Photo by Oran

One reasonable response to my post on the potential for fare increases is that those increases should be focused on two-zone commuters. There certainly is a logical case: by traveling farther, two-zone riders both save more money (affecting their willingness to pay) and (in general) cost more money for Metro to service. Furthermore, it seems nonsensical to charge close to $3.00 for a short hop to the grocery store. Back when the fare was $1.50/$2.00, there was a proportionally large premium to travel two zones; with $2.50/$3.00 on the immediate horizon, that’s eroded substantially.

However, the problem is that a two-zone increase just doesn’t raise that much revenue. Linda Thielke of KCDOT was kind enough to provide these numbers, after the jump:

Estimated Fall 2009 average weekday boardings in these categories. These figures include all types of riders, including people who pay youth and senior fares.

One-zone peak – 116,700
One-zone off-peak – 126,700
Two-zone peak – 56,600
Two-zone off-peak – 46,500
Ride Free Area peak -20,500
Ride Free Area off-peak – 14,500

Total 381,500

As you can see, two-zone peak trips make up only about 15% of the total, meaning a 25-cent increase would yield only about $2m annually. Even introducing a different two-zone off-peak fare gets you about $3m per quarter increase.

Although two-zone increases won’t fix the budget gap, they could fund other sensible fare reforms, such as a small ORCA discount, as is done in other cities. Knocking 5 or 10 cents off every fare that uses an ORCA would quickly make a card purchase pay for itself, and help spread it in groups where its use just isn’t common at all.

69 Replies to “Differential Fare Increases”

  1. The one that leaps off the page is the RFA. 35,000 lost fares per weekday, at $2.50 is $87,500 and $22,750,000 per year, excluding weekends. How big was that deficit?

      1. It also assumes the people don’t have transit passes so there would be an actual increase in income.

      2. Your assumption, not mine. I just did the math.
        Keep in mind the RFA was started before the tunnel, Light Rail, Low-Floor coaches with wider doors and isles, Orca, and a busway down 3rd Ave. The transit landscape has changed dramatically over the years.
        Yes, downtown ridership would decrease (elasticity of fare), but with fewer boardings in the busiest area, peak loadings for buses would be less, allowing some consolidation of service that only exists to serve those 35,000 boardings each day. The differential fare between peak and non-peak is dwarfed by the difference between $2.50 and zero.

      3. Since your math is meaningless without that assumption, we should probably discount the end product.

      4. Since the RFA is only about a mile long, and can be walked in about 20 minutes, it’s likely that many passengers who don’t have passes or transfers would not choose to pay $2.50 to ride 3 or 4 stops.

        With the bus stop consolidations on 5th and 4th, buses on those streets are likely to make every remaining stop to pick up or drop off passengers traveling outside the RFA. It’s possibly that requiring fare collection (or presentation) during stops inside the RFA will actually slow down the buses inside the RFA.

      5. The RFA numbers probably include not only pass holders but also people who have entitlement to a transfer, so it’s not clear how many potentially paying riders are left

  2. If we coupled a large differential AND a well-marketed and incentivized employer-pass plan, we could probably get a substantial amount of revenue from those 56,000 two-zone riders without a deleterious effect on ridership. But this system still only differentiate fares by distance/zones, not by service type.

    In that respect I liked Denver’s fare system, which differentiated between local, express, and regional buses. Local stop routes, whatever their distance!, are $2.00, and this keeps fares low for people traveling locally across what otherwise would be zone borders (say between West Seattle and Burien). Their express buses, traditional peak-only radial commuter buses of which KCM has plenty, are $3.50. Regional buses, similar to ST’s 590s or the 510/513, are $4.50. We need tools that will capture more revenue from affluent commuters without penalizing local riders who live along the inner fringe where we currently have zone borders. Differentiating by service type rather than by zone would help.

    1. I agree that more revenue needs to be captured from peak commuters. Not so much by raising peak fares across the board but by charging a lot more for routes like the 77 or 242.

      ST express fares are a whole ‘nother kettle of fish since there really is no reason to raise fares beyond what is needed to meet ST’s farebox recovery goals. In some cases the ST routes are the local bus route so having a $4.50 or even a $3.50 fare would be a bit much.

    2. I like the service rather than zone differentiation. It seems like ST Express is a half-assed attempt at something like that: commuter-focused buses with higher fares, leaving Metro and the like do local routes with lower fares. Dividing it between agencies might not be the smartest thing, though the distinct branding could make it easier for users. Why doesn’t Metro leave the multi-zone buses to ST Express and focus on (presumably cheaper) local routes?

      1. The 255 seems designed to collect people on the Eastside and take them to Seattle, so to the extent that Eastsiders use it as a local bus (i.e. getting on and off w/in the Eastside), it slows down the service and wastes money. You could have a local Bothell/Juanita/Kirkland bus for those sorts of trips that would cost less than the bus that goes all the way to Seattle. But I admit I haven’t thought about this terribly thoroughly. There are inevitably going to be buses that don’t quite fit any one mold. But some sort of service-based fare seems better than what we have.

      2. The 255 collects people from S. Kirk P&R, Totem Lake TC and Brickyard (recently expanded). There is local service through Bothell/Juanita/Kirkland but it takes forever plus you’d force people to wait for an unreliable transfer. In short nobody would use it. They’d either drive the whole way into Seattle or try and all crowd into S. Kirk instead of using Totem Lake and Brickyard. I don’t think many people use the 255 only on the Eastside unless it’s to get to one of the other major transfer points. The biggest problem I have with the 255 is that it doesn’t serve Bellevue TC and there aren’t any decent connection from Bellevue TC to S. Kirkland P&R. The best answer might be to extend the 550 with a loop to S. Kirkland during off peak before heading back into Seattle. Once the NE 8th to 520 braid project is done this might be doable for all hours. It would also be nice if the 255 stopped at Wilburton off peak. I realize that peak hours the problem is the bus would have to merge to/from the center HOV lanes. I’d rather see the access problem solved to make this existing and underutilized P&R act as a feeder point for East Link (avoiding the 405/520 choke point) than build a new multilevel temple to the automobile on 130th in Bel-Red.

      3. routes 230 and 234 run reliably every 15 minutes between south Kirkland and BTC.

      4. Thanks. Trip planer doesn’t do well with “joy rides” and without knowing which routes to look for it’s hard to plan an “odd” trip. I’ll check those schedules next time I’m DT at see if I can get a reasonable trip back to S. Kirkland via the airport. 15 minutes Bellevue TC to S. Kirk. P&R plus the usual 1/2 hour with the 255 might make it unbearable. Not that that’s bad, I’m looking to ride an out of the way route for really no good reason other than an excursion on the train. Service to S. Kirkland from DT is great.

      5. Love this idea. The 2X, for example, is always packed while people let the 2 and 13 go by (it takes a few extra minutes to get downtown on them). Many people would pay a premium for speed, while it leaves an option for the fare-sensitive and those only going a few stops.

  3. Clark County express fares are going up to $3.25 on September 1st. The distance from 99th Street (the biggest P ‘n’ R) to downtown Portland is about thirteen miles and can take from twenty-two to forty minutes for the 199 direct service. The only transit priority in the corridor is a northbound HOV lane that begins half way from downtown to the Columbia Bridge and ends a half mile short of it, but most buses are full anyway.

    Peak hour express service is expensive to provide since the return runs typically are “Out of Service” and hence have no farebox recovery at all. They certainly should be priced to reflect the higher cost and quality of service. Most north-end Seattle neighborhood expresses (the descendants of the “Blue Streak” experimental service) significantly outperform an automobile once they hit I-5 because of the transit priorities provided and the use of the tunnel by many of them.

    The same is true in spades of the far south-end park and ride expresses. They receive transit priority for their entire journey and several use the tunnel. They too should have premium pricing.

  4. It’s a pretty big assumption to assume that because someone travels over an imaginary line on the map that they must be a well-to-do commuter. I’d have no problem charging more for longer routes if our zone system was actually based on distance, but it’s not. There are plenty of two-zone trips that are shorter than many one-zone trips.

  5. I live in Manhattan and haven’t driven a car regularly in 6 years, but I can’t imagine who would take a bus to a grocery store… does this happen? How is there not one by your house? It must be a pretty magical grocery store if you think it’s worth taking a bus to.

    Either (a) every fare should cost the same or (b) you should pay for how crowded it is. You should have to pay extra to ride a crowded route. I think (although I’m not sure) that distance-based fares on WMATA and BART reflect expected crowding on your trip. Otherwise, why would the transit organization care how far you ride? They’re running the bus anyway, whether it’s empty or half full.

    With a two-zone fare they’re probably essentially trying to charge a commuter tax. Commuters travel at busy times, which is expensive for the bus company to deal with (think of all the busses that have to deadhead back to the suburbs empty in the morning. Also that expense is probably greater on longer routes. So I think that’s the logic of their system.

    1. Hi, just moved from Brooklyn back to Seattle. Car-oriented areas (more or less most of the country aside from a coupla old cities on the eastern seaboard) frequently tend to not always have grocery stores within walking distance. Your options are drive or take the bus.

      Also, though, where in Manhattan do you live? Have you been up to East Harlem lately? There’s no even passable grocery stores within walking distance there. Same is true for great swathes of Brooklyn and the Bronx.

    2. I have to smile at your Manhattan-based assumptions. :) I have lived, more than once, in places where a full grocery store wasn’t within reasonable walking distance, so it was car or bus. One of those locations was within Seattle’s city limits. As soon as I got a chance, I moved to a neighborhood where it wouldn’t be an issue, though.

  6. Sorry… I must have missed the press release…

    Are $2.50/$3.00 fares really “on the immediate horizon?” If so, when?

      1. I give up.

        That’s my limit.

        Four years in Seattle. Metro nearly doubles in price with negligible improvements.

        Time to move to a city where transit actually makes life easier.

        (Yes, I am serious.)

      2. Almost every city in the country is greatly raising its fares and reducing its service. You’re hardly going to find any places where it’s not more expensive to ride transit today than it was several years ago.

      3. Granted, every system has a budget crunch and is raising fares/reducing service/desperately seeking alternate revenue.

        But Alex, I defy you to name me any other system that:

        A) Had service as inadequate as Metro’s even during flush times;
        B) Raised (or plans to raise) fares by 67% over less than four years; AND
        C) Still cut service further

    1. Sound Transit has already started, currently charging $2.00 for 1-zone, $2.50 for two, and $3.00 for multi-county. Starting in 2011 it goes up to $2.50 for in-county and $3.50 for multi-county. There was a discussion on it here a few months back.

      I don’t know about Metro, but I think I heard a rumor that they’re raising fares similarly.

      1. Oh, are we talking about Sound Transit’s next incremental increase?

        That doesn’t actually offend me. Sound Transit, by the very nature of its charter, runs a commuter-oriented, P&R-focused regional express system, not a local transit network. Fares for that should be expensive.

        That said, Metro‘s current fares, and their three increases in the last three years, are still grossly disproportionate to the service provided.

        Are further Metro increases just rumored, or confirmed?

      2. No, Metro is going to $2.50/$3.00. You’ll have to fire up the moving van, or you could move near Link so you don’t have to deal with Metro as much.

      3. Is that just peak, or off-peak too?

        They really need to move to a real distance-based fare system. They have, or will have shortly, the technology to do it. Rainier Beach to Skyway shouldn’t cost more than downtown to Rainier Beach. Downtown to Queen Anne shouldn’t cost the same as downtown to Lake City.

      4. $2.25 off-peak.

        We could go more distance-based, but the trend is the other way thanks to the fare-simplification crowd.

      5. I have mixed feelings on both zone fares and distance-based fares.

        But I strongly think peak surcharges should be limited to express services. I find it infuriating to pay extra at a time of day when I (Ballard counter-commute) actually have WORSE service (much worse) than the rest of the day.

        And $2.50 is too high for what we’ve got, any time of the day.

      6. Maybe there should be off-peak surcharges since off-peak service brings in less fare revenue. How about we go to dynamic pricing where the fare is automatically calculated in real time based on operating cost and utilization of the route you are on.

      7. Laugh away. There are cities where you still can still get a mile or two in a cab for about $2.50.

  7. If it wasn’t for my Pugetpass, driving would be cheaper than taking the bus. Even with a Pugetpass, its pretty close.

    Something people should keep in mind when talking about increasing fares… Push too much, and you’ll just end up just losing to transit’s biggest competitor, the SOV.

    1. Really? Are you including ALL driving costs including insurance, depreciation on your car, gas, maintenance, etc??? AAA figures that a small sedan driven 10,000 miles a year costs 56 cents per mile to own and operate. Costs per mile decline as you increase your mileage, but variable costs for gas, maintenance, and depreciation still go up.

      In that ALL-in cost environment transit is pretty cost effective even at higher fares. The biggest problem with our car costs is that they are all-you-can eat based. With innovations like car sharing and pay as you drive insurance you can see the true per mile costs and actually save money if you choose other modes for a portion of your trips where it makes sense.

      1. is that the cost per mile or the marginal cost per mile? If he already has a car (and insurance–another big cost) then those fixed costs are irrelevant–the marginal cost is pretty much just fuel and wear-and-tear. I don’t know how to evaluate wear-and-tear, but fuel is under 0.10USD/mile with a reasonable vehicle.

        Of course, I read while I’m on the bus. Can’t do that while driving. The bus is slower, but bus time is useful, and my time is valuable.

  8. I had two horrifying Metro experiences today. So bad that they are worthy of mention, especially in the context of a discussion of fare increases.

    1) I boarded an inbound 17, the first bus post-peak period. I asked the driver to please revert the ORCA reader to “off-peak,” and she refused. It quickly became clear that she did not realize she was supposed to be off-peak. I explained to her that her trip was invariably off-peak. She refused to listen. I showed her the printed schedule. She refused to read it. I observed that she was already 15 minutes late, that she was not in a position to claim mastery of the schedule, and that I was unwilling to overpay. She ejected me from the bus. I immediately reported her to Metro.

    2) Later in the evening, I was waiting for an inbound 71/72/73 along the Eastlake route. This route provides “15 minute” evening service. I waited 52 minutes for a bus.

    And they want to raise the fares?

    1. Was the Eastlake problem near rush hour? The 70 always gets caught up in Eastlake and Fairview traffic (thanks to all the stops and the SOVs getting on I-5 at Mercer). It’s regularly about 20 minutes late getting downtown… though 52 minutes sounds more like a bus broken down somewhere. Did OneBusAway show the delays?

      1. And OneBusAway was acting extremely wonky for some unknown reason (repeatedly and massively revised estimates, and even one “phantom bus”).

    2. I waited 42 minutes for an ST 550 (broken down bus at S Bellevue Park and Ride) a few weeks ago. Just yesterday I waited 40ish minutes for a 56 from Alki. Going through the port takes a while.

    3. This summer schedule is the first to implement recommendations of the infamous Metro audit by shortening recovery times and time alloted for deadheading.

      I saw one tripper where the diver is expected to get from the far NE corner of the county back to pill hill at 5pm in 34 minutes. I’m sure that bus is going to be late every day.

      btw d.p., If a trip is scheduled to be a peak trip, no matter how late it is, it’s still a peak trip. That bus was probably the bus before the one you were expecting.

      It’s easy to blame the driver, but the real problem is the immpossible things the drivers are now being expected to do. The fact that ATU, the driver’s union is now in contract negotiations, is worth noting as well. How better to turn passengers against the drivers than making sure the buses are always late, unreliable and frustrating to everyone, passengers and drivers alike.

      1. Bob,

        It was the bus scheduled for 5:40 (arriving downtown at 6:10).

        Central Ballard is only 10 minutes from the start of the route, and it was already 13 minutes late at 5:53.

        (The prior (and final peak-price) inbound 17 is scheduled for 5:11, which would have made it 42 minutes late. Which is unlikely; the 17/27 isn’t usually subject to such massive delays.)

        But I’m doubly sure it was the correct bus, because the driver attempted to defend her wrongness by claiming that it’s always peak, anywhere, in any direction, before 6. She had no idea that it was based upon CBD arrival time. And the way she was driving, she wasn’t getting downtown until about 6:30.

        (She was obviously not the brightest banana in the bunch. The 44 right in front of her got in the left lane at 24th and saved 2 light cycles. Refusing to follow suit, she just sat in the right lane, twiddling her thumbs while missing the light. But ignorance and sheer idiocy are indefensible when you’re grossly overpaid and the result is that you overcharge people for sub-par transit.)

      2. Also, I’m not sure where these schedule tightenings have occurred.

        The couple of dozen routes I use regularly seem to have had no schedule changes this time around. The through-routes affected by Spokane Street have gotten much worse, while the rest still have their cushy 35-minute breaks.

        From your examples, it sounds like most of this tightening has involved far-flung one-way routes and expresses-with-deadheads. Both of which are problematic to their core before you even get to the scheduling stage.

      3. I don’t know where you got the idea that peak fare is based on CBD arrival time. If the bulk of a trip is scheduled during peak times it is a peak trip. That’s true whether the bus is late or not.

        But seriously dude why are you sweating a lousy 50 cents. I agree that the fares are too high. The county needs to get a backbone and start taxing rich people and businesses to pay for county services. Relying on sales tax is no longer viable.

      4. Check any schedule, Bob. You are wrong, just as she was.

        Any inbound trip scheduled to arrive downtown after 6:00 PM is always off-peak. Which makes sense, because if you’re transferring to a different outbound bus from the CBD, that will also be off-peak after 6.

        Even crosstown buses work this way. Any 44 trip that arrives in the U-District after 6 is off-peak, which 44 trips leaving the U-District are peak up until 6 on the dot.

        Bob, I pay $72 for an off-peak pass. That’s already $10-$15 more than in many cities that have infinitely better good transit and DON’T have a peak surcharge. The extra quarter matters on principle.

        So I most certainly refuse to pay it for a trip that isn’t even supposed to have it — especially to satisfy an overpaid driver who goes to lengths to prove her incompetence.

      5. Check any schedule, Bob. You are wrong, just as she was.

        Any inbound trip scheduled to arrive downtown after 6:00 PM is always off-peak. Which makes sense, because if you’re transferring to a different outbound bus from the CBD, that will also be off-peak after 6.

        Even crosstown buses work this way, with one direction chosen as representing peak usage. Any 44 trip that arrives in the U-District after 6 is off-peak, whereas 44 trips leaving the U-District are peak up until 6 on the dot.

        Bob, I pay $72 for an off-peak pass. That’s already $10-$15 more than in many cities that have infinitely better transit and DON’T have a peak surcharge. The extra quarter matters on principle.

        So I most certainly refuse to pay it for a trip that isn’t even supposed to have it — especially to satisfy an overpaid driver who goes to lengths to prove her incompetence.

  9. Fares should be simpler! Express routes should carry one fare, no matter how far the distance one travels, to discourage short hops as these routes typically start at a park and ride and head towards the freeway. At present, it takes a knowledgeable and shy-resistant ORCA rider to tell the driver that they’re only traveling in one zone, which slows up the boarding process. Local routes that don’t do this should be one fare, even if crossing two zones, but lower than express routes. For instance, in Shoreline, routes 301 and 303 are examples of the first, starting in Shoreline and eventually getting on the freeway at 175th, while routes 346 and 358 are examples of the second, starting in Shoreline and using local streets to get to Seattle. Bothell Way is trickier, as the distance traveled to the freeway is significant for some, so it would seem those should be priced as local routes unless they’re billed as express, limited-stop service. Eventually, let’s hope all of the transit agencies can come together on fare policies someday. Sound Transit seems to be moving in the right direction.

    1. TransitRider,

      Nobody is going to get on a 301 or 303 to go half way across Shoreline. Everyone up there has a car and every destination in the “city” has acres of parking. Ergo, charge everyone that gets on either bus an Express fare.

      Oh, that’s right, KCM and ST don’t have “express fares”; they have “peak fares”. Which are sort of like cap and give away instead of a carbon tax.

  10. I’ve never really understood why transit is so hung up on distance, which is where all these zone lines come from.
    Isn’t transit selling a seat for a given TIME period? Is it really so important that an express bus going faster than a city bus, should charge more, when the city bus takes the same amount of time to go from one end of the route to the other?
    Time is a common denominator to people. Time is worth something. Time determines how much service is given to the customer, hence how much did it cost, so how much was it worth.
    Transit should sell tickets for a set amount of TIME, say a base amount of up to 2 hours. Who cares where you go?, or even which vehicle or group of vehicles you use(bus/rail/water taxi).
    That would even out the system for all users, and really simplify fare collection. Also, eliminate time of day premiums. It doesn’t generate that much extra for the hassle, as the premise of this thread started out.
    All day passes, or ORCA maximum daily charges could CAP a transit fares based on time – one whole day!

    1. Time is money as the old saying goes. The model you propose is the same one used in renting a car or a paddle boat. The difference is when you pay for two hours with the paddle boat or a day with a rental car you get to decide where it goes. With the bus you’re at the mercy of the route. Your purpose isn’t to spend two hours on the bus, it’s to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. It makes more sense to adopt an airline type fare structure which isn’t necessarily based on distance or time. It’s based on the cost of providing that service. It’s farther from Seattle to Dallas but it’s a cheaper flight than Seattle to Gunnison because Dallas, being a hub, it’s easy to fly large planes with all the seats sold.

      1. Well that’s one way to skin the cat but the consequences aren’t very appealing in some cases.
        Harborview to Pioneer Square on the 3/4 for 25 cents.
        Westlake to Seatac Arpt for $8-17 bucks, depending if you want to recover the cost of your investment and interest payments.
        Tacoma to Seattle on Sounder, north of $15 bucks a ride.
        Just wait till priceline gets in the action. Bid a Seat to Issaquah.

      2. I did leave out a significant portion of pricing structure and that is demand. It will cost you more to fly somewhere the day before Thanksgiving than on Thanksgiving day even though fuel costs and such are the same. Other people have noted such premium pricing for the train to the airport in other cities. I don’t think we’d get away with Seatac Arpt for $8-17 bucks but it might be appropriate to add a $1 or $2 dollar “landing fee” to deboard there. I have no problem with high ridership routes like DT to Harborview being a low base fare. The route is well supported and it’s not very far. The 3/4 btw had a 68% fare recovery ratio in 2008. Eastgate to DT has great ridership (more riders/rev hour than the 3/4) but only 36% fare recovery. It should be charging a much higher premium. Plus it would be much lower than 36% if you figure in the cost of the P&R. You don’t park in the airport garage for free when you fly, parking in multistory P&R lots should recover a good portion of the cost of building them. For Sounder Tacoma to Seattle the latest data I can find puts the cost per boarding $13.71 which I think factors in the pathetic Sounder North. The cost for an express bus is about $6.50 on average. Tacoma to Seattle would be above average because of the distance. So to cover the cost of premium service on Sounder the $1.75 premium isn’t too far off. However, the bus, because of the distance should be higher. ST long haul express buses should follow the same distance based fare structure that Sounder does.

      3. Off topic, but this thread is about gone, except for the two of us. You always have interesting, and usually spot on analysis on transit in general.
        For fear of shaking the bees nest to life, I’m wondering if you know where to find info on North and East link ridership assumptions. Mostly about which bus routes they ‘assumed’ would be truncated at the nearest station.
        I’ve been told privately by CT planners they have no intention of pulling off the freeway at Northgate when the destination is Seattle or U-dist (It’s too close to the destination, and a time penalty for riders). Likewise, Metro would be crazy to truncate the Eastgate riders at Mercer Slough(SBR&R). I can see ST doing their express routes, as they control that side of the business but the bus agencies answer to a different fiddler(s).
        Any help here?

      4. No idea about North Link. Without knowing a great deal about bus routes from the north it’s only a guess but I would expect Northgate to become more of a terminus for Express buses than TIB has at this point. That’s based mostly on the belief that congestion on I-5 from Northgate to downtown is far worse than from Renton to DT. The other observation is that while North Link deviates from I-5 it does so to serve two major destinations, UW and Capital Hill and Montlake provides a transfer to people trying to get to Bellevue and Redmond. From the south Link’s detour to RV makes the transfer a significant time penalty (travel time plus transfer) without offering any benefit. With East Link the 550 will go away but beyond that I don’t know. From north of Bellevue anything going DT will be so much faster using 520 I can’t see much in the way of terminating routes to Link. Eastlake, Issaquah, etc. it’s still going to be a time penalty since I-90 flows reasonably well. I guess it depends on how well the R8A reconfiguration works out. As for Metro don’t most routes already transfer to the 550? For routes like the 216/218 it would seem to make sense to end at Mercer Island but who knows what Metro will do.

      5. Doubt Metro would force riders off any I-90 buses at Mercer Is. It’s only another 9 minutes in the peak to get to Seattle CBD.
        A transfer would be at least that to deboard, walk, wait for the next train, board, and get out of DSTT to the surface.
        It’s the bus seat under the butt, is worth two on the schedule, and then you ‘d have to stand the rest of the trip. Naw. ain’t happenin.
        The reason I asked is I’m trying (without success) to reconcile the huge difference between PSRC’s and ST’s rail ridership forecast for when all ST2 projects are completed(2040). ST is reporting more than twice that of PSRC.
        I’ll keep digging.

      6. Is fare recovery based on a fleet average or real costs for that route? I’m curious because the 3/4 are usually ETBs.

      7. That’s a darn good question! My guess is that it’s calculated by the average cost per platform mile. They might have a different average cost for the ETBs and for express buses but I haven’t seen it in the yearly reports. I doubt they try to figure out true cost per route. It wouldn’t be too hard to keep track of how many gallons of fuel get put into what bus but buses serve more than one route. Do the ETB’s have anything like a power meter than keeps track of kilowatt hours?

      8. Individual route performance measures are a combination of actual data (expenses based on vehicle costs and hours) and educated guesses via allocation, such as revenue. All the fares end up in a big pot.
        As far as metering the trolleys, only at the sub-station level, not each coach, but I’m not sure about that. The bredas have lots of computers, so maybe it’s tracking some electrical consumption data for maintenance to spot motors going bad.

      9. Yeah, that’s sort of what I was wondering regards the ETBs monitoring kilowatt hours; sort of like noticing your gas mileage has gone to pot you know something is wrong. I think some trucking outfits even monitor fuel consumption via “the black box” to see if drivers are lead footing it. I suppose just knowing the power bill gets you close but it sure would be interesting to know the efficiency of the different mongrel ETBs currently in service and know what kind of gains could be expected with equipment from this century.

      10. Maybe costs are figured per base? The 2006 NREL hybrid evaluation report had categories by base (Ryerson, South, etc), and of course all the ETBs run out of one base.

  11. back to Duke’s orignal topic: fare structure. simultaneously with eliminating both the zone and peak surcharges, match the recent ST structure and have three levels of fare for three types of service. level one for any two-way local route; level two for one-county ST routes, one subarea Metro one-way peak-only routes, and Rapid Ride; and, level three for two-county ST routes and two-subarea one-way peak-only routes. the highest intra KC fares would be on long one-way routes that crossed subarea lines that both are the most costly to provide and have the most inelastic demand. premium fares for premium service. the third level could be set rather high.

    this system would fit with ORCA better than the current complex syste. today’s system imposes high two-zone fares on many short trips crossing the Seattle boundary. the set above would impose high fares on those taking short trips on premium routes, but they would almost always have a local route as a lower cost option.

    there are several other fare related issues. could ST offer more ORCA machines in the burbs where its routes are the trunk lines? could the agencies offer a volume discount to e-purse ORCA users?

  12. As Martin suggests, it’s not unreasonable to use fare increases to tinker with other aspects of the fare structure.
    Years of ‘tinkering’ have resulted in our complex fare structure. There are still hundreds of different ways to pay the fare, according to the BOOK. Even Eddiew’s explaination seems rather arbitrary when deciding on what a premium bus is compared to a normal bus. Is a short hop from Eastgate to Seattle really costing Metro a ton of dough, compared to slower ‘local’ bus roaming around the eastside burbs? Should my quick hop express bus trip subsidize the lost wandering souls hoping to find a deal at Crossroads?
    Metros major metric is TIME. Service is allocated by formula based on hours of service. Bus performance is most commonly measured in cost per hour. Budgets are based on hours scheduled times cost per hour.
    How we magically loose that basic concept when it comes to charging people to ride is beyond me!

    1. And I should point out that my Eastgate-Seattle bus is mostly full, while the Crossroads meander is mostly empty – further eroding any cost penalty justification for ‘premium’ buses. Maybe it’s only the passengers that are at a premium (forced to go to work each day, relatively high incomes, ability to pay, buy Orca cards).

      1. Looking at the 212/225 (Eastgate to Seattle) it’s 36% fare recovery isn’t that different than the 245 (Eastgate to Crossroads) at 32%. The 225 carries more people but it’s hauling them farther and I believe has higher dead heading costs. If there were a premium for the Eastgate to Seattle service (I don’t believe there currently is) it would be because it’s what the market will bear. It’s a peak only service which means you’re expending extra capital to provide peak hour service just like adding more lanes just because the freeway is jammed at rush hour. Also, as I’ve said before; the real isn’t in the bus service but in providing free parking.

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