I’d like to address four issues associated with proposed fare structure: one offers new information, the second discusses drawbacks of different fare approaches, the third addresses the ride-free zone, and the fourth affects South Seattle specifically.
First, I’d like to highly recommend Oran’s very informative comment:
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.
Second, there’s been a lot of discussion of flat fares vs. fare zones vs. directly proportional distance pricing vs. the proposed system. I’d like to point out drawbacks of each of these approaches:
- Flat fares don’t make users pay for the resources they consume. On the demand side, the attractiveness of taking transit partially depends on the gas you’ll save, so a longer trip is worth more to a rider than a shorter one.
- Fare zones are a simple corrective, but one gets odd corner cases. For instance, a one-stop trip from Rainier Beach to Tukwila is a two-zone trip. This is less of a problem with buses that are oriented towards Downtown Seattle, but with the train there ought to be more trips between random stations.
- A purely proportional system makes long trips really expensive. For instance, assume ST wants a farebox recovery of $2.25 per rider and that each possible trip is equally likely. It can simply charge each rider $2.25 regardless of distance. Alternatively it can charge short hops a quarter and longer trips $4.00-$4.50. Imagine the howls from Rainier Beach and from 194 users if that were the case!
- The proposed system has its own faults; it’s relatively complex and there’s question whether the relatively slight scaling achieves any of the goals of adding that complexity.
The third thing I’d like to add is just a brief comment that having different fare structures inside the tunnel is going to make things difficult. Suppose I want to travel 2 stops in the tunnel. Do I have to wait and see if a bus or train comes, and then rush the “tap in” machine if it’s a train? Conversely, if we abolish the RFZ for buses in the tunnel, that means you’ll have on-board payment in the tunnel, which is of course is a recipe for disaster in a heavily trafficked — and narrow — corridor.
Finally, I predict the fare proposals are really going to smooth over LINK’s acceptance in the Rainier Valley. A lot of the foreboding associated with cutting bus service there was associated with the fear that LINK was going to cost $4 or so. While there are certain trips (eg, Rainier Beach-Westlake) that are going to be 25 cents more expensive than the 2010 Metro fare, in general those fears have proven to be unfounded.