For the first time in a while, I used a Metro peak-hour transfer to get on a Sound Transit bus this morning. The driver insisted that my transfer, which had cost me $1.75, was only good for $1.50. I paid the extra quarter to avoid a scene, but didn’t think it was right.

Lo and behold, he knew what he was talking about:

Valid transfers from Community Transit, King County Metro Transit (Metro) and Pierce Transit are accepted on ST Express as a one-zone ST Express fare (Adult $1.50, Youth $1.00, Senior/Disabled* $0.50).

In retrospect, this actually simplifies things, since the different transit agencies have different fares. Nevertheless, this highlights the tradeoffs in having at least four different fare systems (and soon a fifth, RapidRide) in the three-county region. If the fare system is intricate enough to confuse someone like me, it’s too complicated; on the other hand, I woudn’t want tax-averse out-of-county voters forcing lower service levels on us in a combined Puget Sound super-agency.

On a different note, the driver also was enforcing “Pay as you enter” at the Rainier/I-90 stop outbound from Seattle. I suppose this is correct, but certainly isn’t SOP for most drivers on the 554. All in all, not a good day for me in terms of bus etiquette: today, I was the idiot without his fare ready.

14 Replies to “You learn something new every day”

  1. One time, I forgot my badge for MSFT, which also is my bus pass. I didn’t realize I had forgotten it until it came time to pay, and I had to convince the driver to let me off for free, since I had no cash.

    I felt like the worst idiot and jerk at the same time. I paid $5.00 on my way back to make up for it.

  2. I try to make it impossible for me to forget anything I might find important by having it on my person at all times, and failing that, being excessively paranoid about forgetting anything.

    Why and how would RapidRide use a different fare structure than Metro or SoundTransit?

  3. Imagine how difficult it must be for people who are new to this area, or country, to understand the system(s). As an example, it must be very confusing for someone who speaks little or no english, to buy a Day Pass from a Metro driver on a Metro bus, then to try to use it on Sound Transit bus … driven again by a Metro driver. They must be thinking, “What on earth is going on? Why do I have to pay more? I thought this was good all day. Now the Metro driver is telling me I have to pay more!”

  4. Metro, ST, and other agencies could do a much better job at advertising their rules and programs, in english, and other languages. So many things Metro offers are almost like a big secret. How many people know about the Night Stop Program? A fraction of one percent? How many people know about the Sunday Family Fare Program? I would like to see Metro buy some of their own ad space on the insides of their buses and tell people about some great programs that they have.

  5. Wow, I can’t believe it: I took that photo. Where did you find it? You even left it as a PNG, too. This makes my day!

    Honestly, some sort of stored-value card would make a whole lot easier in the tri-county area, especially Metro’s service area. Aren’t we one of the few major cities without such a thing?

  6. ^^^

    Technically, we do, but as far as i’ve heard it’s still in the development process and is suffering from security problems or something. It’s the ORCA card, or One-Regional-Card-(for)-All card, and supposedly you can use it for any public transportation agency in the greater Puget Sound region, even on WSF (Washington State Ferries).

    Personally, I would really love to use a stored-value card. It would make getting off the bus or something so much easier. I believe Taipei’s subway system uses a card-system, and your just swipe your card on an electronic pad, and that’s it! Imagine how much time could be saved at bus stops if we had a stored-value card!

  7. That’s why I love the Puget Pass, although unless your employer picks up the tab for it or you ride the bus every single day, the cost doesn’t really pencil out depending on your situation. A stored value card would be better.

  8. It’s not just multi-agency transfers, it’s multiple-zone trips, Metro’s ride-free area, and other exceptions that make the whole system needlessly complicated.

    We should go for simplicity:

    *Charge a single fare for rides of any distance on a single route. *Require payment on entry
    *Payment can be by monthly pass (one option across all regional agencies), stored-value card (for people who ride infrequently but don’t want the hassle of buying a pass every time), daily travel card, or single-use card with one-hour re-use to enable transfers. Every option is intermodal throughout all regional agencies in at least the four central Puget Sound counties.
    *All cards can be bought at frequently placed kiosks and use the same card readers.
    *Buses allow cash sales on entry, in exchange for a single-use or daily card.

    If you have a pass (monthly or stored value), you swipe it and go. If you don’t have a pass and you’re near a kiosk, you buy it while you wait. Otherwise, you buy a pass when you board.

    If a free ride area is still desired downtown, set up circulator routes for the purpose instead of hijacking incoming and outgoing buses.

    To encourage people to ride transit, mail stored-value cards to everyone with the first trip free and a map of kiosk locations where they can add more value to the card.

  9. 47hasbegun,

    I found the picture on Wikimedia Commons.

    For once, we agree entirely. That info would be much better than poetry on buses.

    All good suggestions, to the extent that they don’t break the bank.

  10. Ben, you make a good point. If the ride-free zone is really designed to speed up boardings, I suppose one option would be to only charge fares for the incoming leg of those routes. Everyone would get a free ride out of town, but you’d pay more to come in. It would even work for people riding in the non-downtown portion of a route because they’d still have a free journey one way and a double-cost journey the other way. The number of one-way travelers wouldn’t be so much that you couldn’t just absorb that extra cost.

  11. [cas] I think you’re on the right track, but you’ve started to complicate things again.

    Switch to SLUT-style fares. Install kiosks that convert cash or credit into printed tickets both at major stops and on-board in the middle of the bus. Add roaming ticket-takers that fine you for not having a ticket.

    This would speed up stops, allow the bus driver to focus on driving the bus, and make the entire system simple and consistant.

  12. OR even better just require an ORCA pass, swipe as you enter the front, swipe as you leave.

    Works great in London, could work great here to. This really isn’t rocket science…

  13. seattle process – eventually, I agree with your assessment, EXCEPT:

    Where does one get their ORCA pass when they’re starting far outside of town (a new rider) at a little-used stop?

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