ST Express Proposed Changes
The three-zone structure will be reduced to two with an inter-county provision.

Last month, we told you about Sound Transit’s proposed fare changes, which involves a simplifying the fare structure from sub-area zones to county zones. Along with changes for ST Express fares, Link fares will rise by a quarter for adults and will also see a more simplified structure beginning June, 2011. The agency wants to collect public comments regarding the matter to help direct the next course of action.

From the press release (PDF):

The proposal is two-phased, with one set of changes in June 2010 and another in June 2011. Sound Transit will host a public hearing to receive comments on the proposed changes April 22 from 12 – 12:30 p.m. People can also e-mail comments to or send them by mail to Sound Transit, Fare Proposals, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle, WA 98104. All written comments must be received by April 22nd.

You can find more information from the proposal draft here (PDF).

27 Replies to “ST wants Input on Fare Change Proposals”

  1. This simplification is great on many levels. Is there any real reason not to just do it in one fell swoop, rather than two fare changes? I think ST should do it all at once.

    ST should go one step further and make the Link fare a flat $2.50 in June 2011 – just like an in-county bus ride, which is what it is.

    1. Please keep the Link and Sounder fare at the cost of a same-distance local/express bus fare, or lower. Some people really will take the local bus instead of the train, just to save 25 cents. That induces demand for more bus runs and drives up operational costs. The extra 25 cents ST didn’t get isn’t worth that cost.

      1. I’m pretty sure Metro is planning another fare increase for the next shakeup, though I don’t have a source.

      2. LINK needs to be free within the RFA to coordinate better with the bus service in the tunnel. Also the fare matrix graphic needs to be simplifed some as going station to station like sounder really dosent make sense for such a short line, plus makes it more confusing to use.

    2. Part of the reason for the phases could be that by the end of the changes what is currently a 1-zone $1.50 fare will have increased to $2.50. A jump of 67% all at once would be a bit much to ask after many years of no increases. Two-zone inter-county service sees a similar $1.00 increase.

  2. Even at $2, the Link fare to Rainier Valley will be no worse than bus fare outside of rush hour, and better than bus fare during rush hour.

    It is still far cheaper to take the 59x buses between Tacoma and Seattle ($3.00) than to take Sounder ($4.75). There are still lots of empty seats on Sounder, and its operations costs are essentially sunk costs. I wish the fare structure were set up to make better utilization of Sounder, so that we wouldn’t be having to add more marginal costs by running a large fleet of 59x buses between Tacoma and Seattle every day.

    The buses are faster, but there are people who would take the more scenic, relaxing ride if it weren’t so expensive. In other words, match the top fare on Sounder to the inter-county fare.

    I’d also like ST to look at combining the 577 and 594 during non-rush hours. I think that would do wonderful things for headway, perhaps increase ridership, and get more passengers on fewer buses for minimal extra travel time. (And add more runs to the 574, to keep the promise of replacing the 194.)

    Simplify, yes. But consider how the invisible hand is creating additional controllable expenses.

    1. Also, the 59X is faster than SOUNDER (assuming no accidents on I-5), hence why Tacoma riders stayed with the buses (Sounder does serve the immediate points however). It will be curious to see what happens when SOUNDER is extended to Lakewood, and if some 592 riders will switch over.

      As for the 577/594 being combined. It was considered early on, but there was not enough capacity to accommodate Federal Way riders on the existing 594, hence the Route 578 does that for Federal Way (and provide Sounder shadow service for Auburn/Sumner/Puyallup for those traveling weekday midday and nights). Also, in June 2010, 578 will operate on Saturdays on top on the existing 577, thus 30 minute combined service between Seattle CBD and Federal Way. One of the future ST goals is to operate 578 every 30 minutes weekends, replacing the 577 on weekends (There is not enough ST2 to pay for this). See 2010 implementation plan for details.

      It is typical to charge Commuter Rail fares higher than buses, since it is truly Premium service.

      I would not make LINK light rail a flat fare, but separate into zonal fares instead, like Tri-Met MAX.

      1. The possibility of more 578 service is great news, Warren. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if *both* the 578 and 594 stopped in Federal Way? It’s a major regional transfer point now. Having both stop there halves the headway to Federal Way (not counting the longer Link + 574 option).

      2. No, don’t combine them. I believe this is the third time I’ve explained it to you. Let these graphics do the talking:


        577 information from this shakeup, 194 from last.

        A few key points about the 577:
        – Travels in HOV lane the entire route on the freeway
        – Carries a lot of “choice” commuters (those that would otherwise drive)

        Look how much travel times increase when you take it off I-5. The time wasted getting out of the HOV lane and off the freeway PLUS the time needed to get over to the airport is huge.

        And, if you extend the 574 to the airport, you’re basically duplicating the 594 but forcing two intermediate stops at Federal Way and SeaTac.

      3. Tim, you’re responding to a different suggestion (combining the 574 with other routes). My suggestion was to have the 594 make the pull-in stop at Federal Way P&R.

        For Seattle-Federal-Way commuters there would be no discernable difference, except for the better headway and fuller buses.

        It would be an extra five minutes for the Tacoma commuters, which would be offset by the decreased headway. (That is, during non-rush hours.)

      4. Aren’t most 594’s packed leaving the Tacoma Dome? I’ve been exclusively on the Sounder for quite awhile, but I remember standing for the entire bus trip on many occasions.

      5. Huh, well I guess if I actually read the post that sounds a bit more plausible. That might also dump a few people on to Sounder if you added that change during peak.

      6. Theres also a subarea equity issue. With the 578 South King is paying for a portion of the route. If you wanted the 594 to stop there, than it would only be expeted that the subarea pay for a portion of it, too. As i beilieve right now its totally on Pierce County’s nickle. That way we could re-invest those hours freed up back into the service or other ST services to make up for the added runtime. Sad part is, i dont think South King has any extra funds to do so.

      7. On weekends it might work, but there are overall capasity and run leingth issues on the 594 already which adding a stop at FWTC while logical, would not work.

    2. I’d like to see the price between the 59x’s and the Sounder be closer together also. Selfishly of course, since I want more Sounder service. I have noticed that Sounder ridership seems to peak and ebb with the price of gas. Which leads me to think that the Sounder service does a relatively good job of taking cars off the roads. Back when gas hit 4/gal there wasn’t a seat to be had on the thing. Now that we are at sub $3/gal, ridership has dipped a little bit. People must be back driving in their cars, coupled with the high unenjoyment rate of course. So, a cheaper Sounder fare, and a higher 59x fare perhaps. Or just let the 59x fares slowly catch up to the Sounder fare along with the price of gas.

      1. How about flexible fares on Sounder? On ozone noncompliance days, have a promotion dropping Sounder top fare to $3. If there are lots of empty seats, give the CEO the authority to do temporary fare reductions. Maybe even have a lower fare on the reverse commute direction, if that is where the most empty seats are.

        Call it “congestion faring” if you want.

      2. I ride 59x buses every day as a reverse commuter to Tacoma. I could ride the Sounder on its reverse trips, but the most annoying part about it is that it only makes it to King St, and I really need to go to Pike. I could get off and transfer to a bus, and transfer again on Pike, but staying in one vehicle for the whole trip is nice. And the Sounder costs more, but that’s been pointed out adequately already.

      3. Probably also depends on if you want/need the extra amenities that Sounder offers: larger seats, tables, bathrooms, and non-working WiFi.

  3. I like the idea of a flat fare for Link. It would make it so much simpler, as right now people seem to have trouble figuring out the fares…
    In other fare news, I just rode the Water Taxi yesterday, and it’s a great ride, a couple minutes faster than last year, making the trip in about 10 minutes! However, the fare structure really sucks, as it costs sooo much more than a bus, especially for youth. No youth are going to ride something that costs 3x a bus, or more than 4 if they don’t have an ORCA.

  4. I think eventually it would be better for all transit agencies to adopt the old ST zones, but in the interim this is a good idea. The problem with county-wide zones is that in an ideal transit system, it shouldn’t cost the same amount to get from Capitol Hill to the UW as it does to get from Downtown Seattle to Federal way.

  5. What would be really nice is if all the agencies standardize their fares and bring them into alignment with the new ST fares, unless they already are thinking about it? Is there a graphic for KC Metro, CT, PT, Everett Transit fares as well? Maybe also include the ferries, monorail and SLUT as well? It would be nice to have one standard set of fares across agencies.

    1. How about the reverse of that? Let the local agencies set their own fares and make ST trip fares equal to the sum of the local agency fares involved? For example, Seattle-Tacoma on ST would be $3.75 off-peak, $4.50 peak on either bus or Sounder ($1.75 Pierce Transit fare + $2.00 off-peak or $2.75 peak Metro fare). This is similar to how bus routes that cross jurisdictional lines in the Toronto area work….

  6. I’m wrestling lately with this idea of lumping in the senior fare with the disabled fare. We don’t require youth to have a reduced fare permit, and so long as they pay cash – they don’t have to present proof of age (they do if they obtain an ORCA card, but only once).

    We frequently have visitors from out of town who ask “how much is it for seniors?”, and many businesses have senior discounts where they may ask for an ID, but seldom do. Why have require seniors to obtain a RFP if all they ultimately have to prove is that they’re 65 or over?

    Call it a Youth/Senior fare, leave the RFP for people with disabilities separate.

  7. The PDF doesn’t say anything about changing Link’s distance-based formula for adults. It just says the youth/senior/disabled fare would be flattened. (Essentially, the adult base fare would rise 25c, but it would still be 25c for each additional 5 miles or fraction thereof.)

    Link is different from ST Express because Link serves both long- and short-distance trips, while ST Express is almost exclusively long distance. People expect to take Link 1-3 stops and pay no more than Metro’s base fare. But ST Express doesn’t even have stops for short-distance trips, and even where it does (downtown – Rainier, Bellevue TC to South Bellevue), it’s rarely used that way.

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