tunnel.

  2. Matt the Engineer says:

    Distance-based fares are a great idea. I’d scale it directly based on distance (no base fare), but their scheme is reasonable if we leave downtown free, as it could be argued that the base fare is compensating for all of the free downtown trips.

    I wonder if it would make sense to add an extra fare for the airport station.

    • The P-I commenters think Link is a bargain compared to parking at the airport and should be priced a little higher like $6 to exit at the airport. While I like the concept of value pricing, it should not punish those who work at the airport everyday or those who are heading to places in the vicinity other than the airport.

      • In San Francisco, BART to the Airport is much more ($5.35) than the station prior (South San Francisco $3.35) or the station after (Milbrae $4.00)

      • anonymouse says:

        That’s because the airport charges BART rent for their station, or something to that effect. BART just passes the costs along to their passengers.

  3. It would make sense to me if the tunnel became a fare-paid zone for buses and Link. Since all the DSTT buses connect with areas outside the Ride Free Zone, it would be OK to let it always be pay-as-you-enter, because the target audience for the tunnel is people traveling out of the Ride Free Zone.

    • Matt the Engineer says:

      //because the target audience for the tunnel is people traveling out of the Ride Free Zone// That’s an odd argument. Was that in the marketing for building the tunnel? I use the tunnel constantly for RFZ riding – it’s the fastest way to get around the city. I suppose if you charged me $3.50 per round trip I’d be in better shape from all of the walking, so there is that…

      • Chris Stefan says:

        The tunnel is the only reasonably fast way to go north/south through downtown other than a bike between when morning peak starts and evening peak ends. In particular the surface congestion around Westlake absolutely kills bus travel times in the downtown core.

      • alexjonlin says:

        Well that will no longer be a problem if they make 3rd bus-only all the time. It makes much more sense to keep the RFZ above ground and make the DSTT fare-paid, with TVMs whose tickets can work on buses and light rail. And really, the only people this would affect would be tourists and those few people who work downtown but don’t have monthly passes.
        But anyways, I think distance based fares make things way too confusing and would be bad for inter-agency connectivity. It makes much more sense to have it be zone-based, and to coordinate fares with Metro.

      • I agree with what Alex is saying. Tourist likely won’t know to use the DSTT for transit around downtown unless they’ve already bought a Link ticket or bus transfer. I also agree that zone-based fares are simpler for everyone: They simplify buying a ticket, they simplify inter-agency connectivity–in fact, they simplify transfers within ST–and they should simplify fare enforcement as well.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        I know people who drive to downtown jobs everyday who take advantage of the ride free area in order to get to/from their parking, run errands during the day, or get to where they are going to have lunch.

        Charging for link in the tunnel quite possibly will give some of these people a negative view of link, cause them to put their cars on the road downtown during the day, and make them less likely to shop or eat while downtown. While the latter is not really a concern for Sound Transit it does have an effect on the retail environment.

        I also think imposing yet another fare structure on top of the 6 already in place in the Sound Transit region is far too confusing to casual or infrequent riders. One bad experience is enough to turn many people off of mass transit.

      • As has been said here, Orca should make paying fares very simple. For casual riders, it sounds like (just from reading other comments) the TVMs will likely have a simple select your fare range/age-select your destination-this is how much you have to pay system.

      • Keep in mind that there are also surface buses following going through downtown. There will be even more of those after Link Light Rail opens. And if you have a decent PugetPass/Orca (which I’m assuming you do), riding Link/buses through the tunnel shouldn’t be a problem for you.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        The surface buses are snot-slow. Adding an extra 20 minutes round trip makes the difference between running down to the ID for lunch from University St. and grabbing something nearby.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        (off topic) Which I highly recommend, by the way. I get bored with downtown lunch options, but there are hundreds of good, interesting choices a 10-minute free tunnel bus ride away. But my friends and I each pay an extra $3 for this? Not a chance.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Matt,

        Your transfer is good for 90 minutes, so you should only pay $1.50 for a round trip to the ID, unless you take two hour lunches (!).

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        Actually, I guess it’s $1.75 (unless this post is just about peak rates). I’m trying to decide if this price point would keep me from going to the ID for lunch. I certainly wouldn’t go there for a Potato Salad Crepe (would bump this up to $6.75 instead of $5), but maybe if I really felt like Szechuan Style Eggplant with Tofu it would be worth the extra fare (bumping this from $9 to $10.75).

      • Matt, you’re making me hungry! I gotta try those out sometime.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        I highly recommend that MSG150 site – it’s a lunch group that is trying to document eating at every single ID restaurant. It’s a great resource.

    • i think this is the way to go. infact i think its almost easier to have the tunnel a paid zone with turnstiles and booths. this is how it works on muni metro, boston green line, boston silver line waterfront, boston/cambridge harvard sq bus tunnel & philly green line. everything outside the tunnel uses POP (or farebox). a big issue imo regarding a paid tunnel is about having inexpensive daypasses intended for visitors who want to use the tunnel to get around downtown quickly… say $2.75-3.50 a day for unlimited downtown tunnel zone rides.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        If this really is the way to go, then they should get rid of the minimum and just charge by distance. There’s no way it’s fair to charge $3.50 for a round trip from University to King Street, so people will travel less downtown (a bad thing). On the other hand I do think people will pay $1 for this round trip, which is about right if you charge per mile.

      • anonymouse says:

        That’s NOT the case in the Harvard Square bus tunnel: there you pay as you enter the bus, with the exception of the 71 and 73 trolleybuses, where you pay as you leave (you have to board through the left side door at Harvard). Also, I think Prudential and Symphony on the Boston Green Line, and a few stops on the Philly Green Line don’t have fare control, and instead you pay the driver directly just like on the surface. In fact, during the evening at the Chinatown station on the Broad-Ridge subway, you pay your fare to the train driver, something almost unheard-of in a rapid transit operation.

  4. Mount Baker Guy says:

    I just want my Metro pass (or Orca or whatever) to work on the bus AND on light rail, without having to pay extra or fuss with a separate for or ticket for the transfer between the two systems. I don’t want to pay twice for one trip downtown, especially now that the express buses are being taken away from Rainier Valley and I’m being herded onto light rail. Other than that, charging more for longer trips sounds fine. That’s how BART works in the Bay Area, and it makes sense. Keep it simple!

    • John Jensen says:

      Orca will work on buses, and will handle transfers on its own.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      Yeah, don’t worry, your ORCA will cover everything without any hassle.

      • Assuming the roll-out is smooth, there might be glitches are very first.

      • Mount Baker Guy says:

        So why can’t I find anything useful about the ORCA passes online? The best info I could google up was on the Kitsap transit page. Metro’s site had a completely useless FAQ. Most importantly, where is the pricing and timeline info? Even a proposal or guess would be nice. Sounds like it’s probably going to cost a lot more than my current monthly one zone Metro pass. Thx.

      • There is an archived version of the orcatest.com website that was used during the beta test.

        The price of a pass would be the same. That is the fare value of the pass times 36. That is official regional fare policy. So a one-zone off-peak Metro pass would still cost $1.50×36=$54

        Regional passes work the same way as PugetPass works today. Each pass will be valid for payment for trip fares up to the fare value of that pass. Some test cards will be loaded with both a regional pass and an e-purse. If you take a trip that is more expensive than the fare value of your pass, the additional fare will be paid from the e-purse.

        There’s no info on how much the ORCA card itself would cost. Will there be a deposit required? Will there be an introductory period where we can get the cards for free, like how WSDOT introduced Good To Go?

      • Chris Stefan says:

        So I assume this means the passes will be good for unlimited trips up to the face value during the period the pass is valid?

        Would this apply to WSF trips as well? I’m wondering because WSF changed their monthly walk-on passes to be valid for only a set number of trips when they implemented wave2go.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        //There’s no info on how much the ORCA card itself would cost.// Well I would hope nothing. RFID chips are a dime a dozen (or actually quite a bit less). They use them in India and China in metro systems where the fare itself is around $0.15. They’re even planning on using them in price tags, so you don’t have to scan groceries as carefully.

      • Here’s bad news from the Bay Area, the cards might not be free. TransLink is charging $5 to get a card. The card is free if you set up Autoload which means giving your credit card or bank account number to them.

        I read from the smart card contractor’s website that they expect to issue 400,000 ORCA smart cards. That’s a lot!

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        At $5 each, yes that’s a lot. At the real cost of well under a penny each? Not so much.

      • John Thacker says:

        The DC Metro charges $5 to get a smart card as well. That’s (largely?) because the Exitfare machines that let you add money to one of the old passes don’t work with the smart card, and Metro hasn’t replaced them all. So to avoid people being trapped inside, you’re allowed to leave the system with a negative balance on your card; you just can’t use it to enter again until you make the balance positive. But then so people wouldn’t just get new free cards to replace their negative balance cards, they charge $5 for the card, more than the highest possible fare. That way there’s no way to try to game the system.

  5. I think there should be one fare within seattle that matches the metro 1 zone fare, outside of that, distance-based fares.

  6. I think it would be best to do fare zones like they do in metro vancouver with the Skytrain instead of differing fares per destination.

    • So you mean like metro bus zones? Not a bad idea. I Think the fares should match metro fares.

    • Maybe KC Metro should consider changing its zones to match Sound Transit’s. It makes sense since Metro already divides its service into 3 subareas that correspond to the ST King County zones.

  7. Matt the Engineer says:

    I’m a little bit concerned about offering Orca passes and tickets, as listed on their web site. Why offer a second form of payment at all? Orca should be all that’s required, ever, or it’s not the system it’s been sold as.

    (I’m imagining a bus driver trying to figure out if the $2.15 Link ticket purchased 1 hour ago and 10 miles away is valid as a transfer.)

    • John Jensen says:

      I believe that all bus transfers will be handled through Orca. Even for bus-only riders paper transfers will go away, from what I remember.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        Right, but the linked ST page in the post above tells us that an Orca dispensing machine will be installed as well as a ticket vending machine. That sounds like bad news to me.

      • John Jensen says:

        Why not just Orca? Good question. I’m guessing the media is a bit expensive compared to paper. But expensive enough to justify another machine, who knows?

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        I don’t see why. A ticket would be valid as a transfer until its expiry time, which should be printed on the ticket clearly. I’d imagine the expiry time could even be the ONLY thing on the ticket other than the price.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        I suppose you’re right, I’m just afraid of adding yet another form of transit currency to our already over-complex system.

      • From what I’ve heard on the lunch bus, the ticket machines are the same ones as for Sounder. It will have your boarding station, the fare and the expiry time.

      • alexjonlin says:

        Also, just as a side note, I asked someone from ST about how fare inspectors would confirm that you had paid your fare, and they said that the fare inspectors would carry their own ORCA readers, but that wouldn’t work if you had to swipe your card when you got on and when you got off.

      • John Jensen says:

        alex, you only need to verify the first swipe occurred. If the second swipe doesn’t occur, you can bet that you’ll be paying the maximum fare.

      • It seems crazy to me that you would have to swipe when you got off. No one will bother, I bet.

      • I’m pretty sure people will bother to do the second swipe. In Holland we have the same concept starting to expand nationanly. The first swipe takes a large amount($5) and the second swipe deposits the amount you didn’t use back on your card. So if you wouldn’t do the second swipe the large amount would be deducted from your card.

      • That’s how Orca worked for Sounder during the beta test.

  8. Chris Stefan says:

    I hope that whatever they do it integrates seamlessly with Metro, ST Express, etc.

    I also hope there is some concept of a “transfer” as having to pay a new fare every time you step on and off link would suck especially if you just need to step off briefly at a station to run a quick errand. Similarly it would kill a lot of the tunnel traffic if they decided to charge the fare downtown as a fair number of people currently ride between the stations in the tunnel.

    In my personal experience I tend to use transit the most often when it is either free or when I’m paying a flat rate (day/week/month/year pass). I use it the least the larger the fare amount and the more inconvenient that amount is to pay.

    The biggest question is does ST want ridership for link or revenue?

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      Nobody’s even CONSIDERING getting rid of transfers. You needn’t worry.

      I suspect the DSTT will remain free.

      The ridership/revenue discussion is pretty complex – free service often gets worse ridership, because there’s significant psychology behind value. People like to hand-wave, but making transit free really does make people trust it less, and it brings a lot of unwanted users on board.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        Free isn’t necessarily bad. Look at Link in Tacoma. The service gets ridden and according to many has been a key component in revitalizing much of the downtown.

        At the very least there needs to be some form of “all you can eat” with ORCA. I’m going to be mighty pissed if buying a monthly ORCA pass really means I’m buying 24 trips at the stated face value of the card. So much for riding transit on the weekend, making midday trips, or making stops of longer than 60 minutes on the way home.

      • I bet there will be a flex-pass style deal where you can get unlimited bus trips and LRT trips for one flat fee.

  9. Not a big fan of this myself. With this then won’t you have to state your destination stop when buying a ticket? The more complex, the worse. The line is only 14 miles long. At most you could only be charged an added 70 cents. If you thought you wanted to get off at the ID, but then realized you needed to get off at Sodo, you’ve just evaded 5 cents of fare. Are the transit cops gonna ask you for that extra 5 cents if they catch you? Or worse, fine you for not paying full fare? If they do, then they are being a-holes and everyone will hate it. I’m sure you would see this on “Get Jesse” at least once. And if they don’t at least ask for the 5 cents, then presumably ST is losing money. It will be viewed like airlines charging for bags…not favorably.

    At most you use zones. Once you cross a boundary, you pay a little extra. That’s how the bus system works. And many other metro systems around the world do the same thing. Not sure 14 miles is long enough to do this though. Maybe only for the Tukwila and airport stations. Once the line goes further north and south, then yeah, this is most likely necessary. But per mile charges just seem too granular and will be viewed as being petty.

  10. I think using ST Express zones for now and distance based when it grows. I’m agreeing that the line is too short for now.

    Anyone know how ORCA will affect flashing my MS ID? I’m all in favor of switching to ORCA and wouldn’t mind my ID privileges being stored on an ORCA

    • I’m sure Microsoft will work out a deal with Sound Transit. Metro has a page about employee transportation passes and ORCA.

      The way it will work for the U-PASS, which is currently a quarterly validation sticker affixed to the back of a Husky ID card, is that the ORCA smart chip will be integrated into the Husky Card. All UW employees and students will have to get a new card when the system rolls out. The magnetic stripe will remain for building access, library services, and Husky Card cash account.

  11. I have been on NYC’s subway system and I really like the way they do it: mandatory passes. There will be so many people using the system in downtown Seattle that it would be easier to simply require passes (with vending machines nearby)to gain access to the tunnel. It reduces the need for security and its much easier to avoid all the tedious explanations about tranfers and all the jazz.

    • I haven’t ridden NYC subways too often, but I was just there a few months ago and bought a paper ticket at a machine. Is this contrary to your experience? Or was that paper ticket somehow considered a pass? There is access control in every subway station too, so that makes it a bit different.

      Sometimes I think people think just about the use for the citizens of the region. Granted, that will be the majority of use, but I think the visitors, be they tourists, business people, etc. should also be considered. I’m sure that is at least half the reason there was the push to take it to the airport. If it is easy for them, then it should be easy for everyone. How hard will ORCA, et al be for people not readily familiar with the system to figure it all out? That’s one worry I have about this pay-per-mile thing too.

      • alexjonlin says:

        I think by passes he means some kind of ticket. There’s absolutely no way they would require a monthly pass to ride the subway.

      • John Jensen says:

        He’s saying the monthly pass, the $10 pass, the 5-day pass, and the single-ride pass are all the same media. A paper swipe card.

      • Thanks, John, for clarifying my remark. That is exactly what I meant! All the various ticket options were bought via the same TVM. Once you were in the subway system you could take any subway you wanted to take. For us it would be a mix of one light rail and then lotsa busses (maybe).

  12. Some systems do use a hybrid system of zones and distance-based, essentially lots of small zones. The fare increments every few stations allows some flexibility. In a way the proposed system might work that way. ID and SODO are only about half a mile apart. Since it’s less than a mile then you should not pay more.

    Sounder moved to a distance-based fare system in 2007. The base fare is $2.55 plus 5.5¢ per mile, rounded to the nearest 25¢.

    In many metro systems, from Tokyo’s to BART, they have fare adjustment machines in the event you underpaid your fare but such systems require you to pass your valid ticket through the fare gate in order to exit the system. In Seattle, however, you could easily walk away. Having Orca makes it much easier so I think it’s an incentive to get people using Orca with a pass.

    • John Thacker says:

      The DC Metro has fare adjustment machines for the old paper passes (that still exist), but the Exitfare machines that let you add money to one of the old passes don’t work with the smart card, and Metro hasn’t replaced them.

      So to avoid people being trapped inside, you’re allowed to leave the system with a negative balance on your card; you just can’t use it to enter again until you make the balance positive. But then so people wouldn’t just get new free cards to replace their negative balance cards, they charge $5 for the card, more than the highest possible fare. That way there’s no way to try to game the system.

      I suppose with Orca it’ll be you swipe once, it deducts the max fare from your card, and then you swipe a second time in order to replace the value where you actually went.

  13. DSTT bus routes: assuming joint operation works as planned, there is capacity for 60 buses per hour per directions in the tunnel.
    whether Route 194 (or even routes 106 and 174) leave or stay in the tunnel will be decided in the spring with the service change ordinance related to south-first Link LRT integration. There are posters on the related sounding board. Hopefully, the ST fare decisions will be made by then. If some trips are taken from the tunnel, there would be capacity freed up for additional trips to be added to the tunnel. If additional ST routes go through the tunnel, they would have to pay Metro for them but would save operating time going through downtown, as the tunnel is about 10 minutes faster and more reliable than the surface streets. (the surface streets may be slower in 2012; see AWV).
    whether Link LRT honors the ride free area is part of what is being decided by this fare process.
    in fact, the current ST plans are that paper transfers from bus trips will NOT be honored on Link LRT or any other ST service when SMART card is implemented. If one wants to transfer and not pay twice, one needs to use a SMART card.

    yes, the tunnel is critical for CBD circulation; it provides speed and reliability and frequency in the peak. with Link LRT, the midday frequency will improve and the span will extend into the evening and weekends. these are major benefits, if ST honors the ride free area.

    the posters suggesting fare integration seem correct; will the multiple agencies make their fare structure decisions together? will SMART card speed or slow dwell times and therefor service? will riders have to tag their cards once or twice; how will zones be handled? it is complex today; what will be the direction of change in complexity with SMART card?

    • Those are interesting questions. I’m proposing to do a research paper based on the topic of fare systems and transit operations for my master’s degree. I’ll see how my advisor thinks of that.

      As it is right now the underlying fare system remains unchanged. There will still be different fare structures for each agency. ORCA only hides that fact by doing all the hard work for you. All you have to do is tap and go. You only have to tap out when you ride Sounder and potentially Link.

      I do not see a unified fare system as long as we have multiple transit agencies in the same region. Each agency has its own goals, needs, and budgets. Perhaps the smart card program will open up the possibility of more coordination or maybe in the future a consolidated Puget Sound transit agency might be created (going back to the issue of “governance reform”).

  14. Ugh, come on! Why can’t we be like other cities? Why must Seattle be so “unique”?

    I’ll admit, Link is considerably expensive, but I don’t think a different pricing system should be introduced. Would a pricing system based on the current zone system generate less revenue than a distance-based system? I imagine that the zone-based system would still generate enough revenue to make Link profitable, especially once the Sea-Tac extension opens.

    Honestly, just keep it simple!

  15. Mike Skehan says:

    Seems like distance based systems get too complicated. To work, everyone has to swipe there Orca card twice (on and off) for the correct fare to be charged. It seems like a lot of folks will forget to swipe upon arriving at the destination, so then what? Does Orca charge the maximum amount to the end of the line.
    Or how about folks that stay on the train for the ride back to the same or nearby stop? Sightseers, and transit junkies, mostly! Does Orcas figure the time and assume you’ve been riding the system all day, and charge accordingly?
    A flat fee for one ride is the simplist. When the system grows up, then look for zone fees, but that’s a ways off.

    • This is how I think it would work. There would likely be a time limit from the point you tap in like the how the paper transfers work. Typically a transfer would give you 90-119 minutes (per Metro’s “The Book”). If you don’t tap out within that limit or tap on a bus without tapping out, you’ll pay the maximum fare. I don’t think they will program the system to know you’ve been joyriding on the train all day (wouldn’t an inspector catch you first?) or figure the location where you tapped on the bus to calculate the correct fare but it is technically possible.

      In my experience riding other systems, the only thing that matters is your entry and exit point as long as you don’t exceed the time limit and have correct fare, otherwise you pay a penalty. They had fare gates controlling access, of course.

      Transit junkies know better and should have passes! The ST page said that TVMs will sell day passes; I hope it’s for unlimited rides. And why not sell 3-day and weekly passes for visitors? If everything is stored in the Orca, then we don’t have much to worry.

  16. SeattleBrad says:

    Funny, Sound Transit is asking for feedback, but I bet most of the feedback will be on blogs like this, not on their site.

    My biggest complaint with the bus system is complexity… ride free zone, peak fares, routes that change numbers in the middle… it’s all intimidating to new riders. So I’m for simplicity with transit. I like the idea of fixed cost trips. But like someone said, what if you need to get off and run an errand and then get back on?

    Orca is great, and I can’t wait til it’s here, but think of tourists and travelers. Do you really want to require them to get a plastic card with an RFID chip in it for one ride? Very wasteful.

    I would prefer the option of an all-day pass every day. Of course, then you’d have homeless people riding them all day.

    Seems like the compromise is the zone system. It’s simpler. This is another issue where we don’t need to reinvent the wheel… just look at what other cities are doing and see what works best.

  17. alexjonlin says:

    I wonder what they’ll do with the 71/2/3 on weeknights and weekends. They’ll be in the tunnel, so will they all be express? And if so, would the 70 run nights and weekends?

    • Chris Stefan says:

      71, 72, 73, and 74x will be in the tunnel until U-link opens at which point all of the buses will be kicked out of the tunnel. Presumably at that point Metro will do some service revisions to free service hours for other things.

      • alexjonlin says:

        No, I was asking if they’ll be express on nights and weekends, as currently all the runs that go into the tunnel are express.

      • Noooo! I ride from the University District to the International District daily. When the bus tunnel was closed that route was a pain in the ass, especially when I decided to leave during peak (normally I ride after the peaks). We’ll be moving to SLU in 2010, so I should wish for a speedy expansion of the trolley line up Eastlake… or move out of the U-District.

      • Oh wait, U-Link, that isn’t for a really long time. Nevermind.

  18. There is a document discussing fare policies for Link light rail in the ST Board meeting.

    From the document we find out that:
    • ST is aiming for a “52% farebox recovery goal defined in Sound Move” for Link by 2017
    • Regional fare policy dictates that fares be in 25¢ increments, so there will be rounding the nickel per mile.
    • Present to the public for comment the two distance-based options (today’s news). Includes a table of fare ranges for 2009 and 2017.
    • ST will collect $2.2M to $2.4M more revenue than budgeted for 2009 for a total of around $5M
    • There could be a 25¢ fare increase when U Link opens
    • “No transfer value is carried forward between partner agency services if payment is made by single-agency pass or ticket (smart card or other media), token or cash.” ORCA is the only way to transfer between systems without double paying, confirming eddiew’s statement.
    • ST “assumes that fares will be charged on Link for the entire system once buses are removed from the downtown Seattle transit tunnel (assumed to be 2016 with the opening of U Link for this analysis)” regardless of option selected in 2009.

    Funny how I twittered that link exactly a month ago and completely forgot about it.

    • 52% fare box recovery? That would be amazing. Goes to show that rail is cheaper to operate than buses are.

    • Mount Baker Guy says:

      Not honoring non-ORCA transfers is really going to suck for casual transit users in Southeast Seattle, where most people will have to take Metro to a light rail station and then transfer to light rail if they want to head to Beacon Hill or downtown. We’ll have to pay two fares where we now just have to pay one.

      • John Jensen says:

        …or just get the right media! Incentivizing using the “correct” media will speed up boarding for everyone.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        Sure having the “right media” is great for frequent users, but to hit casual users with a double fare sucks and doesn’t leave them with a good impression. Not to mention that for many having a say $3 round trip become a $8 one is a major issue.

      • They really do need to sell orca passes on the platforms.

  19. the fares should be very easy to understand.

    distance pricing is probably a good thing.

    decongestion pricing is something that should be implemented from the get-go.

    the system should start with free fares for the first two weeks.

    the system should then start charging ‘lower-than-market’ fees to give people that extra push to ride — do this for at least the first year. revenues might dip, but ridership will go up. rates should be indexed to inflation.

    the system should implement peak and non-peak pricing (decongestion pricing), to make sure peak-time ridership does not deter some from riding, but just shift their riding times a bit. the decongestion pricing will also help to make sure the system is utilized in off hours, which should give drivers another option for late evening and mid-day hours and on weekends. the keeps trains fuller, and safer, and subjectively safer, and might even help businesses along the route more.

    good luck! :D

  20. Security on board will verify payment of fare, and fines will be issued? Just like they do on the SLUSC?

  21. I made a spreadsheet in Excel that calculated the fares and posted a fare table in the flickr pool.

    Example: A ride from Westlake to any station until SODO will cost you $2, then it’s $2.25 for Beacon Hill to Othello, $2.50 for Rainier Beach, and $2.75 to Tukwila and the Airport.

    • John Jensen says:

      Very slightly off, since you charge for DSTT to DSTT rides yet use the $2.00 base. The linked graph should have the $1.75 base, and another graph could be created with free DSTT rides and the $2.00 base.

      • Thanks for pointing that out. I fixed it. The same link now has two graphs comparing the $1.75 vs $2 with free rides. Under the free DSTT ride scenario I assume that it’ll still count the distance between Westlake and IDS as part of the fare if you begin your trip in the DSTT and head elsewhere. The tunnel is only 1.3 miles long anyway.

  22. John Jensen says:

    For what it’s worth, the bay area is switching to a similar card (which looks to be exactly the same technology): https://www.translink.org/TranslinkWeb/useTranslinkTutorial.do

    Also requiring tap-offs for BART.

    • alexjonlin says:

      But BART doesn’t have any monthly passes, which would suck.

    • anonymouse says:

      Yeah, Translink will be great when it comes. Last I heard it will be implemented on BART in summer of 2008. I can’t wait!

    • It is the same technology from the same company. TransLink chose ERG.

      If you thought our region had too many agencies and ORCA is taking forever, looks like TransLink is going to be used on 26 transit agencies in the Bay Area and their contract was signed back in 1999; as of 2009 they still don’t have BART and Muni on it yet.

  23. Two primary comments:

    Transit fares should be consistent between any origin and destination regardless of the operator or type of vehicle. People should be able to freely switch between bus and light rail and between Metro and Sound Transit. It should cost a given price between Bellevue and Seattle, between Tukwila and Seattle, etc. Sound Transit promised us a seamless system but we have an incredible mish-mash right now of fares, value of transfers, etc. Check out how ALL the transit systems work in every city in Germany and Switzerland. Fares (or all day passes) are based on origin and destination, and you can use the services of a variety of operators, including the state railroad, streetcar/subway, and buses of various providers. It’s simple to understand and use.

    Second comment, rather than purely miles, I think it’s most understandable to have zones. The base fare is a ride within a zone. Rides that cover multiple zones cost more, so it is distance based. The zones can be fairly large so it’s not too confusing, but maybe more granular than they are today.

    Today Sound Transit express buses charge $3 between Tacoma and Everett. You can ride from Seatac to Kirkland on Metro for $1.50 off-peak if you go via downtown Seattle. If you take Metro to Bellevue and continue to Seatac, it’s $2.50. Sound Transit charges $2.50 from Bellevue to Seattle. Metro is $1.50 from Bellevue to U-District and ST is $2.50 from Kirkland to U-District. Metro includes a 2-zone transfer in their fare, but ST only 1-zone. What a mess.

    • Mike Skehan says:

      Metro alone has nearly 300 different fares today. That includes peak/off peak/zone/disabled/youth/passes for different denominations for different time frames (monthly-quarterly-yearly)/tokens/cash/transfers/… whew!, this is getting long!…. anyway you get the idea. Try being a driver and figure out if it’s a valid fare.
      Now throw in Sound Transit and a couple of more transit agencies, some ferries, and the ever popular business promotions, and your right.
      It’s a big MESS.
      K.I.S.S. keep it simple stupid

    • Zelbinian says:

      The problem with zones, is the edge cases lead to mess scenarios:

      * A ride going completely through Zone A without going outside of it would be, say, $2.
      * A ride starting on -just- this side of A and ending on -just- this side of B would be $2.25.

      And that’s bullshit. I shouldn’t be penalized just because my grocery story happens to be on the opposite side of the zone. Then I will, ironically, travel farther, to a grocery store out of my local neighborhood, because it’s cheaper.

      A distance-based fare is much more fair.

  24. What about monthly passes? Is Orca my only option? I don’t like carrying cash on me and Orca is a cash card.

    Having to tap twice will be like funneling out the front of a bus: slow! Let’s get people on and off the platforms as fast as possible. Passes do not require tapping in or out – they’re quick!

    How will onboard ticket validation work if you have to tap in and tap out? Will it print a receipt? Riders will be all nervous as to whether the reader actually processed their payment when the officer comes around to them. Passes give me the confidence that I have paid.

    My conclusion: The pricing issues seems dependent on the form of payment. Passes and transfers are faster, make more sense, safer to carry, and more confidence inspiring than Orca. Passes work well for zones. Therefore, remove the ride free area in the tunnel, use zones and price accordingly.

    • John Jensen says:

      Orca functions as both a pass as well as a “cash card.” It also works as a transfer. And unlike today’s passes, its value is recoverable if you lose it or it is stolen.

    • Matt the Engineer says:

      Would the readers really be on the train itself? I had imagined they’d be on the platform to avoid slow boardings.

      • I sure hope the readers are on the platforms! This would necessitate putting turnstiles to forbid entry to the tunnel without a ticket/pass. Otherwise, it would be slower then dirt. As I undertand it, SWIFT (or BRT) in Snohomish County will have the equivelent of turnstiles so payment is done before boarding the bus. Nice…

      • There are no readers on the trains. They should be on the platform, otherwise what’s to stop you from boarding traveling half-way and then tapping the card on the train.

        In the DSTT, particularly Westlake, you will notice yellow poles installed near the stairs leading to the platform. Those are for the ORCA readers. King Street Station has two readers that I’ve noticed, one on the Weller St Bridge and one right after you come down the north side stairs to the platform.

  25. i dont see how turnstyles could work for at-grade outdoor stations. underground and elevated? sure.

    but those threeb down in the valley and the sodo and stadium stations, that wont work.

  26. Chris Stefan wrote: “71, 72, 73, and 74x will be in the tunnel until U-link opens at which point all of the buses will be kicked out of the tunnel. Presumably at that point Metro will do some service revisions to free service hours for other things.”

    The extent of Link LRT does not kick the buses out of the tunnel; a tight headway does. Joint operation may continue as long as the LRT headway is four minutes or longer. It is a two agency decision. We shall see.

    Link LRT is expected to reach UW stadium station in 2016. The restructure of routes 71, 72, 73, and 74 has not been decided and probably will not until that year. It is more certain those routes will be restructured when Link LRT serves the NE 45th Street station in about 2020. There are significant logistical issues with truncating those routes at the UW stadium station, including the walk distance for transfers for routes on Stevens Way, the wait times, and lack of layover. The layover factor brings Seattle and the UW to the table.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] First, I’d like to highly recommend Oran’s very informative comment: [...]

  2. [...] First, I’d like to highly recommend Oran’s very informative comment: [...]

  3. [...] rail system that’s going to run from downtown to the airport. Yesterday they reported that Sound Transit was considering calculating the fares based on the distance you travel: a base fee, plus a certain charge per mile. in this case, $2 plus [...]

  4. [...] this talk about fare structures has sparked some yearning for turnstiles.  I refer you to my post on the [...]

  5. [...] which would mean increasing costs for the rider depending on the length of his or her ride. The Seattle Transit Blog reports that fares would start at $1.75 or $2 and increase to up to $2.75 for the full ride from [...]

  6. [...] a distance-based surcharge of $.05 per mile rounded to the nearest quarter (you can read about the introduction of the distance-based fare in our archives). The maximum fare from Downtown Seattle to Seatac Airport would be [...]

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