This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
A Sounder rider wants to know why Sound Transit wasn’t checking tickets more agressively on a train to the Seahawks game. ST responds that this was an atypical situation, but the question serves to illustrate the different attitudes people have towards transit here in the Northwest.
Growing up in New York, I’d occasionally notice that the afternoon commute on the Long Island RR was just so packed that the conductors would give up on checking tickets. Most of the riders had monthly passes, so it didn’t really make a difference. But for a kid like me, who was sneaking into the city to go hang out in the East Village and pretend to be cool, I could sometimes get away with a free ride. Of course, they charged an extra $2 to buy the ticket from the conductor, so it wasn’t really worth the risk. Better to just buy the ticket and maybe re-use it if they didn’t punch it.
Across the pond, Matt noted that most European transit systems are similarly lackadaisical when it comes to collecting tickets. Transit is just part of the social compact there, and so many people ride it that the operating costs all come out in the wash anyway.
The costs of collecting and processing tickets are nontrivial. Skagit transit spends more collecting fares than it makes from the fares themselves. And the honor system seems to work in Houston, TX when it comes to fare collection.
Perhaps, as we build more and better transit systems in the region, and as more no-good transplants like myself move in, our collective attitude towards transit will move from “costly government pork project that I refuse to ‘subsidize’ ” to “indispensible element of urban public life.” I certainly hope so.