This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Today there was a discussion on Seattle Transit Blog about the benefits and drawbacks of cutting off bus service from the south to downtown Seattle and instead shuffling everyone onto LINK trains.  The core of the argument is cost savings vs. speed, and considering KC Metro is going through major cuts it’s time for unpleasant conversations about where and how we’re going to degrade service.  The huge savings involved is what makes this particular cut attractive.

That discussion is interesting, but isn’t what caught my eye.  One compromise solution was to use some of the money saved and keep or add express buses to downtown.  But if the express bus was faster, what would get people to take the non-express to a slow transfer to the train?  The way we do things now we’d use capacity to limit supply – once more people can’t cram on the express bus, they’ll wait for th local.  But that’s not the logical market approach – we’re leaving money on the table.  We could be limiting supply using fares.  Bump up express service a few dollars, and we not only increase revenue but we also sort out the issue of limited capacity on express buses. 

Commuters that need to get to work quickly will pay the extra money.  More cost sensitive riders will take a bit more time to get around.  And let’s not just do this for south-end routes, but for routes throughout the region.  This will free up capacity on express routes, and we can use the added revenue to keep more service overall.

4 Replies to “Charge more for express buses.”

  1. Interesting. So what would I do with my unlimited ORCA card? Could I use it for both local and express buses? Or would I need a more expensive ORCA card to ride express?

  2. Depends on what you mean by unlimited ORCA card. You’d need a more expensive pass, just like if you had to commute 2 zones or over a ferry. ORCA actually makes this much easier, since with the old system we’d need even more passes for bus drivers to memorize (“let’s see, purple with a red stripe means express 2-zone, good until May…”).

  3. It totally makes sense that some of Metro’s long distance rush hour only routes should be truncated at Sounder or Link stations, or have a significant fare premium. Particularly for routes from Auburn, Kent and Federal Way, which are some of the longest routes and on which a rush hour express bus would typically only be able to make a single trip per day, that has to be among the most expensive service to provide. Instead, either encourage transfers to Sounder or Link, or charge a premium for expensive to operate service.

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