Recently, a friend send me an excerpt of Metro’s rules for fare collection and enforcement for Rapid E:

E Line Fare Rules

I have some free advice for Metro management: this is insane, and the complexity and confusion it will create for your staff and passengers, and the discouragement from using ORCA, will vastly outweigh the whatever paltry benefit the zone fares could provide.

Here’s what’s actually going to happen in the real world:

  1. Virtually everyone with an ORCA card will pay whatever fare happens to be associated with whatever reader they tap.
  2. After a few weeks (or less) of flailing, fare enforcers and drivers will stop wasting their time trying to enforce these unworkable rules and just check that everyone (a) has paid something and (b) isn’t lighting up joints or drinking 40s in the back of the bus. (Let’s be real here, this is Aurora).

Real leadership from Metro would involve management acknowledging this reality, telling the King County Council that the current zone system is archaic and unworkable in this context, and that the council needs to do one of three things as part of the E Line deployment: abolish the zone fare system, make an exception for the E Line, or fund a truly smart transit card system complete system of off-board readers that can handle tap-on and tap-off seamlessly.

UPDATE: Clarified the “truly smart transit card system” remark. ORCA itself can handle tap-on tap-off, Metro’s deployment of it can’t. Apologies for the error. — Bruce

91 Replies to “RapidRide E’s Fare Rules are Insane”

    1. Because RapidRide doesn’t have fare readers at every stop, because it’s not actually BRT. It’s a marketing gimmick to get the Feds to pay for shiny red buses.

      1. Maybe next Halloween we can spray-paint all the buses red, and then those poor passengers won’t be able to tell which ones are RapidRide.

  1. They should work on trying to program a tap-on, tap-off system for the long term, and exempt E-line riders from 2-zone fares until that system is ready. What they have is just stupid. Maybe They could have two buttons on the orca reader that you press after tapping your card, one for one zone and one for two zone? Practically every other single solution they could have made for solving this is better than the one they actually chose.

    1. Excellent question, Lloyd. Normally a skilled 4,000+ member pressure group would have more to say about public policy, especially to counter decisions that make their own work-lives harder for no reason.

      My belief is that this condition results from a mentality originating in English music-hall comedy in the nineteenth century when standard plot was smart clever workers relieving their hard lives by laughing at stupid orders from a boss whose father used him for a wastebasket. With frequent quips like “I’m all right, Jack!” Also see Monty Python.

      In the modern world of apps and YouTube, resulting inefficiency no longer generates entertainment value to cover its costs. However, said technology also enables passengers to go from bored audience to dramatic participants by sending real-time video of lameness-induced consequences to both Metro management and ATU Local 587. And their own elected representatives.

      Personal favorite is results of forcing Tunnel passengers to use bus fareboxes at rush hour. Kicker is when viewer finds out video is not slow motion. Also bet that somewhere in South Lake Union, somebody is already creating a new blockbuster called “Grand Theft of Time Transit!”

      Shortly available from Amazon.


  2. An exception to zonal fares on RapidRide routes just makes sense. Enforcement is definitely nonsensical. +1 to Bruce!

  3. Even tap-on tap-off is too complicated. One route, one fare, paid either at an ORCA reader before boarding or at the bus’s ORCA reader upon boarding. RR E operates as a local route and should be charged accordingly.

    1. +1

      I like this. It would be worth it even if the fare for the whole route had to be a little higher.

    2. If every single stop had offboard payment, THEN tap-on-tap-off would actually work. Of course, RapidRide was downgraded so much that this isn’t the case…

      1. I lived in DC for five years. Hated tap-on tap-off. Hated it again when I moved back here and started riding Link every day. It’s probably a necessary evil in as sprawling and suburban-oriented a system as the DC Metro, but there’s not a single bus route in Seattle that couldn’t use a single fare (either a local fare or a higher long-distance express fare) and work just fine.

  4. THIS MUST BE CHANGED! Just make RapidRide E one zone and be done with it. This is a trunk route that we want people to use, so make it one zone. Two-zone fares have always been grossly unfair for Shoreline, where the furthest point is only three miles from the zone boundary, and the average is probably half that. It’s not like they’re riding from Issaquah or Auburn! Just declare that all RapidRide services are one zone. Does Metro really need the Council’s permission to do this? If people start switching to it from surrounding routes to avoid the two-zone fare, then Metro can reduce service on those routes and save some money.

    1. And, during the peak, nobody who knows what they’re doing is going to be riding the E-line all the way from downtown to Shoreline anyway – they will be taking the must-faster 301 or 304. Which means the people who will be riding the E-line to Shoreline are the ones that aren’tgoing all the way from downtown, which is yet more reason not to charge Shoreline people for 2-zones on the E-line.

      This convoluted fare scheme is nothing but bureaucracy taken to the extreme. I am truly speechless.

  5. Is there any actual reason, aside from history, to keep Shoreline in the suburban zone? Perhaps it could be moved to the Seattle zone to avoid this problem.

    1. Not that I know of, but opening that can of worms is probably harder than just chucking out the whole fare system and starting from scratch, which would almost certainly yield a better result.

      1. Interestingly enough, under the old zone plan Shoreline was the same zone as Lake City. 105th was the dividing line.

        The Seattle city limit is kind of an arbitrary boundary.

      2. Yes, it is. But in defense of whoever wrote the excerpt in the article; it is probably worth noting that the project was to come up with a plan to collect the current fares. It was not to come up with a better fare system to allow for efficient fare collection. The latter is what we all want.

    2. Shoreline Park and Ride is slightly over 12 miles from my office in the middle of downtown. That’s further than Eastgate P&R, Bellevue Park and Ride, and Mercer Village at the the South end of Mercer Island. It’s not meaningfully closer than Microsoft. Mercer isalnd P&R to the International district on a 216 is probably about 5 miles. I’m hard pressed seeing a gross inequity here.

      1. There is no inequity as you state it. The only issue is the problem of collecting the correct fare from each person.

        If I am downtown and heading to Eastgate or South Mercer Island or Microsoft, the vast majority of the people getting on the bus are going for a 2-zone ride. nobody* on the 216 is making a 1-zone ride, thus, there is no existing problem. Just collect the 2-zone fare automatically, and there are only a few riders to deal with who aren’t crossing the zone line..

        The 358/RR-E is a different problem. A good many of the people getting on the bus are not going 2-zones away, and thus we have a problem of sorting out each one to pay the correct fare on the Orca card.

        The current system is fair, but in this day and age of getting people on and off faster and of more modern fare payment, it is more difficult to collect than it is worth.

      2. @cascadia: I was responding specifically to Mike Orr’s statement “Two-zone fares have always been grossly unfair for Shoreline”. I entirely agree that Metro’s suggested policy is ill-advised, counter-productive and impractical.

      3. The fare boundary is mostly unfair to people that routinely make short trips that cross it during peak hours. Shoreline is served by a few peak-only express routes to downtown Seattle, so during the hours zone fares are in effect most 358 riders from Shoreline are probably making shorter intermediate trips because the people going all the way to/from downtown are on the 301 (which even has a few counter-peak trips).

  6. Could this be an impetus to get on with fare reforms? Cash $3 all day anywhere, no paper transfers?
    ORCA $2.50 all day anywhere with 150 minutes of transfer???

    1. It’s unconscionable is what it is, to scare people with $124 tickets over a tiny three-mile segment. Not to mention that it violates the spirit and efficiency of off-board payment, which is why we installed RapidRide in the first place, and we eventually want to install systemwide, and we want passengers to get accustomed to it.

    2. I completely agree that the fare system must be made simpler. It is absolutely not worth the administrative hassle to deal with zonal fares just to get 50 extra cents during peak time (and it’s not even fair either: it’s one zone to get from downtown to 130th St, but two zones from 130th to 155th!?!?). I would definitely advocate getting rid of different peak/offpeak and the zonal fares just to make remembering and administering fares much easier, especially for people who don’t ride transit regularly.

      However, I disagree that paper transfers should be eliminated. It’s completely unreasonable to charge $6 for a single short one-way trip that simply requires a trip. Yes, you could get an ORCA, but new/occasional riders will probably not be carrying one around before they board a bus for the first time, and having to pay $6 for a short one-way trip will probably turn them off from transit permanently. As Jarrett Walker argues, making a connection is a geometrical necessity, not a premium service, and it makes no sense for a fare system to differentiate between trips that happen to require a transfer and trips that happen to be on a one-seat-ride. Charging extra for connections is absolutely the wrong way to encourage ORCA usage, as having a fare system that makes ANY distinction between trips with a connection and trips without a connection is completely antithetical to the goal of developing an integrated transit network useful for a wide range of trips (not just ones that happen to have one bus connecting them).

      1. Sorry, typo in the second sentence of the second paragraph: “It’s completely unreasonable to charge $6 for a single short one-way trip that simply requires a CONNECTION.” (not “trip”)

      2. The whole fare system between ST & MT should be simplified and integrated. Make it $2.50 for all in-county fares all the time with a $6 daypass. Or if you must have a peak surcharge, then charge it on both ST & MT so the fares are the same either way. Include Link in the identical structure.

  7. The zone system is stupid. We should add a surcharge on all routes that aren’t a part of the all-day network and get rid of these asinine zones.

    1. Agreed. Minneapolis does this. Express buses have are 50-75 cents higher than local buses and light rail.

    2. I emailed Kevin Desmond about this. He told me that Metro is currently working on preparing a report about fare increases in 2015, and that they will be exploring many options, including a premium fare for certain express services. If you think this would be a good idea (as I do), please email him to show your support.

      1. It seems like a reasonable idea, as long as it is appllied reasonably fairly.

        I’d be happiest with some sort of objective measure—probably something along the lines of any bus that operates during the peak and has at least one pair of consecutive scheduled stops seperated by more than a mile and a half. Litmus test: if the rule doesn’t (without cheating) consider the 202 an express, it’s not the right rule.

        I think there’s still value to peak vs off-peak fares to try to shape traffic onto the shoulders.

        There might also be at a need (at least politically) for zonal fares if, as was proposed a while back, plan B involves some Seattle imposed taxation.

      2. I think there’s still value to peak vs off-peak fares to try to shape traffic onto the shoulders.

        I don’t think it’s worth the complexity cost. It would be one thing if the fare was dynamic, like the tolls on 520 or SFPark. But the way it is, people can go for months thinking that the bus costs $2.25, and then suddenly get blindsided when they accidentally take a peak-hour bus.

        The other thing is that, during rush hour, buses are competing with cars. It’s more important to get peak-hour SOV drivers into buses than it is to get peak-hour bus riders to move their trips to the off-peak. So, in that regard, peak fares arguably hurt as much as they would help.

        There might also be at a need (at least politically) for zonal fares if, as was proposed a while back, plan B involves some Seattle imposed taxation.

        There are very few buses that provide local service in the city *and* meaningful local service in the suburbs. And where they exist — like the 358/E — it’s clear that zones add a ton of complexity for very little benefit.

        If Seattle chooses to tax itself to buy more bus service, then we’ll just make sure to use that money to pay for the bus lines that matter most for in-city connectivity, especially buses like the 5 and 40 (which Metro is proposing to reduce to 20-minute base frequency). I don’t see why we would need a fare differential.

      3. I’d be happiest with some sort of objective measure—probably something along the lines of any bus that operates during the peak and has at least one pair of consecutive scheduled stops seperated by more than a mile and a half. Litmus test: if the rule doesn’t (without cheating) consider the 202 an express, it’s not the right rule.

        I assume that by “operates during the peak”, you mean “operates *only* during the peak”. Otherwise, you risk including buses like the 41, which have a long nonstop segment, but are clearly part of the all-day frequent network.

        Something that was pointed out to me on another thread is that several of the express buses that Metro runs, like the 15X, actually save money compared to not running them. Without the 15X, you would need a greater capital investment (more RapidRide buses), *and* you would need more service hours to make a bunch of useless stops along 15th W and in Lower Queen Anne. (I say useless, because clearly the current riders of the 15X are not looking to use those stops.) So you need a rule which excludes buses like these. Similarly, you need a rule which excludes buses like the 510/511/513, since the 512 isn’t even available during peak hours.

        I think a good rule would be:

        1. It runs only during peak hours.
        2. It serves a trip that is not part of the all-day network.

        So the 202 and 205 would count, because there is no all-day service between that part of Mercer Island and either downtown Seattle or the U-District. Similarly, the 17X would count, because there is no all-day service between 32nd Ave and downtown. But the 212 would not, because it effectively replaces part of the 554 at that time. Likewise for the 15X (D), 18X (40), 510/511/513 (512), etc.

      4. As far as routes that provide local service across a fare boundary go, don’t all Shoreline/LFP all-day routes fall in that category? Not to mention a significant number of routes to the south… 106, 120, 124, 131, 132 (all roughly similar patterns to the 358, especially the 120 with its section on the West Seattle bridge), 128 (a pattern sort of like the 372)… The eastside is the exception, since the only way to Seattle is the freeway; portions of the 255 and 271 within Seattle are mostly just collector/distributor, not core local service, and the rest of the routes I can think of are either peak-only or ST.

      5. I agree with the general point that for any of the north/south-end routes mentioned, zones clearly make no sense. These are local routes, there’s no point trying to get an extra 50 cents out of someone that rides the 132 from Burien all the way downtown anyway.

        As for the 512… the idea that the 512 should have the same fare as the 8 seems crazy to me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ST’s core network having higher fares than Metro’s (or ST’s core network generally implementing zone-based fares, since they tend to have long express sections and carry few local passengers). Yeah, maybe it takes just as long (and causes just as much bus wear) to get from the Center to 23rd as it does to ride all the way to Lynnwood, but it seems like a bit of a screwjob to say, “Your bus is painfully slow… and it’s expensive.”

      6. The peak surcharge already ensnares riders well beyond the shoulders. That one can be charged the extra fare when headed into town at 2:45 PM, or dinged when leaving Ballard for Northgate after 6:30 (on a bus that is invariably late) proves that the peak/off-peak system has nothing to do with demand management.

        Moreover, it is profoundly offensive that one is forced to pay the surcharge on reverse-peak routes with zero frequency bump, no lane advantages, and some of the slowest rides and worst reliability in the entire transit network.

        The differential peak fare on core urban services needs to die. It is a failed policy, and one whose justifications are tissue-paper-flimsy next to the global best practices of differential fares for cash payment, for designated commuter express buses, and for commuter rail. Pursue those.

      7. […And clearly I should hit “refresh” before posting a comment I started writing prior to cooking dinner.]

        Aleks, I don’t have the slightest problem with charging an “express fare” for the 15X, 18X, 17X, 28X, etc. These are faster services, patronized almost exclusively by a specific type of commuting demographic. Their riders hew to their schedules because they value (nay, demand) a faster ride, and might not even use transit in their absence.

        After years of getting docked the surcharge for overcrowded counter-peak 18/17/40 trips that stop at every single stop and spend fifteen minutes on traffic-logged detours, I would be more than thrilled to spend the surcharge only when headed in the direction where the express ride was actually available to me.

        Of course, the 15X shouldn’t charge the same fare as an express to Issaquah. Thus an inner express/outer express fare structure, which remains far simpler to manage than one with multiple fare-zones on one route.

      8. d.p.,

        I would happily pay a premium fare to ride on the 15X as well. However, think about it from Metro’s perspective. Let’s say that 50% of current 15X riders decide to switch to RapidRide to avoid the fare increase. This means that Metro will have to run extra buses during peak, to make sure that people don’t get left behind. This means that Metro will have to buy extra RapidRide buses. It also means that the bus will make a time-consuming deviation to Lower Queen Anne, and that it will make a lot of stops between Ballard and downtown which cumulatively serve about 1-2% of the bus’s ridership.

        (Consider that Metro originally killed the 55, but then brought it back, as a way of providing extra peak capacity to the Junction without buying extra red buses.)

        In other words, it’s possible that this change will actually cost Metro money. This flies in the face of the usual argument to charge a premium fare for express services, which is that express services are more expensive to run.

    3. LA also has surcharges on certain routes that use the freeway or are express in nature. Fares should be based on class and frequency of service, not distance. Although I’d make an exception for Sounder.

  8. [Everyone] isn’t lighting up joints or drinking 40s in the back of the bus. (Let’s be real here, this is Aurora).

    That’s what makes the 358 such an adventure. I was on that bus once with two people playing guitar, another on harmonica while others clapped and sang with a joint getting passed around.

    It was like the 1960s but grimier

  9. Weird! Is the ride from downtown to Aurora Village longer than that from downtown to Westwood Village? Don’t think ST would have come up with something irrational and impractional than this.

  10. This is yet another reason why trains work better. Multiple zone fare is too complicated for new riders to figure out.

      1. Sorry, I just never liked zones. I am fine with riding buses, really, but the zones just make things frustrating.

        I shouldn’t have to give special orders when getting on the bus and touching my card. This should be idiot proof.

        Most people just want to push their card and be done with it (so they can play with their cellphones or sleep for a few minutes on the way to work).

    1. Also, the bulk of the riders have passes and, in theory shouldn’t have to think about zones. Although, it does beg the question? Could somebody with a monthly pass that covers the $2.50 2-zone peak fare still theoretically get a ticket for forgetting to use the manual override when they tap on?

      1. Well, just like you can’t ticket every driver on the freeway for going 61 mph in a 60 mph zone, you can’t realistically ticket half the people on the bus for forgetting to use the manual 2-zone override.

    2. There are plenty of train systems in the world that have zones. Of course they’re all much, much larger than Seattle. London, Paris, Barcelona…

      1. Perth has 9 zones (or did)…they are a decent bit smaller than Seattle; in fact their transit system was laid out in a similar radial fashion to the service here, with most trains, ferries and buses going to the CBD.

  11. I’ve seen buses in other countries have much more standardized payment systems where you know exactly what you are going to pay when you get on because the price is listed when you get on the bus for your stop.. (they also didn’t require exact change.. a machine did all of the work for you).

    Why does our system have to be such a pain to use?

    Especially for orca card owners… that was supposed to be a big part of these cards… no hassles when you get on the bus. Now I have to know when I get on a bus whether or not I want two zones… what if I change my mind and want to go further? Do I need to march to the front of the bus again and ask to pay more? This is just silly.

  12. They lost me at “will need to request a manual fare override”. That’s just ridiculous. Maybe they can hire an employee for every stop to stand there and explain what you’re supposed to do to everyone who comes to the stop. I know for a fact that no one but no one is going to take the time to read this document or even attempt to follow it.

    This is my bus too. I should just move to Mexico City, where they know how to do things.

    1. +1

      Most people are getting on the bus do not want to think about the fare at all. They may be tired from a long day at work or from not getting enough sleep and having to *ask* to pay more or get a fine is a stupid as for people in that state. Will most people remember? Probably… will they always remember? No.

      This is particularly bad for attracting the supposed new riders that rapid ride will bring. New users are going to have enough trouble figuring out which stop to get off at let alone some new crazy payment system. Imagine people getting fined or getting warnings from fare police on their first ride. The won’t be coming back…

      Other countries have this figured out, what is so hard about making the payment system simple for users?

      1. correction:

        … is stupid for people in that state.

        and really, its stupid for people in just about any state of mind. Paying fare should be a quick simple transaction or you are going to get long lines out the door of the bus.

        Have fun making that “rapid”.

  13. This is a joke. Sounds like another botched RapidRide launch on the way. Why put so much effort in to speeding things up when the payment system is going to just slow the whole thing down again.

    Speaking of which all the busses that go through multiple zones are consistently charging people incorrectly because either people don’t bother asking the driver to fix it or the driver doesn’t bother setting it to two zones. Not to mention routes that start in one zone, change to a new route and then travel through two zones.

  14. So what exactly is the problem here? This new fare system is only slightly more complicated than the rules of fizzbin, and for your money you get to ride on a nice red bus.

  15. I think simplifying the fare structure such that only commuter routes are charged extra would be a good move. The additional fare paid should mean that you get to your destination faster….right? Not with Metro. They seem stuck with their two zone peak format, so that those who ride the commuter buses (those that operate peak only) get to reap the benefit while not paying anything extra for it.

  16. We recently returned from a trip to Boston and Washington, DC. The Boston subway is single zone, no matter how far one goes, Easy. And with a Charlie Card, transfers to bus is free. Heavy rail is zoned, and conductors on the trains monitor fares.

    WA DC is another matter. Fare zones are all over the place, and there are numerous different systems in the surrounding counties each with its own fares and payment system. The subway controls fares by controlling exits. If your fare card is short, you don’t get out of the station, Sort of like Charlie on the (old) MTA. And if you don’t have a plastic card like our ORCA, each ride is an extra buck. Piles up quickly. Fares to destinations are posted in each station, so you should be able to figure it out unless you are trying plan a round trip with extra fares for paper tickets and there is a line behind you. Uff Da!!

    1. Zones are fine if you have checks at both entrances and exits. Especially if there are actual gates to go through. This isn’t complicated. The Metro system outlined on that paper IS complicated, and is written in such impenetrable bureaucratese that even smart people are going to wander away confused.

    2. BART has the distance-based system with in/out stiles also.
      Don’t think many riders today are familiar with Charlie and the MTA (or the Kingston Trio, for that matter). Too bad…

  17. Orca was already a big discouragement as it is… Many US cities are switching to these pathetic card systems is already insane. You have to get a personal assistant to control how much is left on a card. If it’s not enough and you need to get on a bus what do you do?! This is fine for employee passes with unlimited money on on the card, but for the rest of the people its a mess that no one wants to deal with… ain’t nobody got time for this, seriously… it’s not like buses are so great here. A bunch of mentally ill people, slow and not even directional routes… everything requires transfer, different transit systems with different fares… and did i mention the obnoxious passengers? it’s like metro is our new mental health agency… who got time for this crap! at the end of the day the car is still cheaper and more convenient here… unless you are rich and can afford to waste so much time on this psychotic dream… or you are rich and can live close to work. ORCA pretty much was the deal breaker for me… so long psycho infested METRO and all the other stupid transit systems that are switching to cards.

    1. Huh???? set the card for autofill and be done with it. It allows reasonable granularity, so I don’t really think you even have to give Metro an unreasonable float, and it works in real time.. Now the Good To Go Pass, I agree… only fills up twice a month, and sometimes, for unknowable reasons, not even then.

    2. Smart cards are awesome, and have had a huge impact in reducing travel time. What gets in the way is poorly-thought-through political correctness that blocks implemention of best practices (such as refusing to implement a cash surcharge to disincentivize change fumbling), as well as Metro’s uniquely-high $5 card fee (compared to $2 or less — most often free — for any other bus smart card in the country, after rebates).

      Four years into the ten-year ORCA contract, and we’re still a year away from a report to consider starting to implement some best practices.

      1. Oyster is UKP 5, although admittedly that’s, at least in principle, a deposit rather than a charge, so ORCA is hardly unique in having high cost of entry. Oyster adoption has been fairly good — I suppose charging a full pound as a cash surcharge (and remember, there are no transfers on TFL buses) on bus fares, and capping daily expenses at just over three journeys for card users helps.

  18. I’m not sure if I’m reading this wrong, but it sounds like the on-bus ORCA reader, on outbound peak trips, will default to 1-zone even though most 1-zone passengers can pay off-board, then will automatically switch to 2-zone when it enters Shoreline… exactly when no 2-zone trips are possible anymore, so drivers have to undo the computer’s stupid behavior. YAY TECHNOLOGY. YAY POLICY.

    1. It’s almost as if they’ve forgotten that there is no more RFA, and we still have to pay as we exit on outbound buses.

  19. For the love of crap…why can’t we all just tap on-tap off? Put a freakin’ ORCA reader at each door so for those stops that don’t have a reader, you tap off when you get off the bus. How hard is that for Metro to figure out? Tap on before you board at the stops that have the pre-board readers and tap off at stops that do. If you’re not sure, then you tap off when you get off the bus. Easier overall, and for the people that forget to tap off, well, you probably will only forget once or twice. I mean, sheesh…I do it all the time whenever I go to Singapore; tap on-tap off for the buses; for the MRT, you tap on to go thru the stiles and tap off to go thru the stiles at your destination. You know, it really isn’t that difficult.

    But what Metro is proposing, makes it difficult for people to figure out how to pay. AND they actually expect people to stop, push or button or two then tap on. Then wait to figure out if they got charged the correct amount, all the while, the line of people behind me are getting drenched in the rain and cold wind–all because I want to make sure I didn’t get charged $.50 too much!

    1. A tap-on-tap-off system, combined with readers at every door on the bus makes it really easy to avoid tapping at all until you see a fare inspector. I also don’t like it because, unless you have actual faregates to go through when you exit, it is very easy to forget to tap off, like people do with Link all the time.

      For RapidRide, tap-on-tap-off is too complicated. Seattle to Shoreline is not that far. Just charge one single fare and be done with it.

      1. Again, people in other cities/other systems do a tap on-tap off with no problems. I think it is better to have an overall fare structure (zones? distance-based?) instead of something that has more and more exceptions. And, if you forget to tap off, it will only be one time–you won’t make the same mistake twice!

      2. They do it in systems with fare gates. We don’t even have ORCA readers at half the RR stops. Are you gonna force everyone to tap the reader as they get off the bus? We just got rid of the queues caused by Pay-As-You-Shove-To-The-Exit—let’s not bring them back!

    2. Part of the problem is that we don’t have a reader at each stop. But I suppose it would be heading off-topic to suggest that if a stop were so lightly used as to not make it cost effective to install a reader to tap off at, then perhaps it shouldn’t be a stop in the first place.

      But, frankly, we have this issue in place already. People get on-board Downtown and get off at 130 and Aurora all day (including the peak times). And (presumably) are being charged a two-zone fare, unless they ask. Or, the other way around. It is only an issue now because we are pretending to be running a BRT system soon.

  20. Advice to Metro:

    1. Ditch the peak/off-peak differential. Seriously. Minneapolis is the only other city I know that wastes their time with this….

    2. If you decide to have zones, have them all day. Zones are good. Consider more of them as long as there’s some consistency.

    3. Tap-on/tap-off for ORCA makes the most sense if you have zones.

    4. Establish a 50 cent shuttle from Pioneer Square to the Westlake Center area to replace the old RFA.

    5. Just say no to express fares. Use zones instead for long trips.

    1. As noted in my previous note, WA DC has zoned fares. It also has peak/non-peak fares to add to the hassled of determining how much to load onto a paper ticket. Great fun. Fares are measured to the nearest dime. Uff da!

      1. The DC Metro, however, has convenient machines which will explain everything to you. Out-of-towners never even try to use the buses in DC.

    2. Zones are harder to use than express fares and only marginally fairer. I disagree with your prescription, at least as applied to Seattle; I’d rather see a single local fare and then an express fare that applies to certain bus routes.

    1. To be more precise, ORCA card users are always charged the off-peak rate. Cash users (including anyone paying cash with an RRFP or youth card) are always charged the peak rate.

  21. Interesting no one mentioned the bigger issue with RapidRide fares: RapidRide is actually more complicated than other routes because fare payment is DIFFERENT AFTER 7 PM. No off-board payment after 7 because Metro doesn’t want to pay for fare enforcement officers. Talk about pennywise and pound foolish.

    1. Nobody seems to want to bring up how overwhelmingly *white* the fare enforcement patrols are. I appreciate that ST has cracked down on contractors’ ability to engage in discriminatory hiring and discipline, but are there really no people of color applying to be fare enforcement officers? I haven’t noticed much difference in composition with Metro’s patrols.

  22. Looks like one way to easy Metro’s budget issues. Just start hard-line enforcement at key locations. Paid for only one zone? $124. A single busload of 99% of people doing it wrong =~ $12,400. Thank you for keeping the wheels turning, and I recommend reading the rules next time.

    1. I like it. And the best part is when all these people switch to driving, we are left with a low-performing route that can be easily cut, saving more money. Continue the cycle, repeat on all routes and, eventually, Metro’s operating expenses get reduced to zero, leaving us in a wonderful state where funding lasts forever and service cuts impossible. Sounds great!

  23. Proposed rapid ride e service is too costly. Recommend more limited bus service on aurora with fewer stops.

    Rapid ride should run:

    weekdays 7am to 7pm every 30 minutes
    Saturdays 9am to 5pm every 60 minutes

    No holiday service, including veterans day, election day, flag day, day after thanksgiving, day after Christmas.

    Limited service last two weeks of December, buses running every 95 minute during this period. And service ending nightly at 4pm.

  24. Excellent post.

    I’m with Mike Orr and others: how about just eliminating the two-zone system and make the fare system simpler for those last 60 blocks??? Maybe we should all send emails to that effect to Kevin Desmond.

    I’d even be okay with slightly-higher fares for “Rapid Ride,” but only if the ride was noticeably shorter, which it won’t be on “the red 358.”

    Re: William Aitken’s point, and answering Al Dimond’s question. I can ride a #342 from Shoreline to Renton (via I-405, 30+ miles) for a one-zone fare. However, to ride the #358 from Shoreline to 130th, way shorter, a total of 1 to 4 miles, is a two-zone fare.

    I’ve taken a #301 for one zone, and have had the driver change it. One time, they forgot to take the time to change it back. Is the time the driver takes – and the delay in getting everybody boarded (while the bus idles) – really worth it? Another time, I boarded a #358 within Shoreline, tapped, then as I went to my seat, recalled seeing that it was still set at “two zone,” even though it was considerably after the morning peak. I’ll bet that most riders don’t notice these issues. Counts are flawed, and some charges are.

    One would think that peak/off-peak could be triggered by the time in their system. If so, I’d keep that aspect.

  25. Oops, I missed my other points.

    At least a couple of decades ago, Metro put in a small fare differential for seniors, non-working seniors migrated to off-peak rather than needlessly clogging peak-hour buses. Mid-day appointments were suddenly filled.

    I’d be okay with having different fares for “express” buses where local buses are also available (example: the #301 where a #358 overlaps the north end of it, both going to/from downtown Seattle) and truer “BRT” buses than RapidRide is, e.g. Swift. Thanks, Aleks, for suggesting that we email Kevin Desmond about fares.

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