Photo by Erubisu 27

KIRO is watching the King County Council:

The King County Council voted unanimously Monday to raise [youth] rates by 50 cents [from 75 cents to $1.25].

“The adult-based fare has increased 165 percent since 1993, so while there’s an increase, it’s not nearly as steep as we’ve had for other fares to support the transit system,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips…

Phillips said the fare hike takes effect September 1.

This synchronizes youth fares on Link, ST Express (one-county), and Metro, often a popular cause in our comment threads.

52 Replies to “Metro Youth Fares Headed Up”

  1. With today’s technology, when will fares be based on the distance ridden rather than a fare for getting on? Chips can easily read where a rider gets on and off and debit the rider’s account. Accounts should be good for all forms of public transportation in the 3 county area. It’s more likely then that someone would jump on a bus to get to the light rail for the ride to downtown. It is the 21st century after all.

    1. Seriously, do people just think technology is free? Think about what you’re suggesting for a minute – how many people would lose the opportunity to ride at all if we spent money on a system like that while we’re determining cuts?

      1. ??? Orca + GPS (which Metro will have next year) is all you need. Yes, it would take some programming and will cost for implementation. But the effect will be to more correctly price transit, removing sprawl subsidies and encourage transit use in dense areas. This is worth doing at some point, and I’d argue it’s even worth doing right now.

      2. I was using One Bus Away and it already tracks me while I’m on the bus!

        All you’d have to do is connect it with a database or formula to calculate the mileage x rate and come up with a cost.

        In fact, maybe ORCA will become an Android application…switched on when you enter the bus/train, turned off as you exit…fare paid via near field signal.

      3. John, you mean all you’d have to do is give every user a smartphone and have them run an app full time while they’re on the bus?

        Are you guys totally, utterly blind to the massive cost of any of these ideas? Think them through a little further, please?

      4. I have an argument that distance based fares would reduce sprawl.

        Roads have a fixed peak capacity, and any additional cars in a commute increase everyone’s commute time. Commute times are a significant disincentive from living far from work. The four ways of removing cars from the road that I know about are: alternative transportation, more roads, telecommute, and time shifting. Assuming the latter three will occur more or less independantly from the first, we can focus on alternative transportation. Increased transit reduces commute time, which removes the disincentive from living far from work. There are many factors that would contribute to increased transit use, but a significant factor is cost. Decreased cost increases ridership. In summary, decreased cost of transit increases ridership which decreases commute hour traffic, which decreases the major disincentive to live far from work.

        As a side note, you might wonder with an argument like that why I would support transit to the outer suburbs at all, if my goal is to reduce sprawl. And the answer is that as long as we both work to increase transit and simultaneously fight road building, the net effect is a reduction in car use and an increase in the ability for people to get around without a car. It’s an imperfect compromise, but a realistic one. Why not leave our fare subsidised system in place if we’re ok with increased transit use in the suburbs? Because it’s subsidised by high fares for short distances. Back to my argument.

        Flat fares make short trips relatively expensive. This reduces transit use in dense areas, which increases car use in dense areas, which creates traffic and therefore a disincentive to people living in dense areas. This is exactly the opposite of what we want – remember, my goal is to have people live in dense places, not push them to the outer suburbs. As long as it costs someone several dollars for a 1 mile trip, they’re much more inclined to take a car.

        Those are my arguments, based on logic. But I have no study.

      5. The issue with suburbs is that there are “reasonable” suburbs and “unreasonable” suburbs (if you’re commuting to the central city or expecting an express bus). For 3.2 million people in Pugetopolis you’d need an area bounded by Lynnwood-Bellevue-Kent-Puget Sound, and possibly further south, to contain them. 3.2 million is the population of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and part of Queens combined. You can’t just fit them all into Seattle. So there must be frequent transit as far as Bellevue and Lynnwood as if they were part of the city. Of course, there are two things which make this less than ideally efficient. One is Lake Washington, which we can’t do anything about. The other is the low-density nature of the suburbs. So we compromise by sending transit only to parts of the suburbs, those which are either the densest (justified) or which had bus routes in the 1970s (questionable).

        Outside this ring, frequent transit is a less reasonable expectation. But the reality is that people live in Tacoma, Puyallup, Everett, and Marysville, and they’re part of the metropolitan area and need to get around it for various reasons, and other people need to go to those places. So it makes sense to provide point-to-point service to transit centers in those areas, possibly at a premium fare, and possibly going only to a transfer point rather than all the way downtown.

      6. [Mike] I can agree with that, but that would fit well under a distance based fare model. Cheap to ride around inside Seattle or inside Kent, a bit more expensive to ride from Kent to Seattle, more expensive to ride from Federal Way to Seattle, much more expensive to ride from Tacoma to Seattle. The incentives would all be roughly correct.

      7. Using this system, perhaps they could start with a $2.50 base and then $2.50 per mile for bus fare?

      8. (please tell me that was a joke). Maybe scale that down by a factor of 10 and it would be reasonable.

      9. Matt, it can work for gross categories like entire routes. (E.g., all 594 trips are presumed to be 30 miles; don’t use it for local trips). But trying to charge per mile would be a huge hassle, and it doesn’t address the fact that the route has an expense based on its entire length, not on whether particular passengers go two miles or ten miles.

        So for instance, if the 48 runs 20 miles but most passengers ride 5 miles along it, they would all pay the minimum fare rather than the full-distance fare. If most of them got off/on at a certain point (U-district), you could split the route there if it saved money. But if people are getting on and off evenly along the route, then a significant number of people would have to transfer if the route is split. Of course, if the route is split, then you couldn’t charge the full-distance fare to anyone. Unless you eliminated free transfers and made people truly pay for the number of miles they ride. But that would be amazingly difficult. It works on trains because there are only a few stations and their ORCA readers are in fixed locations, and you don’t have multiple train routes travelling different distances between the same origin-destination.

  2. Use the extra to add fare enforcement which will have a huge return on investment,add secuity will also raise ridership.

      1. If the security is doing fare checks, and a route can be converted to proof-of-payment, the route can get faster, depending on ridership.

        The more interesting question is *which* routes would become cheaper to operate if they were converted to POP. Assumedly, we’d start with the highest-ridership routes, study the effect, and work down the list.

        In principle, that is why POP is being done on RapidRide first. Of course, the RapidRide routes were chosen for political reasons, not for ridership.

        I see more security as an added incentive to get more adults, especially women, to ride. The faster ride itself also becomes an enticement, for busy adults. I don’t think it is much of an enticement for youth.

        One thing I do think this fare increase should be spent on is more and better service to public schools during before-opening-bell and after-school hours. That might mean some route reorganization work to provide more front-door service.

        This is something that especially needs to happen as Seattle Public Schools dumps the yellow bus service for high schoolers.

      2. “the RapidRide routes were chosen for political reasons, not for ridership.”

        Not really. If you ask anybody where the top-priority local routes should be, they’d say Ballard-downtown, Aurora-downtown, West Seattle-downtown, BTC-Crossroads-Redmond, Pacific Highway, and Renton-Burien. Of course there are others such as the 255, 120, 8, 11, 44, and 48, but the ones chosen would be on most people’s top 10. And they excluded routes close to Link corridors (Eastlake, Rainier Ave). The only “political” part was giving every subarea at least one route, but that makes sense. It’s not like any low-density corridors are being converted to RapidRide. And of course there’s more politics in exactly which streets and stops the routes serve, but that doesn’t negate the general need for higher transit priority in these corridors.

      3. Security will raise ridership. Talk to people who have ridden and subsequently abandoned transit here. They rode a busy route, one day some dude had a knife and was trying to start fights, then that person never set foot on a bus again.

        That’s a story I hear over and over.

      4. Security while waiting for a bus is a concern for more passengers, based on the Line A survey earlier this year.

        Of course, one way to reduce that concern is to reduce the waiting time.

    1. ken:

      There are a lot of ways to raise ridership. Each one is differently cost-effective: Advertising service can increase ridership, working with businesses can, adding security can make people feel safer.

      The important point that comments like this miss is the relative cost effectiveness of different approaches. Hiring a security guard might get you ten more riders per day, but the same money could add a round trip to a packed route and get you thirty.

      It’s very important not to get stuck on a particular idea when that idea might not be the best use of money.

      1. Do your advertisment dollars spent on the #7 ridership payoff.Just saying, it’s got to be a start joe commutor is not riding after dark certain routes people ride cause they have no other option, safey is first.We are part of the community that hits the news because of what “safety”The numbers for fare evasion are off the charts in the millions versus spending to change the view from the busses.Numbers from RCTC 268 million+ from fare box. With 10 percent fare evasion(low number)thats 26 million in lost rev.lets just say 20 police officers 100k a yr = 2 mill recoup money then some and the safety lets people feel safer to ride more advertising already paid for.

      2. The Swift ambassadors nail 10 people a day for a total $1240 (if collected). If we collect on 1/5 of them it pays for the security guard. As long as we can collect on 20% (I don’t know that we are) it makes sense to make all routes POP. You can put ORCA readers inside the bus doors or on major platforms. In cities in Europe they have a ticket stampers inside the bus. You board and insert your ticket (which you buy in books at major stations) and it validates it. Buses get boarded a lot though especially in London. I never saw anyone board a bus in Budapest and they always had three door loading and POP.

  3. So basically, the county council is regularly willing to increase costs for transit riders, but not for car drivers.

    Let me put it simply: This is because poorer people are more likely to be transit dependent and can’t lobby as effectively, so it’s safer to screw them over.

    We should be talking about this as a social justice issue.

    1. Under what authority would the King County Council raise costs for car drivers? They can’t levy a gas tax and they are not in charge of tolling policy.

      Our youth fares are very low from a national point of view, even after this fare increase.

      1. Simple. The King County Council could pass the $20 Congestion Reduction Charge.

      2. Like Andrew says…

        RBC, did you just forget about the last several days of news? ;)

    2. Sorry–I didn’t get what you were talking about because you didn’t mention the CRC by name. In that case, I totally agree–those councilmembers should show a spine and approve the $20 charge :)

  4. This increase went mostly under the radar. I would have loved the opportunity to request that the ORCA youth fare not be increased so much.

    For monthly youth pass holders this is an $18 a month tax increase. I don’t want to hear any more whining about what a huge hit $20 is on an annual car tab.

    1. Julia Patterson complains that her poor constituents can’t afford a $20 per year tax hit on car tabs, but votes yes to impose a $216 per year fare increase on the county’s youth, poor and rich alike?

      That woman needs help.

      1. The overwhelming majority of the county’s youth are given free bus passes by their schools. Parents of the youth won’t have to eat the fare increase, the schools districts will.

      2. Nope, that woman just needs to hear from more of her constituents.

        So do Pete von Reichbauer, Reagan Dunn, Jane Hague, and Kathy Lambert.

        BTW, I wonder if Council Member von Reichbauer regrets his push to eliminate advertising he doesn’t like on the buses in light of the car tab fee proposal.

      3. If most of the school districts are giving out transit passes (presumably loaded with monthly passes), then requiring full adult fare payment if you don’t have a youth pass should be low-hanging fruit.

        Also, it is within the purview of each school district to negotiate contracts with Metro and ST so they don’t have to pay the full per-rider market rate. I wonder if SPS has already locked in such contracts before this fare increase was on the table.

      4. What schools give out free bus passes?

        I know I never got that when I was in school.

        Seattle doesn’t.

        I know some Bellevue schools use Metro for their bus routes, but it’s not common at all.

      5. Some “transportation-eligible” students in SPS are given ORCA passes. I’ve been mischaracterizing it as all students. It’s really students outside the 2.5 mile walkshed of the school. My apologies. (This has been the key factor in driving the elimination of school choice within the district. If every student got an ORCA, school choice might return. ;)

        South Park has a special deal since walking to Sealth or Denny is just not a safe option. I’m not sure what Metro is planning for the fall, but they have been working with some parents from South Park on the situation.

        The Bellevue School District has a similar program.

        Mercer Island School District likewise, but with a 1-mile walkshed.

        Without going through a full list of public school districts in the county, those are the ones google pointed out.

        My math says that only a small fraction of youth in the county are receiving a free bus pass via their school district.

      6. @Lack: Seattle, Bellevue and Mercer Island districts (at the very least) all give students bus passes, along with paying for supplemental routes. You may not have heard about it because you didn’t live far enough from your school, or your parents’ income might’ve been too high, to qualify. (I don’t actually know if those are criteria, just seems likely.)

      7. I know Northshore does nothing. I’m pretty sure Lake Washington is the same. It’s most common in Seattle (where it makes the most sense) but even there I’m pretty sure it’s limited to only HS students which does nothing for parents trying to take kids somewhere on the bus and I’d guess those are the ones hardest hit. Asking again, how much will this actually raise in revenue for Metro?

      8. Northshore and Lake Washington do nothing. Edmonds High gives their students bus passes. A way to start this is do what Montgomery County in MD does and offers free rides for any students with a student ID within the county. I’ve placed the link in the place where it says website because I’m to lazy to use HTML right now…

  5. Any estimate on how much net revenue this will generate for Metro and how much of that comes from the school districts transportation funds? I know Bellevue City Council has discussed dropping contract services with Metro and going to a private provider.

    1. I think the county council should reconsider this fare increase, apply it just to cash fares, and negotiate with the school districts. It’s bad enough that the county council slipped this through with little public notice, but even worse that they haven’t consulted the other major government entities that would be affected.

  6. To me the fares on Metro/ST are egregiously low. There are many, many very well off people who are getting the deal of the century being able to take rides at very low costs. Which is great except the system is going under from subsidizing them.

    For people who could not afford the higher fares, they should be able to get subsidized ORCA cards or other helping hands.

    1. John,

      This fare increase is for *youth*, and it *is* the helping hand, albeit much less so than for seniors, whose cheap fares are more about politics (since they all vote) than need. Should the kids all go get jobs to pay for their cheap rides?

      1. Ahem, the cheap fares for seniors are because many of them are on limited income. The rich ones may be spending their surpluses on golf club memberships, but let’s not forget the others.

      2. That’s really the same argument used to justify the 2+hour paper transfers … because *some* riders can’t afford to buy an ORCA card.

        What would it take to simply have a low-income RRFP instead of automatically giving RRFPs to nearly half the riders?

    2. The *system is going under from subsidizing them* you say about TRANSIT RIDERS, when we’re talking about several multibillion dollar projects on highways that are funded by taxes? Is this meant to be funny?

    3. John, do you want Metro to set fares on each bus based on the amount of fare revenue needed for that bus route to pay for itself? Are you prepared to give up *your* subsidization?

    4. To me, the fares on Metro/ST are egregiously high. There are many, many people who are driving uninsured/unlicensed simply because it is cheaper to buy gas than to shell out $5 a day for bus fare.

      1. I doubt those people are going to/from anywhere Metro would be much help. If they’re working in DT Bellevue or Seattle for example they’ll be shelling out more than $5 in parking. If they’re willing to drive uninsured then what’s stopping them from just being fare evaders? Your potential downside is a lot worse being catch driving without insurance than it is refusing to pay your bus fare. These are the people that can afford to dump a few hundred bucks into a beater, manage repair costs and spend $40-100 to fill the tank but can’t use Orca because of the $5 fee, right?

    5. I loved the cheap $.75 fares for youth. In MD, I stop and think about if I really want to pay $1.50 for a short little ride that in Seattle, I would have just popped 3 quarters into the fare machine for. (Yeah I know that most of you pay more than $1.50, but I don’t have a job to pay for my way around)

  7. BTW, seniors, I think you are next in line. It’s hard to justify senior fares be much lower than youth fares, when the vast majority of seniors are more able to pay for transit than youth are. I just hope there is a little more public process next time, so we can discuss the ramifications of making it an across-the-board increase vs. a cash fare increase, and whether we should require that the fare be paid from ORCA in order to get the reduced fare.

    And yes, there ought to be a separate reduced fare category based on economic need.

    1. Like the youth pay for their fares anyway. I don’t remember when the last time my kids put money on their own ORCA cards – probably never. I don’t have a problem with Metro youth fares going to $1.25 because that’s what we pay on CT. If I cross the king county line I pay $1.25 anyway so metro might as well get some of that. I feel the same about the CT 20% cut. Why not bump adult fares to $2 because I pay it crossing over into KC anyway.

    2. Senior fares were raised last year by the council. They put off youth fares to work on issues related to school districts.

      1. Metro was scheduled to push senior fares up to $1 this past January 1, but reversed its decision, and pushed it back to the existing $0.75.

  8. I would like the council to consider one more fare increase this year: A 25-cent surcharge on all cash fare payments.

    And, of course, don’t let the passes get used as flash passes to pay reduced fares, and reduce the value of paper transfers (if they must be kept at all) to one hour.

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