King County Metro

The Metro zone fare policy is praised for being simple, and indeed it is, even if it’s still wedded to the idea that all the jobs are in Seattle (Metro, unlike Sound Transit, doesn’t have different zones for East and South King County).  If you cross the Seattle City Line, you pay a two-zone fare.

But what happens when a route drives along the city line?  I found out the answer when I found myself on the 124 to the Museum of Flight.  In this stretch, the east side of the road is in Seattle but the west side is in Tukwila.

Metro has resolved this dilemma by charging you a two-zone fare when you leave the border area, regardless of which direction you go.  If you think it through, it’s a solution that successfully avoids any possible fare-avoidance shenanigans using Link.

86 Replies to “Adventures in Fare Policy”

  1. What we desperately need is one fare system for the entire region. Portland has that, and it really makes everything much simpler.

      1. I think Chetan’s point is that our fare system is different between Metro, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, and Community Transit.

    1. That’s a terrible idea. Flat rates add incentives for sprawl, and discourage in-city bus use. It currently costs more for my wife and I to ride the bus 2 miles to work than it does to drive in and park downtown.

      Fares should be variable based on distance travelled. We can’t do that yet, but once buses have GPS…

      1. And there is the whole reason why there isn’t one type of fare structure around the whole world. There are competeing objectives and depending on the balance of those objectives different systems are used.

      2. I totally agree with you, I mean one fare structure that is the same for Link, Sounder, ST express, Metro, CT, PT, and ET.

        My problem is these differences. I agree that fares should be distance based.

      3. The argument that transit fare structure encourages sprawl is ridiculous. Even worse is the argument that transit encourages sprawl. Neither of these are true.

        If we don’t provide transit service, any growth will be totally auto-dependent sprawl. That’s most of what we have outside of Seattle today.

        What our transit fare policies are is not going to affect sprawl. More important would be not to build huge park & rides and to put outlying transit stops right at the freeway where everyone has to drive or board another vehicle to get to any work or home destination – that creates terrible sprawl. If instead transit is provided in areas that create a walkalbe urban environment, then that is a type of development to be supported.

        The transit fare policies need to balance simplicity, enforcement, fairness, and raising necessary revenue – but to imply that people will choose to sprawl out because of a flat rate fare is just untrue. It is an insignificant factor in people’s choice where to live, and if it creates some density or an urban center in a desired area, that’s a good thing.

    2. Can you elaborate? What’s not simple about our system? Can you give me a common example of situation where you would be using your ORCA card to travel within our system, and it’s not simple or easy?

      1. Yes, ORCA has made it quite a bit simpler, but this is my problem.

        Community transit has one fare for local buses, and another fare for commuter buses. Sound Transit has a completely different, non distance, but zone based fare structure (with which it is very easy to pay a one zone fare and go farther)

        During off peak hours, metro transit has a flat fee for the county, while ST still has a zone based system in the same area. During peak hours, metro also has a zone based system, except that Metro’s zones are different that ST zones, and the rates are also different.

        Then throw trains into the equation. Link and Sounder have a completely different fare structure, in which you pay by distance.

        And as for how you pay? here goes.

        On trains, you either buy a ticket, which you then use for the train and any bus trip with a lower fare, or you use ORCA, and scan it when you enter and when you exit.

        On buses, sometimes you pay as you enter, sometimes as you exit,. If you are visiting Seattle and don’t have ORCA, the transfer only works for other metro buses and some ST buses.

        On swift, you also buy your ticket/scan you ORCA card off the bus, but the ticket is not valid anywhere else, and you don’t tap ORCA when you get off.

        On RapidRide, some stops will function like Swift, while some others will function like normal bus stops, unless you have a transfer, which works for metro only.

        And this is without even talking about Everett or Pierce transit.

        Now compare that with Trimet. You can buy a 2-hour, 24 hour, 1 week, or one month ticket for 1,2,or 3 zones. You just show that to the driver when you board the bus, and show it to a fare inspector on trains and streetcars. You can buy these at grocery stores, as well as at stations and on board buses and streetcars.

        Explain that to a new Seattle transit rider, and see if they don’t walk away.

      2. Talk about comparing apples to sledgehammers.

        Trimet is one agency, you discussed three agencies. Of course Seattle is different than Portland. If you want to compare ST to TM I’d say that’s fair (or any one agency verses any other) but lumping them all together is just dumb.

      3. We’ve standardized the fare medium (PugetPass, now Orca), and have inter-agency transfers. There’s no reason we couldn’t standardize the zones and fare structure itself aside from lack of political will.

      4. “no reason aside from” means yeah, that’s a really big reason. We have three different counties with three different agencies.

        Be patient, and when Sound Transit can take on more intercounty service, we’ll give it to them. It can’t be fixed tomorrow without destroying our ability to build capital projects – if we saddle a regional agency with more operations than capital, the operations will end up sucking up capital money.

      5. The average transit rider doesn’t care how many transit agencies are there. In the UK, many times tons of private companies operate bus service in one city with one fair structure.

        It is possible to do the same with government agencies here.

      6. Chetan actually a good under of cities in the UK they don’t have integrated fare structures because of the full deregulation of the transit market. In the long term I could see a unified zone based system used for CT, PT, ST and Metro service. The zone boundaries are usually pretty sensible.

      7. Recognizing that transit is never all things to all people…
        Carl & Chetan: Perhaps you might like NYC’s MTA metrocard. Flat rate of $2.25 for all rides, whether bus or subway, and distance be damned. Peak times don’t change the price (just the frequency). Many transfers are free (though controlled access, physically, keeps transfer some cheats minimized). Crosses 5+ counties, too. Someone who wants to spend 4 hours in the system cruising the city CAN, and it still only costs 2.25. Notably, Express buses cost double. Card machines are in every station, and are also sold at any newstand/convenience store. All boros are part of the same system.
        http://www.mta.info/metrocard/mcgtreng.htm
        LIRR (the amtrak, et al) is the only soft spot in the MTA example: peak/offpeak applies, as well as distance zones and various ticket prices based on where you buy (machine kiosk, on board and/or webtix).

        People using the METROCARD for short hops don’t care about expense (mainly because a) that’s what the transit costs. period. and b)they are less likely to own a car or want to bike), and those coming in from the boros (aka burbs) love using the cheap MTA system… effectively encouraging long-trip car commuters to hop on the train instead of their car.
        There’s no BS about fairness, no worries keeping track of your tranfer ticket (or when it expires), no counting nickles or goosechase-searching for a card machine. There’s also no ‘big brother’ ORCA issues with a metrocard purchased at a station kiosk: you can pay cash or credit card.

        So, yes, there are some ways to simplify.

      8. I think the problem here is more about knowing how much you’ll pay (and when) than it is about how to pay. You’re right that ORCA abstracts this out, but that’s just hiding the problem.

        As an example, I live about 3 miles from where I work. From a single stop near my apartment, I can take either the 545 or the 253. Both will drop me off at the same destination near my office, and take very similar routes to get there. For a round-trip, I’d pay $3.00 for the 545 and $4.50 for the 253.

        This amazes me, because the 545 is running every 10 minutes with nicer buses and a slightly faster trip, yet costs only 2/3 of what Metro wants for the 253. The only downside to the 545 is having to get the ORCA reader switched from 2 zones to 1 every time (I’m still not sure what the “Zone 1” preset on the ORCA site means).

      9. David, that is a great example of some of the silliness of the current fare policies. Another example could be Bellevue to UW. Metro 271 is $2.00 most of the time, and $2.75 peak. Sound Transit 555/556 are $2.50 all the time. Both continue to Issaquah (about twice as far from Bellevue), with Metro 271 charging $2.00/2.25 while Sound Transit 555/556 charges $1.50.

        From Kirkland to UW, ST 540 is $2.50 all the time, but Metro 255 to Montlake with a free transfer is $2.00 off-peak but $2.75 peak.

        There is no consistency nor logic for the differences, nor differences in the quality of service to support different fares. And Metro & ST provide overlapping service in the same areas, same roads, same stops.

        It’s not seamless. It makes it needlessly confusing and becomes a deterrent for riders.

    3. Simpler, yes, but a bureaucratic nightmare. Different revenue sources and different budgeting models means different fares for each agency. I think for what we have, ORCA does an adequate job.

      1. It’s a lame position for government agencies to say “because we have overlapping agencies and it is hard to figure out how to share, or hard to budget, we are going to make riders deal with the differences between agencies.”

        Generally for people with a monthly pass and a consistent commute, the fare system is not that difficult, though not necessarily fair.

        But for people who don’t have a monthly pass, and pay with cash or ORCA, and who need to use our system to go to a variety of places, the fare system is a confusing mess. ORCA may have made payment easier, but it doesn’t mean that people can predict what their ride actually costs, or that it costs a consistent amount. The same trip costs different amounts depending on which agency’s bus comes first or how you transfer.

        Transit providers in Europe, whether France, Scandinavia, Holland, Germany or Switzerland have figured out how to set joint prices and allocate revenues.

      2. How are our agencies overlapping? Metro’s job is to provide local (and so some extent, limited stop) and commuter routes throughout King County. Community Transit’s job is to provide local service in Snohomish County and commuter service between Snohomish County and Downtown Seattle. Pierce Transit provides local service in Pierce County, with some routes edging into other counties. Sound Transit operates service in all three counties, but their job is to provide regional express service, connecting major destinations that are far apart.

      3. But there are many bus routes in each agency that do the job of another. Metro provides regional express service between Downtown and Northgate, and Downtown and the UW, while ST provides relatively local service on Lake City way, some commuter service from Snohomish county, and certain commuter routes in King and Pierce counties.

        Many people in this city who don’t ride transit say it is because of how complicated things are. This is one metropolitan area, and should be considered as such when designing public transit.

        Seattle used to have it’s own transit agency, with serveral others around it. They became King County Metro as the city and it’s surroundings became interconnected. Perhaps that needs to be done again, but at least we can integrate things like fare structure and branding.

      4. And it will stay that way with the current fare policies of the region. ST shot themselves in the foot with LINK’s horribly complex distance based fare scheme, ORCA while well intentoned isnt exactly easy to care for, and those who pay in cash have all the more incentive to stay on local service vs. pay a new fare on another agencies service.

      5. Many former Metro routes became Sound Transit routes, and many ST routes wholly within King County operate similar to Metro routes in other corridors. ST 550 was Metro 226. ST 545 was Metro 263. ST 540 is similar to Metro 255. ST 554 replaced some Metro 214 service, I believe, and is similar. ST 522 replaced a Metro route (I don’t remember the route but I think it was 307). ST 560 replaced southern half of Metro 340. ST 532/535 sort of replaced northern half of Metro 340. There’s probably another dozen examples. ST & Metro should form an integrated system and should be designed to provide customer the experience of an integrated system.

      6. The service hours for the 307 went to the 41 and the 372, I assume the service hours for the other former Metro routes taken over by ST were similarly redistributed.

      7. Chris,
        If I recall, most of the resources in 1999 went to not cutting service when the legislature enacted Initiative 695.

    4. But portland has one major system. Ctran and SMART are neighboring properties, which i think Ctran has a interagency transfer agreement with Tri-Met but i dont remember anymore…

  2. I’ve always found this fare zone system to be pretty annoying..

    First, if you get on the bus outside the city on an inbound bus, but plan to get off before the zone line, you have to explain to the bus driver why you’re not paying what they feel is the proper fare, and often they give you an attitude about it, as if you’re trying to get away with something.. Not all of them, but it has happened often enough….

    Second, on this particular route, I think its kind of weird that if your destination is say, the Museum of Flight, the map makes it seem that its a 1 zone fare to get to the museum, and you have to pay a two zone fare to get back. That’s just silly. It seems to be that the fare zone boundary should be in the same location, inbound or outbound, just for the sake of consistency.

    By the way, this particular setup for fare zones existed on the 174 route as well, long before Link existed, so its not designed as a response to Link/fare avoidance..

    1. Or even in the city on an outbound bus. In my experience telling ST 550 drivers in the tunnel that you’re getting off at Rainier Freeway Station often elicits a roll of the eyes. Not that I blame them, I’ve seen plenty of people pay $1.50 and then stay on all the way to Bellevue. There’s really no way in the current system to guard against that kind of fare evasion.

      1. Thats why you get rid of this stupid, complicated zone system and switch to an all flat fare system.

        I.e. $1.75 for local bus and LINK light rail,$3.00 for Regional Express, $4.50 for Sounder etc. Set your ADA/Discounted Fares at half that per law ($.85 for Local/LINK, $1.50 for REX, $2.25 for Sounder) and call it done. Add TRiM machines to the fareboxes for cash transfers/upgrades (The machine takes the fraud out of them), and reprogram ORCA so you only have to tag in, not tag in and out. Of course it would probally take an act of the leg. to enforce the consistant fare policy in region, but…

      2. I think that this type of situation only effects a small portion of riders so it’s not the end of the world.

        As for getting ride of the fare zones that is a horrible idea. When you have a single fare zone it encourages sprawl and makes it extremely unfair to people that ride the bus only a short distance. Further more the cost of boarding for those who live in Seattle, Shoreline and lake forest park is only about $3.50 where as the cost of boardings on the eastside is $7.00+

        The thing that would really help is that if people started living close to where the worked, school etc.

      3. When you have a single fare zone it encourages sprawl and makes it extremely unfair to people that ride the bus only a short distance.

        Please explain how the single fare zone of, say, NYC’s bus and subway system, encourages sprawl. ?

        Likewise how is “you ride the bus, you pay the bus price” unfair, exactly? It’s a lot like an admission fee (you don’t pay LESS for a ticket to disneyland just because you’re leaving at 7pm instead of 11pm).
        If we ALL pay the Same Amount… isn’t that the definition of fair?

        Besides: The people with a shorter commute ALREADY get a bonus: it’s called ‘Time’. :) Also, ‘Time’™ makes a handy incentive for folks to start living closer to work/school/commerce.

    2. Set a cash fare that is high. Then set a lower graduated fare for ORCA users. Tap in and tap out. Failure to tap out results in deduction of maximum cash fare, just like Link and Sounder.

      1. Well for starters, the ORCA website isnt terrably ADA complaint. It barely works in anything above IE 6. Secondly, the retail sales outlets i have been to, they are borderline (if at all) fully ADA compliant. One of the intentions is for those who are stricken with disability to be able to use the services of the facility as an able bodied person without problems. And that just isnt the case (although they do get the best service possible, given the limited capabilitys of the facility).

        When comparing PugetPass to ORCA, those who use the ADA mandated paratransit service (Access, Shuttle, etc.) used to use the same fare media (although in a diffrent demoniation) as everyone else. They could get higher demoniation passes, and ride fixed route same as everyone else. It had all the benefits of cross county transfers and afforded those individuals the same benefits as everyone else. Now, with ORCA you effectivly have to purchase 2 products if you wish to ride the paratransit service, and cross county lines and ride the other paratransit service, or, fixed route from another agency.

        And Finally, Everyone on this board seems to forget we are discussing public transportation here. And while we all dispise the smelly old homeless guy, or the town drunk who rides around from bar to bar they too have a right to use the system. That means making sure any firm decisions have the rights of all riders involved. That includes those who only can pay by cash at the time of their ride because they lack any other way to (ORCA is great if you have the resources to load it in advance, but if you dont you are seriously out of luck with it. By resources, it really effecivly takes a credit card, and a computer with internet aceess. A MAJOR flaw, which is being worked on was not installing ORCA fare machines at all major transit stations so those on the go could refill their cards. Also, it requires having the money available which can be a problem for some as well). And by offering a discount for one group of users it could be percieved as a discriminatory practice (insert seedy lawyer represnting seattles homless or other ethnic group here). Just food for thought….

      2. The ORCA website is supposed to be Section 508 compliant. I should stop by the braille library and see what they think.

        More cash reload locations outside downtown would be nice.

      3. How is this radically different from current practice?

        Disabled users are required to have an RRFP to be eligible for reduced fare, which in most cases already ORCA.

        King County Water Taxi Vashon and W Seattle routes have an ORCA discount from cash fare, even for RRFP users.

  3. You can see this in action on any route that travels along a City of Seattle boundary, like the 54 or 304. Unfortunately, Metro does not have a consistent way of describing this situation.

    “The fare zone for Route 54 is SW Roxbury St. Trips that start or end anywhere along SW Roxbury St or at 14th Ave SW & SW 98th St will not require a two zone fare.”

    “The fare zone for Route 304 is N 145th St. An additional fare will be collected on trips that cross this boundary. Route 304 trips that start or end anywhere along 145th St will not require zone fare.”

    1. Yes, so I don’t see Martin’s point. If you start or stop on the border street, you pay one zone. That’s actually a good deal for those who live right on the street, because they can go either way for one zone. So what’s this about being charged two zones on the way back?

  4. I’d really like to see a consistent zone-based system, adopted by all transit agencies in the region.

    There’s many examples of this sort of system in Europe. Here’s one from Lausanne, Switzerland: http://www.t-l.ch/images/pdf/planr08octobre.pdf Supposing you lived in Morges and worked in Lausanne, you would buy a 4-zone pass (30,33,12,11), which would allow you to take any combination of trains or buses (spanning 5 different transit agencies) within those zones.

    IMO, this is much simpler to understand than our mess of distance-based fares (Link, Sounder), two-zone Metro and three-zone ST fares.

    1. I fully support your suggestion. The “pie and rings” zone system is the most equitable. Needs to be usable on Amtrak within the region too.

      1. If that “needs to be usable on Amtrak”, you’ll have to get the local agencies to subsidize Amtrak.

      1. Portland is just ring zones. We need a cross slice to get the suburb to suburb traveller to pay their fair share.

      2. Remember the 340? You could travel from Shoreline, bypass Seattle through Bellevue, and arrive at Burien for the same fare as a short ride within the city of Seattle and less than travelling through Seattle.

  5. Kill the Ride Free Area, institute a shared zone map between all agencies and possibly a unified fare structure, charge more for cash payment, push ORCA and off-bus payment systems as much as possible, and make the entire system proof of payment with random fare enforcement.

    1. C’mon, Velo, you know that will never happen. It would require cooperation, including give and take, among transit agencies — folks much more prone to taking than to giving.

    2. Yeah lets be realistic. I don’t forsee anything related to fare structure changing until ULink comes online.

    3. velo remember this is Seattle, common sense solutions that work elsewhere are occasionally studied and rarely implemented.

      1. How about embedding chips in all the citizens, then just deducting all government services used (bus, hot lane, bridge tolls, etc) from an active debit account? It could be extended to ‘flat rate’ fast food drive throughs – just slow down a bit and grab a bag-O-food.
        Going to school? Easy, flat rate, $1.00 an hour, any subject.
        It’s the new “One Size Fits All Society”

  6. Unless Metro has changed things since I used to work on East Marginal Way, you are misinterpreting the two-zone-boundary situation there.

    From the north, a two-zone fare is not charged until you pass Boeing Access Road. To the north, a two-zone fare is not charged unless you board south of Boeing Access Road.

    From the south, a two-zone fare is not charged until you pass Ellis Avenue. To the south, a two-zone fare is not charged unless you board north of Ellis Avenue.

    The idea is, that stretch is a one-zone ride from and to either direction. I always assumed it was done to encourage ridership by folks working at Boeing, the old Paccar plant, the old vanillan plant, etc..

    1. That is what it was when I rode the old 174 home from work. I boarded at the first stop north of Boeing Access Road and always had the 1-zone fare.

  7. The policy for zones along the ST fare boundary in SW Seattle is somewhat opaque as well. Riding the 560 between West Seattle and Bellevue costs a 3-zone fare of $3.00, unless you board along the zone boundary, at which point you pay a one-zone as far as Kennydale or a two-zone to Bellevue. Fairly clear, but not exactly intuitive.

    From the ST website:
    “Fare Notice: If you get on or off Route 560 along SW Roxbury or at the White Center transfer point, additional fare is required only if your trip crosses the fare zone located north of NE 30th St at I-405.”

  8. When I first got here (around 2000 or so): I just went on ahead and purchased a $3 PugetPass. Hopped the 194 at the airport, purchased the pass as soon as I got into Downtown Seattle (no, the Metro employee told me nothing about the permit – they must’ve assumed I knew or already had one), then transferred to one of the 70-series buses. This was before I learned about the Reduced Fare Permit, before I realized I would hardly ride 3-zone ST Express, and before I got my hands on the U Pass.

    So much easier, but why does it have to be so?

    I’m all for the “daily cap” like TFL uses or an all-day-all-zone pass like TriMet uses

  9. I’m not sure how we’d get from the current fare and zone mishmash to something like Portland’s. The existing zones for buses aren’t even comparable. Zone 1 for Tri-Met seems to be roughly a 4×4 mile area, with zone 2 being about 9 miles square. Metro on the other hand has a citywide Zone 1 that is roughly 16×8 miles at the extreme and covers an area about the same size as Portland’s first two zones.

    Tri-Met’s 2-hour 2-zone fare is $2.00. The equivalent Metro fare is $2.25 (for one zone of the same size as their 2 zones). The equivalent ST Link fare is $1.75-2.00. There’s no Zone 1 equivalent for Sounder, but using the ST subareas as zones the equivalent Sounder fare ranges from $2.75-$3.50 for trips within the Snohomish ST sub-area, $2.75-$3.25 within the South King sub-area, and $2.75-3.00 within the Pierce sub-area.

    Given those numbers, you could use the ST subareas as zones and charge $2 for the single zone. That would allow you to get rid of the Metro off-peak discount, but it would mean that Metro peak fares would be 25 cents cheaper. The ST fares would be 50 cents more expensive, so Sound Transit would effectively be subsidizing Metro. Some Link fares would go up 25 cents as well.

    Already you can see the political problem. Sound Transit would have to be willing to subsidize Metro and risk losing riders by raising fares to do it. Or Metro would have to cut back service to a point where $2 covers all single-zone service.

    All-zone fares in Tri-Met are $2.30. The comparable Seattle-area 2-zone fares are $2.50 for ST bus and Link (counting Westlake to Tukwila or Seatac as the 2-zone standard). In practice the Link fare is probably cheaper than what a theoretical Federal Way to 145th fare would end up being. Metro bus equivalents cost $2.75. Again, Metro would have to cut its fares a quarter to match up with the rest of the system. Sounder equivalents of 2-zone fares range from $3.25 to $4.50. Sounder would be woefully underfunded at this distance, requiring service cuts or transfers from ST buses and Link fare revenues.

    ST bus 3-peak fares are $3. Extending the same zones to Metro would create a class of 3-zone trips that would bring in a quarter more per ride than they do now. This might offset some of the shortfall from one and two-zone trips, but given the lower number of long-distance routes it certainly wouldn’t offset all of it. Link would have to institute $3 fares, but since there’s no current equivalent that’s probably fine. But Sounder’s equivalent of a 3-zone fare (Seattle to Tacoma) is $4.75. To use the same fare structure, Sounder would have to cut service or get revenue transfers from the rest of the system.

    This analysis doesn’t even get into Community Transit and Pierce Transit.

    But maybe for simplicity’s sake it could be done. It just means accepting a lower fare-to-cost ratio for some services in order to have a unified fare structure. But there are certainly logistical and political hurdles to getting there.

  10. This makes me wonder why Metro doesn’t have a higher two-zone off-peak fare. I know they used to, but hey, it could solve their budget crisis!

  11. I dont know why people on this forum are obsessing over Portland. Its baseclly one agency, and there seems to be no fare or transfer agreements with neighboring agencies, like there is here.

    Here we have 6 agencies that participate in the ORCA system, along with atleast 7 directly connecting agencies (GHT, Mason Transit, Jefferson Transit, SKAT, WTA, Island Transit, BC Transit) that dont take ORCA (Although some of whom issue non orca RRFP cards). Its a lot more complex situation here, and will be for the rest of eterinity as no one wans to give up local control (nor would it be wise to). And with the cost to implement ORCA so high, i doubt many others would chomp at the bit to get on the whale, especally in these times.

    1. That should be 7 ORCA agencies (i left out ET) and 8 Directly connecting non ORCA agencies (i left out Intercity Transit)… Still a lot more complex than Tri-Met, SMART, ART, CTran, and Cherriots.

    2. Z,

      You’re wrong about Tri-Met. It offers completely symmetrical All-Zone tranfers to and from C-Tran and honors C-Tran Express fares. In fact, Tri-Met even allows a rider to validate a C-Tran Express ticket for the ride home. I live in North Vancouver and am currently contracting at Nike. I go to 99th St TC and get on a 199 or 105 in the morning asking for a transfer. I then ride the Max to Beaverton Creek and get the Nike shuttle to campus.

      Going home in the evening I take the shuttle (or walk if it’s nice) to Beaverton Creek validate my C-Tran express ticket if it’s before 6:30 or buy a Tri-Met All Zone if after and ride Max to downtown Portland. If I get there before 7:10 I have a last 105 express which I use my validated ticket on. If I worked late and am riding on a Tri-Met ticket I get on the Yellow Line, transfer to the C-Tran #4 and transfer to #37 in downtown Vancouver.

      Even that complicated trip with two Max rides and two C-Tran bus jaunts is covered with one fare.

      1. I thought they had something like that, as i used it several years back but could not find anything on Ctran’s website about it.

  12. I had been experiencing issues with ORCA particularly with Pierce Transit and PT operated ST service. Mostly it had to do with zone preset overrides and operator training.

    So I came up with a solution that works best with the 2.50 Puget Pass (90.00 a month). This solution could be considered fare evasion to a certain extent, but seems to be the only way to eliminate fare disputes:

    Monthly 2.50 Puget Pass

    Zone Preset for ST = 2 zones
    Zone Preset for Metro = 1 zone

    The only instance where an epurse transaction would take out additional fare would be CT’s commuter service and ST Sounder. This is because of how the ORCA readers are currently programmed to handle user-configured zone presets. The ODT shows PASS as does the smart interface display.

    When somebody at PT decides its time to fix their defective configuration, my kludge won’t work, and I will be charged the correct fare. I am waiting for this to happen but am not holding my breath.

    So, I’m waiting to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

  13. One more way ORCA will reduce fraud:

    On my last Link trip, two people were caught not having paid fare. One had to deboard at the next stop and was presumably issued the $124 ticket. Another, a kid, was handed a friend’s monthly pass card when the fare inspector turned his back. He got away with it.

    I suspect the fare inspectors can tell when they are handed the same ORCA card twice within a period of a few minutes. They probably have a record showing the card was inspected at such-and-such time. If not, they could probably easily have the checker machine put such a tag on the card’s record.

    Other than the privacy absolutists, I’m glad to see the complaints about ORCA fizzling out.

    1. Yep. Just remember that Uncle Sam is watching you! Of course he probally is anyway, as much as americans use their debit/credit cards anymore. And the fact that your cell phone can give him a pretty good idea of where you are at. But Orca gives him another tool, albiet not in real time of where you go and how you get there.

      1. *sigh*
        Some pro-privacy (aka Pro-constitution) folks just think “No, how dare Uncle Sam’s nephew, ST, leave a loophole in his bus-filling-tool that allows people OTHER than ST statiticians (read: HR directors, CEOs, accounting offices of private corporations, family members) to view trips and destinations and times and dates of specific and named Individuals”.

        I’ve taken trips on many transit systems in much bigger cities and in much smaller cities, and all of them have had the option to be completely “off the grid”, even if I buy a ‘card’ or ‘pass’. Off the grid from parents, from bosses, and from police. And yes, that is a right. WS Supreme court even has a case on the books that adds “freedom of travel” as case-law upheld right of citizens in this state.

        The fact that ORCA has the potential to tie one specific person to a log of specific trip data and times, sans ST-readable-only encryption, is why folks were riled up that it could be considered (potentially) a de facto stalking tool. I think only the very paranoid were worried about gov-based tracking: most seemed worried about private-party tracking: employers, schools and family for example. If the tool is for transit stats, great – make it track stats – not named individuals. Our census doesn’t name people, yet gives wonderful and even individual data. It’s like planting roses using a bulldozer in a peapatch: there are finer tools and more elegant methods – and the argument is: they ought to be used in a case like a regional transit authority trying to increase ridership.

  14. On a separate note about fares: How about a luxury fare on commuter routes that use S I-5 and duplicate Link service (assuming another line to the southern portion of Link is available)?

    Make it an extra dollar per trip, as a disincentive to wasting resources. If people want the government to not waste money, people should have incentives to not push the government to waste money. In short order, the “invisible hand” would have most commuter riders using the duplicatative buses only to rush to work in the morning, while ridership going home, during midday, in the evening, and on weekends would plummet on these wasteful runs, and demand for lines from the same southern destinations to the south end of Link would go way up.

    No, I am not trying to force people to ride Link. But I am also a critic of government waste.

    Perhaps this luxury fare could help save some of the rest of Metro bus service, and allow Sound Transit to save up for faster South Link construction.

    1. They serve two diffrent markets. P&R to downtown express, vs more local traffic of the routes that do connect with LINK. Forcing the transfer onto link away from the city center would kill ridership, plus there isnt capasity for it (Bay space at TIB, LINK car capasity, etc)

      1. I was in Vancouver and they ended ALL suburban-downtown routes from the south at Bridgeport Canada Line Station. That allowed them to double the frequency on those suburban feeder routes, making it easier to take the bus into town. The difference is that Vancouver has no freeways and those buses previously had to travel surface streets to get downtown.

        Bus bay capacity could be an issue but I doubt Link car capacity is. Canada Line carries 100,000 a day even though their ultimate capacity is less than Link’s.

      2. The real capacity bottleneck is on S I-5, not on Link. Plus, the Port of Seattle is contemplating an expensive express transit off-ramp, all the way south of Spokane Street. I’d rather Port of Seattle subsidize light rail construction to eliminate the need for that express off-ramp into the SODO crawl.

        But hey, it’s nice that POS is starting to think of transit, even if they still think transit’s place is the back of the bus.

        If the buses can be virtually eliminated from S I-5, the transit lanes could be converted to truck-priority lanes, thus achieving a primary mission of POS. Getting there would mean POS spending money on light rail construction to free that lane up. (kinda like Sound Transit building the new I-90 HOV lanes in order to free the rail lane up)

        If parking capacity really is the problem, then increase the frequency of the 574, that serves several park-&-rides, and cut a deal with POS to allow a portion of the airport parking lot to be used for Link riders at a cheaper rate, at least in the short term. Oh, and get City of Seatac in on the deal, so they don’t end up building another parking garage on the other side of the street, in the name of “transit oriented development” that they just don’t seem to get.

        My fare suggestion does not force riders to ride Link. All it does is make one-seat-ride-insisters pay a premium for their duplicative one-seat ride.

  15. O.K. this is a long term idea. Metro is planning to drop cash and replace it with all ORCA. So instead of zones what is Metro charged by distance. You tap when you get on and you tap when you get off. That way if someone travels from, say, the Museum of Flight to Riverton Heights in Sea-Tac that is only one zone instead of two and some one who travels from Northgate to the SoDo they pay for two zones. It just does not seem right that a transit rider could be charged more for less than 10 miles then someone going more than 20.

    I know that there will need to be kinks worked out. And yes everyone will have to leave and enter through the front. I just believe that this would be more just.

      1. Metro drivers told me. I taalk to them. The long term plan is for everyone to use nothing but ORCA. The argument is Ney York and Chicago don’t use cash. (I don’t know if that is true or not.)

      2. NYC indeed uses a paper swipe card. Which you can buy with your cash, coin or credit card. Via person or via machine. Per trip or in-advance. Also tracks ‘your’ transfers. ‘Your’ here being whoever holds the card. There’s also a smart timeout built-in so 1 person cannot pay for several people on one card: every rider is meant to have their own card.

        Metro (seattle buses) would need to provide a way to buy tickets from the bus, driver or perhaps the busstop itself in order to match the function & ease of Metrocard. I suppose you could sell vendorships to stores, but with Seattle’s commerce/retail zoning pocketed into many, far-spread ‘islands’, many potential bus riders (outside of downtown) would end up going so far by foot to find a retailer of swipe cards that they’d end up reaching their destination sans bus in the process!

        I just don’t see it happening, cost-for-infrastructure -wise.

      3. Since when does the goverment care about cost effectiveness. I think this is for social engineering. They want everyone on ORCA. That is why transfers will soon be gone for all local transit.

    1. Metro doesn’t have to drop cash in order to implement tap-twice. Cash would simply have to be at the front of the bus, while (eventually) ORCA tappers can queue up at the back entrance and tap in/out back there.

      It shouldn’t be that difficult to institute three “zones” for ORCA purposes: Zone 1, Overlap Zone, and Zone 2. People who tap in at Zone 1 and tap out in the Overlap Zone would be charged only for a 1-zone ride. People who tap in in the Overlap Zone would also be charged only for a 1-zone ride. Only those riders who got in in Zone 1 would need to “tap out” in order to get partial fare reimbursement. I can see why it is in Metro’s interest to drag their feet on implementing ORCA overlap zones. ;)

      Another alternative to distance-based fares is time-based fares. Calculating the time between tap-in and tap-out should be a snap for ORCA, since it obviously already keeps track of time for transfer purposes.

    2. Simple flat rate (ala NYC’s metrocard) would be more just, and less hassle, right? Let’s go flat rate, FFS.

      Logistically, (especially in regards to keeping the bus fast) having all riders enter/exit through one single-person doorway is a nightmare. That’s the kind of thing that makes some trepidacious transit users swear off the entire concept forever and run screaming back to their proverbial SUV’s.

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