Steven De Vight/Flickr

I only partially agree with Matt’s post Thursday about park and rides, but I think the assertion that Ride Free Area (RFA) elimination will cost Metro “millions of rides” deserves to be interrogated a bit more. We’re never going to know definitively what the ridership impact of RFA elimination is, because it’s lumped together with a massive service change. I imagine the specific effect of the fares is going to be negative, although long term improvements in system complexity, interior bus circulation, and deterrence of disruptive riders may turn out to produce a net gain.

Moreover, it’s important to consider where those “lost” trips are going. Some of them are converting to foot, bike, or Link trips: it’s a marginal decrease in utility to that individual, but not necessarily a problem from a policy perspective. What would be a problem is conversion of those trips to high-externality car trips, but in downtown I suspect that’s a very small slice.

The remainder are trips not taken. We often hold up “trip reduction” as a civic goal, but in fact it’s a double edged-sword. The entire purpose of providing infrastructure is that it enables the contacts that create economic growth. Deter movement and you deter that growth. A trip not taken to a social service because it’s too expensive may have bad humanitarian consequences. These aren’t necessarily decisive arguments for the RFA, or indeed free transit anywhere, but they are its upside.

Shifting the discussion to park-and-rides, the calculation is very different. At park-and-rides that are at capacity, a well-managed parking charge* will drive some riders away, but more will carpool and take the bus, increasing the overall throughput of the transit stop. In terms of encouraging people to take transit, it’s win/win/win, a benefit totally orthogonal to arguments about the merits of suburban living.

But where not every space is full, charges will induce people to drive. A small margin will move or choose jobs closer to home, and newcomers will not choose that home-work pair in the first place, but the riders that brings are highly unlikely to be enough to make up the difference.

That said, if agencies really want to abandon the parking subsidy there’s a way to recover some of the large capital costs and possibly boost overall ridership. Simply selling the lots and garages, canceling parking leases, and using the proceeds to boost transit speed and frequency might net you more riders, albeit different ones. However, making transit irrelevant to an even larger portion of the region’s voters is a dangerous political decision.

* “well-managed” meaning the charge is just high enough to leave the lot at capacity.

101 Replies to “What Riders Are We Losing?”

  1. By your (accurate) definition of “well-managed”, the’s clearly very little risk of reducing overall ridership. Worst case scenario is that the charge scares away carpools who are replaced with SOVs, which doesn’t make any sense. It also makes sense that some riders would shift to feeder routes, for a net gain.

    But it’s an interesting assertion that the churn introduced by charging would result in an increase in carpooling. I see why that would apply to “homo economicus”, but is there any data (or convincing models) to support that behavior prediction?

    1. One way to do it is to explicitly encourage carpools by giving them a discount on parking (though there is the question on how to enforce such a thing).

      1. Discount parking for carpools is unnecessary, because putting a price on parking provides a built-in incentive to carpool. The price of non-CBD parking is usually fairly low to begin with, and when you divide it 2 or more ways, it’s a pittance.

        Also, allocation schemes that bypass pricing tend to invite abuse, like the friend who used to offer to shuttle us from the coffee shop to the Red Square garage so he could pay the carpool price rather than the regular price. As with so many other aspects of parking, it’s best to price so there’s always at least one space available to someone who needs it. Rent the space and let the users do what they want with it.

      2. In the case of a public agency, their goal should be to maximize utility, not revenue. In this context, carpool discounts make sense.

        To the extent that you’re getting more people using the facility, and you don’t have to build more spaces, you may in fact be saving money.

    2. Charging for parking should encourage carpooling, as the cost would be shared among the carpoolers. You could also reserve the better spots for registered carpools and offer a discount pass. Use of the ORCA passes by the carpoolers would allow for auditing, to see if the carpool is legit.

    3. Summarizing my thoughts from the thread below.

      We should keep parking free.

      Rename the RFA the HDA — High Demand Area

      For all transit leaving from the HDA, add a $2 exit fee on top of the regular fare.

      50 cents to $1 of this would go to Seattle to help transit.
      The rest would go to Metro and Sound Transit.

      1. So if I take a bus from downtown Seattle to the Seattle Center, I should pay an extra surcharge to fund the park and ride in Issaquah? But if I park in Issaquah and take a bus to Bellevue, I shouldn’t?

      2. LA has a surcharge on “freeway trips” I think this would be more effective than a downtown transit tax. The local service (and local riders) dont pay the surcharge, however people taking ST Express or Metro Express buses do pay.

      3. Community Transit does something similar.

        Of course, Metro would need to identify its “freeway express” routes, and for an agency whose definition of “express” is “skips stops” (so the 66 is an express for having stop spacing similar to what the 70 could and maybe should have while the 41 isn’t), that’s an order of magnitude harder than identifying the frequent service network and highlighting it on their spiffy new maps.

      4. I’ll give it a shot. The idea is that the route should have a high average speed *and* there should be a cheaper, slower way around it.

        Freeway expresses that should charge premium fares:

        157/158/159 /161

        I *wouldn’t* include the following even though there is freeway travel:

        West Seattle Bridge routes – Really local service, no other alternatives
        64/76 – distance short
        71/72/73X – Not always on freeway; distance short
        150 – No local alternative for almost the entire route
        255 – ”
        271 – ”
        316 – Very short freeway trip
        355 – Very short freeway trip
        Custom buses – they have their own fare structure

      5. Why exactly would you want to add an additional charge on top of the two zone fare? That’s a good enough proxy for express service. It’s only a little bit unfair for short trips that cross the zone boundary.

      6. I would not put a premium on the 41 or 101. The 41 is basic mobility between urban centers, like the 550 or 255. Yes, you can get there on the 16 or 66 but we don’t really expect people to. At that distance they’re long milk runs. The 41 shadows a future Link connection that will be less expensive than the milk runs, so clearly the region is moving toward positioning downtown-Northgate as a primary express corridor.

        The 101 is more borderline but I’d tentatively put it in the same category: it should be an all-day trunk route because Renton is the gateway to southeast King County. At least until the 169 is extended to Rainier Beach. The 106, again, is another milk run. The replacement of its short I-5 segment with Georgetown routing suggests it’s no longer intended to be the primary downtown-Renton route.

        These routes are different than the 102 or most of the other routes on the list. The 102 gives an extraordinary one-seat express ride from one particular residential neighborhood to downtown. That’s different from primary service between urban centers.

      7. Also, Los Angeles doesn’t impose the freeway surcharge 100%, like when it’s just one or two exits. I don’t know if it’s still there, but there was a route from Hollywood to Pasadena that did that and did not charge extra.

      8. AW: Why exactly would you want to add an additional charge on top of the two zone fare?

        Because, the two-zone fare is a pathetic fifty cents extra, while most of the routes David L lists offer a super-premium service that serves an extremely narrow commuter function and is useful to an extremely small portion of the transit ridership.

        Boston charges $3.50-$5.00 for its commuter express buses (versus $1.50 local bus or $2.00 subway fares that do not rise at peak). The premium fare exists for good reason: commuter routes basically exist on top of the regular transit system, are only tangentially related to it, serve a different purpose, offer a different experience, and are expensive to operate!

        New York City does the same: interborough express buses cost $5.50 (versus the $2.25 subway/bus base fare, not counting 7% Metrocard discounts), because they serve a very different purpose in a very different way.

        One of the most offensive things about the Seattle fare structure is that the “one-zone peak” applies to so many regular services that are at their most horrible during rush hour. They may be your only option, but you pay a premium to suffer them. Terrible.

      9. Metro Express bus service (2009 rt perf report) fare no better or worse than regular service in comparable corridors. Of course eastside and south sub areas are more expensive in general but the Express service is in most part additional buses put on to serve peak demand and do relatively well. Of course if you operate Express bus service to Vashon Island it’s going to suck but not as bad as toy boats to provide transit to a sparsely populated island! Of course that doesn’t factor in the cost of free parking but that also applies to all buses stopping at P&R lots; not just Express service.

      10. I left the 77 out of my previous post. At least while there is still a 73, the 77 should be a premium fare route.

        Local alternates don’t have to be fast, they just have to provide the mobility.

        The 101 has a local alternate: the 106. The 101 is oversubscribed (at peak hour) and the 106 has extra capacity. The 101 is only the sole local service for a tiny number of fairly low-ridership stops along MLK. So I think the case for the 101 having a premium fare is very solid.

        The 41 is a bit more borderline, but it’s still unique for a Seattle bus route in its speed, and it has a local alternative. The 66 is slow, but not completely unreasonably slow. The 75 and 347/348 cover the rest of the ground. (I’m not treating the 16 or the 40 as the local alternative.)

        d.p. makes the right case for charging additional fare for commuter express routes. We don’t need to subsidize local mobility over 15-mile distances by pricing them the same as a 2-mile ride up Queen Anne Hill.

  2. Since the elimination of the rfa there are bus trips I will take that I didn’t before. For really short trips around 5-8 blocks sitting next to all the crazy, and smelly people Wasn’t worth it. Also it’ll get rid of the people that want to dispute the boundaries of the rfa. I just wish there was a way to get rid of the people that argue about fares and the ones that think the bus driver is their trip planner.

      1. … or, in the meantime, get rid of zone boundaries and time boundaries, and just have local buses and express buses, so that each bus has only one fare level.

      2. … except, of course, when paying with ORCA, which should be rewarded with a small discount, but the ORCA fare could be standardized.

  3. I really don’t think anyone was proposing charging at half-empty lots. This was all about charging at lots and garages which are filling up, right?

    1. At locations with infrequent service, you can actually start charging a bit sooner, since there’s more perceived value in the certainty of finding a parking spot. Auburn has (or had, at least — haven’t looked in over a year) a modest commuter lot program that sells monthly parking passes for spaces a block farther from the Sounder station than the free P&R garage, but those permits were selling because they provide predictability to regular commuters. I could leave just enough time to walk to the platform, knowing I’d never be circling around looking for an open space when the train pulled away. (Then I decided it was just as fast to bike 3.5 miles right to the platform, rather than driving, parking, and walking a block.)

  4. In the big picture, it’s quite easy to see cause and effect.
    Take the annual riders for Metro and compare to annual service hours and do it over 10 years. Now look at how much is being spent to get those riders. If efficiency is working, it should show up, less inflation.
    In the Bigger picture, lump Metro and ST together and do the same analysis, less capital spending.
    Are we truly getting lean and mean, and adding a ton of riders from SOV’s, or are we just rearranging the deck chairs for some years to come.
    And for the regional thinkers, lump all the transit agencies in the pot. The National Transit Database would be a good place to start. I’m late for a parade this morning.

  5. I love the imperious nature of your tone…as if the whole Salish Sea were nodding its head in assent. Yet, no one could be further from the truth.

    Parking should not be considered an externality to transit…but an interface! It unites personal transit with public transit. How does it do this? Take Kent Station. There is only very frequent bus service during rush hour. And frequent up until say 8pm. After that, longer waits and then no service.

    A personal transit interface allows for all day service from the distant routes. But also geographically, it allows people greater choices in living. I don’t have to run a bus line up each and every street for each and every person.

    1. That’s totally the model everywhere transit is taken seriously, build a bunch of really expensive concrete boxes that take up tons of valuable space next to transit stations and beg car drivers to use it sometimes.

      I am not saying park and rides are worthless but to act like they are an integral part of our transit systems future is a joke. They are simply used to coerce people to riding transit when the argument the transit system gives itself is too weak. It’s a sign of a system that clearly has a lot of growing to do. I’d much prefer that money be spent on actual transit, instead of taking money away and then draining our resources so it can be free.

      1. The conundrum is that frequent transit “only works” in dense urban environments but our built space encompasses many square miles of low to medium density where frequent transit “isn’t practical”. I’m sorry to say, but big expensive park and rides are the only practical way of interfacing low density neighborhoods with frequent transit.

        Now if you want to get fascist and bulldoze the suburbs and force everyone to live within 1 mile of established frequent transit lines, after the massive disruption you might have a workable transit system.

        I think it’s far cheaper to build the P & R’s and over time (many decades) encourage density to develop. It’s already happening.

      2. Park & Rides aren’t the only practical solution, but they’re one of the only currently-legal last-mile solutions. If jitneys weren’t illegal, many people would prefer not to leave their expensive private cars sitting in P&R garages all day every day, and there are plenty of under-employed residents with free time at rush hour who could supplement their incomes with private jitney service — it works in many other cities around the world.

        I already know at least one Sounder commuter from Puyallup who sat down and ran the numbers, and sold his car — he takes a taxi from his front door to the train station every day and says it costs less than owning a car for commuting, plus he doesn’t have to find parking.

      3. @Josh, thanks for the reminder about jitneys. What a different world we’d live in if we’d unleash individual initiative like that. (eek! I’m sounding like a Republican!?!)

        I’ve experienced Sheruts in Israel, Tuk-Tuk motorized tricycle cabs in Thailand and alley motorcycle rides also in Thailand.

    2. If Kent really does own and maintain the Kent P&R, that may be a model for how to deal with P&Rs generally. The cities’ zoning are what created the low-density landscapes that necessitate P&Rs in the first place, so they should pay for the interface to trunk-line transit. The cities may suddenly find P&Rs less desirable if they have to maintain them, and that could push them further toward urban villages which don’t need P&Rs.

      King County has been telling unincorporated urban areas for several years to join cities or lose services. What if the county told cities, “Buy this P&R or we’re shutting it down and selling the land to developers.”

      There are two main difficulties with this. One, the county could reduce Metro’s budget by the amount it had been subsidizing the P&R, so it wouldn’t gain Metro anything. Two, some P&Rs have cachement areas beyond the cities they’re in. ST would have particular trouble here because the Lynnwood P&R draws from Lynnwood, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, and Mukilteo; and the TIB and 200th P&Rs draw from Burien, Renton, Des Moines, Federal Way, and Auburn. Faced with the choice of creating multi-city agreements and the (probable) inability to reduce ST’s budget, they’d probably say the ST district is the most appropriate way to manage the P&Rs so let’s just leave them as-is.

      what about P&Rs that are near the edge of a city and are used by people outside the city? A group of cities would have to agree to jointly maintain the P&R. Unincorporated areas can’t do this so the county would have to be involved — and the county is Metro!

      The second problem is, the county may reduce Metro’s budget by the amount it had been spending on the P&R, so Metro wouldn’t gain any service hours. I don’t see how that could happen with ST.

  6. Park and rides need to be revenue neutral. Parking fees should cover all taxes, maintenance, and construction bonds. If there is not enough forecasted parking demand to charge for parking, then the lot should not be built. A demand-based fee system designed to ensure 90% occupancy will increase ridership by encouraging carpooling. We already subsidize the transit itself, there is no reason to give certain riders preferential treatment in the form of additional subsidies, just because they choose to drive to the park and ride.

    Trimet estimated that they could earn $100,000 annually by charging at just two park and rides, one of which is just a small surface lot:

    I would imagine that Sound Transit could earn a lot more, given the larger park and rides, and generally higher commuting costs in Puget Sound.

    1. Park and rides need to be revenue neutral.

      Strongly disagree. But, in any case, that’s not consistent with

      A demand-based fee system designed to ensure 90% occupancy

      The fee to ensure 90% occupancy could be insufficent, sufficient, or excessive to cover construction and maintenance costs. I guess what you’re arguing is that we shouldn’t build park and rides where the fee wouldn’t be sufficient to cover those costs. Instead, I think we should be building wherever there is sufficient demand for appropriately priced (perhaps 2x local bus fare) commuter bus or rail service. If we can’t make the costs back, that’s OK. It’s in the long-term interests of the region to build a well-used transit network, subsidizing it if necessary. The job should be to figure out ways of financing service wherever there’s real demand for it.

    2. One could make an argument, that a fully transit dependent person, traveling in high density like the old RFA area and other urban spaces…should be paying much much more.

      I would be charging double bus far for anyone getting on in downtown Seattle. To me that is a premium trip that has great demand.

      If you are looking for more revenue, you don?t want to chase people away by charging for remote parking garages.

      However, you could be pushing costs down to the high value urban customers who would not mind the cost and may even support it if it meant even better service!

      Given the inflation of fuel prices a $5 bus ride is hardly unthinkable!

      1. Okay, so make the argument. What is the cost of an interdowntown trip compared to say a Kent to Seattle Express Trip?

      2. Thinking about it, I would charge more for both of those.

        So instead of a Ride Free Area I would designate the same a High Demand Area (HDA) and charge extra for anyone getting off at or on at the old RFA.

        Using LINK to a ballgame is currently an incredible value given parking rates (and not dealing with traffic). Is it wrong that a family of four, who just spent $200 on tickets should not then pay $20 for transit? Or that a high value urbanist, living in a $750,000 condo could afford more than a $60 bus pass…more like a $160 bus pass?

      3. Basically if the transit doesn’t show up to his house in Kent it is stupid and everyone who uses it should be punished for it.

        Don’t live in Shitsville and expect all the same services. Thats why we huddle together in cities, it’s really easy to provide more and better resources to people.

      4. This is bizarre. Downtown Seattle is not just a destination for entertainment, it’s a major destination for workers, and a transfer point north, south to east. Most people riding the bus who get off at those points aren’t living in 750k condos.

        This type of thing (charging people who use the bus more and people who drive less) only makes sense to people who drive their cars way too much.

      5. John, how does converting free stalls into paying stalls chase away passengers, when the stalls are still full?

      6. Brent,

        Don’t feed the troll by calling him by his name. The proper form of address is “Bailouts”.

        Because that’s what he wants: bailouts of the idiots who bought homes on East Hill and are about to face ruinous $10/gallon gasoline prices when Willard OvenMitt bombs Iran.

      7. “a fully transit dependent person, traveling in high density like the old RFA area and other urban spaces…should be paying much much more.”

        This is essentially happening. Cities with the most comprehensive transit (New York, London) tend to have the highest fares. Here at home, Metro’s local fare is higher than CT’s or PT’s.

        The problem with your theory is that transit is for all classes, especially the working poor. Society benefits if people drive less, so you have to keep fares low enough it doesn’t discourage too many people from transit.

        And this is where we can distinguish, on the one hand, local inner-city service, local suburban service, and trunk routes like the 150 or a mythical 579, that we want to encourage people to use, and luxury express service like the 158 and 159 that cost society more than they’re worth. In that case, if people want the excess express service, they should pay more. Sounder could go either way depending on what you see its role is: is it a primary trunk route or an excess luxury? Different people have different opinions on that.

      8. Mike: Fares in Boston, New York, Philly, San Francisco, Chicago — all with “comprehensive” transit beyond Seattle’s apparent ability to conceive — are all lower than here. In same cases by quite a lot.

        Fares can actually be reduced by efficiently planned and operated mass transit. The problem here is that Metro just doesn’t do “mass” transit.

  7. If parking fees were used for measures like fully-reserved transit lanes and signal pre-empt, I think many of us who frequently have to drive to transit would consider ourselves money ahead.

    Mark Dublin

  8. “Simply selling the lots and garages, canceling parking leases, and using the proceeds to boost transit speed and frequency might net you more riders, albeit different ones.”

    Keep the pruning to a minimum, please. With few exceptions Park & Rides are built in locations that no sane business would build structured parking which would severely limit their resale value. That said, structured parking garages at Park & Rides, even heavily subsidized, can be the right move to cut down on peak freeway congestion.

    Comparing the cost of new Park & Ride facilities to adding lanes would be a more interesting discussion. Imagine every Park & Ride built up along I-405, coupled with needed investments in supporting transit service as a way to head off adding lanes to 405. Oh wait, too late.

    The goal should be to serve existing sprawl without encouraging more. (And yes, I know that’s a tall order)

  9. I like this post. Although my post was based on a revenue generation, I agree that parking demand management is best on a dollar saved per rider lost basis.

    Metro actually did run a feasibility study six years ago, and sent me a copy yesterday. I’ve emailed ST to ask if they have any more recent studies.

    As of 2006, 34% of all lots were over 80% of capacity. If we charged $4 at only high utilization lots, we’d take in an extra $2.2M a year and lose an estimated 740k rides although this doesn’t include new demand based on spaces freeing up (“Studies show that the high demand lots may not actually lose park & ride users due to latent demand for parking at the lots.”)

    Funny that they’ve had this information for the past six years, yet chose to end the RFA to come up with $2M (or less, once loaders and other mitigations are factored in).

    1. The RFA agreement was coming up for renewal. It was a once-in-a-political-lifetime opportunity to modernize the transit system.

      Yes, more businessfolk will take cabs across downtown now for their power lunches. Is it really the end of the world?

      Instituting demand-based pricing at P&Rs can happen any time, so there was less sense of urgency. Such is politics. Some will argue that the pricing should be uniform, but, hey, the City of Seattle already does all sorts of different parking prices based on location and time of day, and nobody has been able to make a case that it is illegal.

      Matt may come off as a little sour-grapish about losing free rides to lunch, but he is spot on that the political moment to push ending free parking at P&Rs is *now*, while Metro is still in its two-year operational-cost-cutting drive. Martin’s demand-based pricing is the easiest and most politically defensible proposal I’ve heard.

      Think of it not as putting more money into transit, but as enabling a reduction in the number of platform hours that have to be cut.

  10. This is a great application for dynamic pricing, lower when the lot is empty and higher as it fills up. If one could pay to park with their ORCA card that’s even mo’ betta.

  11. The end of the ride free area has been terrible for me. I ride the 64 from 4th and University to Wedgwood. My trip in the afternoon used to be about 35 minutes. Now it’s 45 to 50 minutes. I’ve timed it and the part from the express lanes to Wedgwood is the same but it takes an extra 10 minutes to get from my downtown stop to the express lanes entrance on Pike.

    The problem is the extra time to load at 4th and University and then Westlake Park. Also the turn from 4th to Olive is a lot longer.

    I’m going to give it a few more weeks to settle down, but driving is looking better to me at this point. I can drive door to door in about 30 minutes. I was happy to pay the extra 5 minute penalty for the bus, but 15 is too much.

    1. I have yet to have a single trip that wasn’t made better by people getting off the back, and never having to push to the front to pay.

      I think those who lament the loss of the RFA must never have taken the bus up Capitol Hill. Each one-door stop was a recurring nightmare, and those buses never, ever, ever “loaded efficiently downtown” as the wistful claim the RFA allowed.

      1. Keep in mind that Metro predicted that ending the RFA adds 24 hours in increased boarding time every day. That includes the time savings from losing 7% of ridership, and greater Orca card integration. Cap Hill might have some savings, but in exchange for a greater cost elsewhere.

      2. Matt, that simply hasn’t come to pass. RFA boarding was NEVER as efficient as you seem to think, and current downtown conditions are by and large the same. Meanwhile, PAYSTTE was much worse for the majority of riders than it seems to have been for your particular distance traveled on the 2.

        You do your credibility a great disservice by insisting that one of the worst 40-year disasters of unscalable mass-transit brainfarting in the history of the universe was somehow effective.

        Also, what “ORCA integration”? The only thing that’s really causing unpredictability and backups in the afternoon rush is the continued insistence by many on cash-paying. That’s what really needs to go.

      3. Increased boarding time is negated by decreased offloading time outside the city, especally now that two doors can be used. Of course, metro has purchased coaches for generations that lack passenger activated rear doors, and on modern stock the rear door operation is even more contakerous with the use of “push buttons” rahther than a single motion on a handle. Metro should seriously look at converting their equipment that’s going to be around for a while to passenger activated rear doors.

      4. [MrZ] The 24 hours cited included a credit for decreased offloading time.

        [dp] I’m not surprised that your opinion differs estimates in a Metro study. We’ll just call it a difference of opinion, and hopefully someday we’ll have data to confirm one way or the other. I don’t think it’s fair to only include my experience with the 2 – I have frequently commuted on ten lines, and use several others on and off throughout the day. I think we could have solved the PAYSTTE issues without strongly slowing down both 3rd and the tunnel, and while keeping our RFA.

        “Orca integration” was a typo. The report includes “Orca card implementation”, which means they assumed 25% of users pay with Orca instead of the 2009 rate of 17%.

      5. On a purely anecdotal basis, we’ve gone from a system that misses literally every light while customers straggle to the front with their cash, to a system that generally makes pretty good time outside of known bottlenecks.

        I don’t believe those who drew up Metro’s impact estimates really commuted on the bus, or they would have known the hell that was PAYSTTE.

        This is one of those circumstances where the propensity of Metro staff, contractors, and policy-makers to avoid using their own system (for the last 40 years) yields garbage operational presumptions.

        What I don’t understand is why you continue to defend, pine for, and claim we could have “solved” a payment system that no quality transit system on the planet uses (for good reason).

      6. MrZ, the push buttons appeared during my last couple years driving. I vastly preferred them to the handle because they allowed me to control the front and back doors truly independently. A driver can position his hand so the fingers are on the front button and the heel on the rear button, and after using the buttons for awhile, it’s second nature.

    2. My Metro commute has also gone from good to bad with the route changes. Correction, make that really awful. The 306/312 route from Downtown heading north is locked on 4th and instead of getting on the Express lanes at Pike, we take a milk route on Olive and Howell. The congestion of those additional blocks has DOUBLED my commute time. I’ve always been an advocate for mass transit. And yet, that time lost is time I could be spending with my kids or any other worthy pursuit. Over my career lifetime, that’s just too much time wasted. With the fares up and the time up now as well, it makes more sense to just add a few more bucks to my commute and drive. I can only hope that Metro revisits the route changes. I can deal with the additional time the ride-free elimination would have added, but I can’t live with the time the reroute added.

  12. I feel like this discussion could benefit from someone knowledgeable (which I do not claim to be) doing some comparison with other cities. What I can offer is this anecdote. Back in 1999-2000, when I was still living on the East Coast in Nashua NH and working down in Boston, I would drive down to Alewife Station in Cambridge in order to catch the Red Line subway into Boston. Alewife Station has 2,733 parking stalls; at the time, the all-day parking rate was about $4, as I recall. I found that if I were not able to make it to the station by 8:30 AM, it would be too late to get a space, as it consistently filled up every single work day. I see that all-day parking is now at $7, and the one-way subway fare* is now $2.50 instead of $1, but I would be shocked if it were not still true that the Alewife Station garage is completely full before 9 AM every weekday. Of course, this is comparing subway-service access to bus-service access, but I would think there’s still some relevance to the discussion of whether park-and-ride garages ought to charge for the parking.

    *As a side note, I want to mention that Boston’s transit system, both back then and today, offered monthly passes that were less expensive than paying for each trip individually (and some offered unlimited use). Contrary to what John Bailo seems to be saying, if you want to encourage transit use, there should be a prepay option that offers a discount to the people who are using transit consistently and regularly; the people who only ride occasionally should pay full price (but not an extra premium as he suggests). Paying the low daily parking rate at Alewife and paying for a monthly subway pass was always clearly a better choice than the extra hassle of driving all the way into downtown Boston and paying the exorbitant daily/monthly parking rates there. But again, this is where our bus-heavy system is at a disadvantage, as bus travel is less reliable than rail/subway, so I’d guess fewer people would be willing to trade car use for the bus.

    1. Philip, those who use the MBTA’s smartcard — which is pretty much everyone — still enjoy a $2 subway fare or a $1.50 local bus fare.

      A monthly pass (bus + subway + inner harbor ferries + commuter rail in the urban zone) is still only $70, and a weekly pass exists at only $18.

      You get a hell of a lot more for much, much less than you pay in Seattle, where transit agencies refuse to do anything to encourage adoption of the efficiency-bolstering ORCA cards (save for asking “pretty please” in the fine print on a service advisory).

      1. Critically, CharlieCard costs nothing to purchase.

        The purchase cost of ORCA is a sort of “international worst practices” item, as documented before at this blog.

      2. It doesn’t hurt that those passengers would be wasting money hand over fist if they paid the non-smartcard surcharge every time.

        (Though, amazingly, the MBTA’s non-smartcard local bus fare is still lower than Seattle’s base fare, and even the non-smartcard subway fare is the same as the in-city Seattle peak bus fare. I diligently got my ORCA years ago, but have I ever saved a single dime as a result?)

    2. “But again, this is where our bus-heavy system is at a disadvantage, as bus travel is less reliable than rail/subway, so I’d guess fewer people would be willing to trade car use for the bus”

      Unreliable bus travel times, caused by sharing traffic lanes with SOVs and inadequate off bus payment systems, is a political choice, not an inherent disadvantage of buses.

      1. I think shared lanes *is* actually an inherent disadvantage of buses — if you’re making a system with no shared lanes at all, why then it’s cheaper to make it rail.

        (Of course it’s also an inherent advantage, looked at another way.)

  13. I would wager that a large number of lost rides are bums too lazy to walk the 2 blocks from Virginia to Pine Street. The bad news is that they appear to be filtering back with filched transfers. The free circulator is a total wash.

    1. As was 100% to be expected. But is the number of transfer leeches really increasing, or is it just the same people who have always had a pocketful of transfers?

      1. I directed one person at 3rd and James to the free circulatory when she asked for a free ride to Pine St. She left the bus and returned seconds later with a transfer. Its also becoming quickly apparent to the usual suspects that fare enforcement is only done on Rapid Ride, and even then only rarely.

      2. Others are quickly learning that fare evasion on standard route is now actually easier, as they can simply board through the rear door, then exit the same way without having to do a song and dance for the driver.

      3. You first. Then we get to see what YOU learn quickly. Like how that sort of thing can result in having the bus door kicked in, or a driver assault.

      4. I guess I just don’t understand why bus drivers in every other city on earth aren’t getting assaulted en masse, considering that they let passengers out the back while preventing interlopers from squeezing on all day, every day.

      5. Really, are our psychos that much more psychotic? Or are we just that much more averse to confrontation and to setting minimum standards of decorum and adherence to the social contract (without which cities fundamentally cease to function)?

      6. “Or are we just that much more averse to confrontation”

        Actually, from some stuff I’ve read, Seattle may cultural tend very strongly towards the passive-aggressive rather than “honest” confrontaion.

      7. Seattle also thinks that letting the lunatics conquer the transit system (and repel choice riders), and letting junkies strain the public health system with hundreds of EMT calls a day (rather than any preventative action whatsoever), makes them somehow “progressive”.

        All this does is give Americans of the Bailo ilk justification for their urban-phobia.

        Seattle is not what a “progressive” city looks like. It’s what a naval-gazing, self-centered city looks like.

      8. Maybe I have the wrong set of experiences, but I’ve never seen Seattle’s buses as more homeless-prone or fare-evader-prone than any other city I’ve visited. I’ve seen homeless sleeping on NYC subway cars, Chicago subway cars, and even NYC commuter trains. I’ve seen people jump over fare gates, open wheelchair gates to walk through, and board through the rear door for free.

        [dp] I honestly think it’s possible that people do board through rear doors illegally in other cities (I’ve seen it). Are bus drivers in other cities less afraid of confrontation? It’s certainly possible, though outside my experience. Except I know of at least one city in India that arms their bus drivers. That probably works pretty well.

        Of course, the concrete balls they hung over Indonesian trains didn’t work, nor did the oiling the roof, so now they’ve lowered electric lines. I have a feeling battling fare evasion is a bit tougher than you’re expecting.

      9. We don’t fear confrontation. We’re bound by policy to avoid it on risk of discipline, including unpaid suspension and even dismissal.

      10. Sorry, Beavis. I meant the agency, not the drivers. And I think it’s a reasonable policy. A missed fare is a lot cheaper than a hospital visit, or worse.

      11. Yep. d.p., if you think that entering through the back door to evade fare only happens in Seattle, you’re dreaming. It happens regularly everywhere I have ever ridden a bus. Bus drivers won’t slam doors in faces because bad things will happen to the drivers if there is an injury, even to a fare evader. Again, this isn’t just true in Seattle, but everywhere.

      12. Back to the point – the reduction of chronics on the bus as a result of ending the RFA appears to be a temporary phenomenon. As they discover that its now actually EASIER to ride free unchallenged, their numbers may actually rise to worse than before. Without system wide fare enforcement of some kind, the honeymoon is over. Get used to sitting next to Mr. (or Ms.) Stinky again, folks.

      13. David:

        Sure, it can happen anywhere. It is probably more likely on PAYE trolleys than on buses, as the multiple (and wider) rear doors are harder for drivers to police. Thus the grossly exaggerated media kerfuffle that led the outgoing MBTA GM to order the Green Line front-door-only. (Predictably terrible results; policy will be reversed by spring, I guarantee.)

        But you’re wrong to claim that it is equally rampant everywhere. I’ve been all over the western world, and I’ve never encountered another place where it is as accepted/expected/tolerated as here.

        When there is zero risk to fare evasion — not even an uncomfortable social chastisement or ostracism — and it becomes so commonplace that people start to feel like suckers for paying, then you’ll see the critical mass of evasion that we have here. This is neither inevitable nor widespread among other North American/European systems.

      14. D.p., you’re still not getting it. Drivers aren’t supposed to “police” the rear doors – or anything else. WE’RE NOT POLICE.

      15. Yes, I get it.

        Public servants in Seattle can’t be expected to go above or beyond the bare-minimum stated job description, aren’t smart enough to differentiate an easily-thwarted scofflaw from a genuine safety risk, or to give half a shit whether or not our transit system functions more poorly than any equivalent system anywhere.

        I get that. Happy?

      16. I rode Boston and DC buses on a daily bases. I’d say fare evasion was more common on both of those systems, especially DC’s, than on ours. People were more aggressive, and the passenger-operated rear doors (which you can hold open manually) easier to exploit.

        DC definitely has drivers that are more aggressive about starting fare confrontations, but that’s an unmitigated bad thing. It just leads to a lot of assaults both on and by drivers and doesn’t stop fare evasion in the least.

      17. d.p.,

        It’s not that Metro policy is silent on enforcement and driver’s aren’t taking initiative. Metro policy FORBIDS enforcement.

        I have trouble with condemning employees for not doing something they are specifically ordered not to do. There are lots of problems with the system one can chalk up to poor driver judgment, but this is not one of them.

      18. Fair enough. But drivers need to sit there like doofuses while people saunter in through the still-open back, because why?

        It’s not as if Seattle fare evaders are the least bit subtle or sneaky about it.

      19. In my past experience, most drivers will catch when people sneak on the back door and tell them to come up front and pay. One time on the 49, a couple of people who couldn’t pay held up the bus at Roy St for I think several minutes, begging the driver to let them stay, before eventually relenting.

        I don’t know if this is a Seattle thing or a general culture thing, but we seem to have a weird tendency to defer to the biggest weirdos and freaks, precisely out of fear of what they’ll do to us, judging by what Mom told me on the bus one time. We shouldn’t be planning for the weirdos and freaks to break the law, or there is something seriously wrong with the law. (Hint: there is.)

      20. If that’s what he’s saying, he’s wrong on both counts. At any rate, not taking the usual bait, and very much looking forward to his successful application to drive for King County Metro so he can show us all how it’s done.

    2. It’s a shame there is no real enforcement on buses when people sneak in the back door to get in free. I saw it on 3rd and Pike bus heading north.

      So given this situation that it’s “easy” to do, then all the cheats will continue to do it knowing there is no consequence… which is bad for all us fare-paying riders, no?

      I do think drivers should just close the door quickly once the last person gets off and if a free-loader tries to get on and confront the driver, why cant the driver say that the back door is exit only and entry is via front door? How can the free-loader rationalize/reason against that statement?

      1. Also, why can’t Metro get rid of paper transfers, just like CT and other transits have done?

        Saw a cheat flipping thru this stash of paper transfers and peering thru the window into the bus to see what the “color and letter of the day” is and then get on and quickly show his crumpled up “many-times-used” transfers…

  14. It’s important to remember that park and ride lots are not just for transit riders, but carpool and vanpool riders too. On weekends, my observation has been that at least half the cars at eastgate and issaquah transit centers are people carpooling into the mountains, rather than busing into downtown.

    This is something that should be encouraged, as it does get a large number of cars off the road, even if it’s not directly producing transit ridership.

    1. One of the problems ST has at the sounder stations is non Sounder/ST Express use of their P&R lots. At the Sounder stations from what i hear there is a lot of carpool and local business traffic parking there during the peak taking up needed capasity. I dont think it would be a stretch to ask for a nominal parking fee to help cover maintenace and on-site security at these facilities and keep some of the other interlopers out. That being said, many of these facilitys are over capasity anyway, and in the next Sound Transit package they need to fund more local feeder routes, and expansion of the parking in some way (satalite lots, expanded on-site parking, etc.

    2. Perhaps P&Rs at train stations should have a different policy than other P&Rs. Limit vanpooling to non-station P&Rs.

      1. A policy like this would screw over people who ride the vanpool, but don’t have cars. If there’s anywhere in the suburbs that’s going to have relative decent bus connections (at least during the peak), it’s going to be the train stations.

        Move the vanpools somewhere else, you effectively tell everyone who uses it that they are now suddenly required to buy a car just to meet the vanpool!

      2. And telling people who would be left without transportation for the 3-mile shuttle trip to meet the vanpool that takes them to work that they should just ride the regular bus instead is not reasonable. It is very common for a vanpool trip to be 2-3 times faster than the quickest bus/train alternative, if such an alternative even exists at all.

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