The last fare thread had a lot of complaining about differential fares between agencies. And although ORCA is intended to smooth over that complexity, in ideal world similar service would cost the same on each agency.
Judging from the comments, people seem to think this is really important. An interesting way to judge the actual priority people are willing to give an issue is to trade it off against other priorities. As it so happens, people hate fare increases, and given widespread budget crises there’s no way agencies are cutting fares. So here’s a thought experiment that gives everyone the fare parity they value so highly, while also raising some cash for transit:
- Everyone adopts the Sound Transit fare zone map, with a new fare zone created for Snohomish County outside the ST district. Other outlying areas can be absorbed into the adjacent fare zones.
- The unified fare system adopts the highest fares at each level. For adults at peak times, that’s $2.25 1-zone, $3.50 2-zone, and $4.50 3-zone. Off-peak, it’s $2.00/$2.50/$3.00.
- If you like, raise Link fares 80 cents and .5 cents a mile to match Sounder. Use the same structure for the SLUT and Tacoma Link.
- Form a regional fare board to approve all future fare changes.
Longtime readers know that I don’t wring my hands much over fare increases to plug the budget gap, because a large part of the burden is actually borne by employers and the federal government. What reservations I do have would be swept away by a more systematic way to get reduced fare passes in the hands of people who need them. On the other hand, I’m not convinced the reduced complexity would really be worth the ridership declines you’d create.