55 Replies to “Day-Pass Trial Starts Today”

  1. Nice to see it finally happening, but $9 (plus $5 if you don’t have an ORCA card – which most visitors don’t) seems really steep. In LA, the day pass is $5 and a TAP card is just $1. Something is wrong geeez

    1. I replaced cabs with buses when I come visit Seattle for business or pleasure unless it’s an emergency errand. $9 for all-day sounds fair compared to cabs and on some of my trips walking in the elements.

      Granted, I like getting my light rail fix most trips so I can reload my card at a light rail station if I have to, but the lack of hassle that an all-day pass creates is much appreciated. Buy once – say at Everett Station heading south or SeaTac Airport once I get off the Airporter – and all day, all good-to-go.

  2. I hope that hotels will buy a bunch of cards and offer them to their guests, with the expectation that the card is returned. Then they could at least be re-used and the tourists wouldn’t have to pay that extra $5 unless they didn’t return it. Although kind of problematic if you want to use it to get to the airport.

      1. “a $5 deposit on the card seems to make more sense to me than a $5 fee.”

        People have been saying this for years, and the ORCA consortium hasn’t listened.

  3. Full time transit rider. Whenever travelling, a day pass, if available, is my first fare product choice.
    No need to worry about having sufficient cash for day’s travel especially when multiple
    transit agencies with different fares involved. In San Diego, a Regional Plus day pass which
    includes rides on the Coaster commuter rail is $12 plus $2 for a re-usable Compass card.

  4. Meh. I’m out of town for a portion of this month, so I don’t have my usual monthly pass.

    While it takes effort and careful planning to keep a single day’s usage fees at $4.50 — including (hypocrite alert!) paying with cash some evenings — it would take a monumental effort to spend more than $7 or $7.25 in a day.

    $9 is ridiculous.

    1. I’ve done a few day trips in the Seattle area where I spent $12 or so in transit fare. A lot of those were trips that involved going across multiple agencies or use of the King County Water Taxi, and then getting hit twice on the same trip because of the pay-when-leaving policy Metro used to have. Throw in a ferry trip (which of course isn’t part of the day ticket deal) stuff adds up.

      Not too many tourists are really going to do that type of traveling though. A King County Metro + Link day ticket at a cheaper price would probably be more popular.

      1. Well, it’s galling that the water taxi now has a $4 ORCA fare, and it’s even more galling if that’s a significant part of the rationale for the day-pass price.

        Do these people not have the slightest idea what “functional part of a transportation network” means?

      2. In fairness, the Water Taxi (unlike Sounder, the 590s, or CT commuter service) is actually something that tourists are reasonably likely to ride.

      3. That’s not fairness. That’s missing the point.

        If the Water Taxi is supposed to both integrate into the 50-hobbled North West Seattle transit network and draw pedestrians to the Alki Coast without cars, then charging a double fare even for ORCA-acquiring passengers is not the way to do it.

        San Francisco’s 1-day pass is expensive on the expectation that essentially every purchaser is going to ride a cable car. (The 3- and 7-day passes, less so.) The Water Taxi’s general appeal is not quite so ubiquitous. If the combination of a broken fare structure and a stupid approach to deriving the day-pass price leads to an illogical outcome, then fix your fare structure and your pass price derivation so that it makes sense!!

        What part of “if your outcome sucks then you need to fix your inputs” is so fracking hard for Seattle transit people to understand?

  5. I think the $9 price is probably inflated by Sounder’s higher cost structure. It’s still cheaper than TransLink’s day pass, though.

    I agree that the $5 purchase price just for the card is ridiculous, though. If we can’t lower that, it would at least be better to credit the $5 back as fare value. I’d also be curious to know what’s the deal with the disposable ORCA– I was under the impression they were looking at various prototypes for that.

    1. Even that isn’t true.

      Translink’s is $8.88 according to a literal currency conversion, but closer to US$7 in terms of real purchasing power for those who earn their income in Canadian dollars.

      Nevertheless, Translink’s day pass is similarly useless to anyone whose daily travel needs are within zones 1 and 2, and reflects the same cluelessness as our leaders thinking Seattle visitors wish to take Sounder to Kent.

      At least the Translink day pass allows those in the know to avoid the YVR Skytrain surcharge. Other than that, it’s equally dumb.

  6. I love the idea of hotels dispensing ORCA cards to guests. “Travel like a local; don’t be a cash-fumbling yokel! Take home a souvenir you can use the next time you’re in the Emerald City for only $5!”

    However, the day pass, at $9 (or $14), seems useful only on a day that your travel group wants to visit Nintendo (are they visitable?) or the Microsoft Visitor Center or Din Tai Fung (Bellevue) and go somewhere in Seattle in the evening. Otherwise, it seems more economical just to pay per fare / call a cab, for larger groups.

      1. Cabs,etc, are easier for small groups, which tourists are commonly in. $14×4 is $56 and you still have to figure out the routes/schedules. Not much of an incentive.

  7. They also need to be piloting multi-day all day passes such as 3 day and 7 day passes.

  8. The $9 day pass is fair if you are a transfer agency (i.e., you offer transfers) but is excessive if you are a no-transfer agency. Cities like Los Angeles and San Diego mentioned previously are no-transfer agencies. If you take two buses, even if it is a one way, you have to pay the base fare twice or use a day pass. For transfer agencies $9 is a reasonable cost. Philly sets the pass at $8, Chicago at $10, Atlanta at $9, Boston at $11, and San Francisco at $15 (although that is tied to the cable car fare). There are occasional transfer agencies that also have low day pass costs (Houston at $3, Miami at $5.65, Dallas and Portland at $5) but for the majority of the big transfer agencies, day passes target a particular market.

    I recently did a fare study of the top 50 metro areas at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AhsTEPUS3lEqdGE1em8wMU44c3JBQUNHTlF6VFdzYmc&usp=sharing and the most glaring thing missing is the lack of any short term pass product, be it daily or weekly. Out of the top 50 metros Seattle shares this dubious distinction with Cincinnati and Richmond, VA.

    Charging 10% of the equivalent monthly product is on the high side for a day pass but not excessive. There does need to be a weekly or seven day product, at around 30-40% of the monthly product, and the monthly product needs to be converted to a 30 or 31 day pass like most other cities that has a smart card pass.

    Now, there should be a way to issue fare cards for less than $5, which is excessive in this day and age. $2 is more the norm even for permanent smart cards, as in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago. Cubic makes flimsy limited use smart cards and they could sell them for an even $10 from fare machines. That $10 would be a competitive price for tourists.

    1. The fact that we have a 2+ hour transfer for each fare paid is why no reasonable person is going to save money on a $9 day pass, unless that person’s aim is to literally have their butt on a transit vehicle all day. (And that’s no reasonable person’s aim.)

      As I have noted many times, most of the above agencies offer 3-day or 7-day passes at significant discounts. And in some cases, the 1-day pass is strictly vestigial. A 7-day all-encompassing MBTA pass is $18. They probably haven’t sold a 1-day in years.

      1. I finally see your gripe. Which I counter with this:

        a) Better tourists who’d otherwise be paying for cabs help subsidize Metro for locals :-).
        b) The 2+ hour transfer is ridiculous. Make it 1.5 hour, that’s it.

      2. Tourists may be spendthrift, but they’re not stupid.

        They’re either going to keep taking cabs, or keep wasting everyone’s time with cash-n-questions.

      3. Depends a lot on the situation though.

        I gladly paid for a day ticket on the Underground when I got stuck at Heathrow for 14 hours. I probably could have gotten away cheaper with two one-way fares, but after the bizarre ticket purchasing process* to which I was subjected, as well as foreign transaction fees, it was better to just buy a day ticket and not worry about stuff.

        Some travelers (remember: It’s not just tourists that come to Seattle, but also quite a lot of business travelers) will seek out the best deal possible, while others will gladly be cheated out of whatever money they have. If you think that this factor is unimportant, I’m willing to relieve you of an unimportant portion of the income that the SODO stadiums get from the car rental fee at the SeaTac airport. Very, very few travelers to Seattle seem to realize how much cheaper it is to rent a car everywhere else – a factor that is funding your stadiums.

        * = The TVMs at the airport at that time only accepted British coins, not bills or cards. I had to wait in line at the ATM next to the TVM to obtain British pounds with my card, then go wait in line at the “ticket window” (which didn’t sell normal tickets due to the TVM being there) to change it to coins, which I could then use in the TVM (after waiting in line a third time). I’ve been told this process at Heathrow has now been drastically improved. Very very much worth the time and money to get a brief London experience, but the most broken ticket buying process I have ever seen at a major international airport.

      4. AvGeekJoe, 2 hours for a transfer is the industry norm. Only San Francisco has 90 minute transfers on their smart card. Now, I could support you if you eliminated paper transfers – but then you would need to drop the price of the smart card.

    2. Los Angeles the fee is a buck unless purchasing at a 3rd party retailer. Then it is $2. Must be loaded with pass or fare.

    3. San Diego’s day pass is the cost of two rides. They intend the day pass to be the *primary* form of fare medium used. It does make fare-checking simple, and San Diego Trolley is a Proof of Payment system.

      1. In fact, San Diego’s cash value implementation of the Compass Card is such that they deduct the cost of a day pass automatically unless otherwise noted. Which seems very unsmart but there you go. But again, San Diego and Los Angeles are day pass agencies, not transfer agencies.

      2. I think it would be great if Seattle went in that direction: No transfers at all, but a daypass (ORCA only) at two fares, could be two of the highest incounty fares, ie. $6, implemented by capping the amount deducted from the ORCA at $6/day.

      1. But the San Francisco CityPass includes a 7 day SFMTA pass. It also costs more than the Seattle version.

  9. When I get off the train in Portland I am able to purchase a day pass with a credit card from the vending machine at the nearby bus/tram stop. Seems so much simpler than purchasing/loading an ORCA card, especially for one-time visitors. Why isn’t something like that available here from the ORCA vending machines?

    1. I would also point out that in Portland, you can buy that same day ticket from any TriMet bus as the buses have ticket printers in them now. It’s $5, so unlike the days when that same day ticket was $4, the cash transaction for selling one is usually pretty quick as most people who buy them with cash on a bus use a $5 bill. These days, it seems like cash transactions in the evening are far less common than they were in the days before the severe alteration of the fare structure, and the rationalization of the day ticket price.

      1. Come to think of it, I have also been able to buy a day pass from the bus driver in San Francisco, Marin County, and Lake Tahoe. A very simple transaction.

  10. Every time I go to Los Angeles I always get a day pass for $5 on my TAP card. I can even get them on the bus. Insert $5 and tap the card or get a new card with a day pass. It pays for itself after 4 boardings ($1.50/boarding). LA Metro has currently no free transfers.

    However, they are proposing to allow free 90 minute transfers along with a fare increase. They are pricing the day pass at 4 times the base fare. Eventually the fare will rise to $2.25 and the day pass will be $9. The 7 day pass will be ~14x base fare, so $32.

    Will I still be buying a day pass at that rate? Definitely. The last thing I want to do on a vacation is fumbling with cash (or getting cash and change) or worrying about having enough value on the card versus just tapping and riding and not thinking about it.

    One problem I see with ORCA’s implementation is that there’s no 7-day pass. Think of it as an upsell. People staying for 3 days might buy a 7-day pass instead (like I do when I went to several east coast cities) because it’s a better deal than the day pass. The agencies get more money too.

    1. Oran,

      I agree with you about getting the Day passes when I travel. When my wife and I go to San Francisco, one of the first things we do is get the transit passes. Sure, we’re tourists so of course we’re going to ride the cable cars. But, being in a downtown hotel, we also take the BART to places, and the regular busses or trolleys to Golden Gate Park or to the waterfront. Last year, we visited Los Angeles and were pleasantly surprised to see they also offer the passes, which we used to ride the subway from downtown to Universal City, Hollywood and just to see what Union Station looked like. In Portland, we also get the pass, whether we arrive by plane or train. Now, if we were traveling to, say, Helena Montana, yeah, we’d rent a car once we arrived. Basically, if we’re going to explore a city, we want public transit to be our mode, but if we’re exploring a region, then we’ll rent a car. We haven’t been to New York or DC, but we’d expect to ride public transit wherever we’d want to go.

    2. I’d just put the same $9 on the card’s e-purse. Any number of changes could happen to my plans that would find me spending only $4.50 or $6.75. The worst case scenario is that I wind up spending the same $9 by day’s end. The chance of spending more is vanishingly slim.

      It should also be noted that $9 in 2020 is not quite the same as $9 today. And indeed, for the next three years, LA’s day pass will remain a far more palatable $7.

      The fact is that the Puget Sound day pass price has nothing to do with an algorithm derived from actual expected usage, and everything to do with interagency bullshit and the decision to include Sounder and Community Transit commuter buses that absolutely no short-term visitors would have any intention of using. It’s stupid and counterproductive and yet another colorful failure-feather to stick in Seattle’s transit hat.

      1. What would have been the proper Puget Pass price to set it at, though? $3.00? That would probably lead you to a $7 day pass, but people would still gripe about the cost. At a $4.00 PugetPass price point, it would also allow you to take the West Seattle Water Taxi and ST Express, which does have some utility for visitors to Tacoma (not that there is much to do there, but the inferiorirty complex requires that it be treated as an equal). The real issue in my mind is the cost of the ORCA card itself which is not driving adoption amongst the occasional rider population, in addition to visitors. Lowering it to $2 will help the perception that there is a fee for nothing.

      2. Reasons I won’t pay $9+$5 for a day pass in Seattle versus LA:

        Pass or e-purse, you still have to pay $5 for the card which is a broader obstacle to faster boarding. Other cities like LA charge only $1 for the card. Other agencies waive the card fee if you order online and register it.

        Unlike LA, much of the popular tourist destinations are fairly concentrated in the central area so three 2 hour transfers ought to cover much of transit fees. If they really wanted to cover those commuter services they should’ve did what San Diego did: offer a cheaper urban/local-oriented pass and an expensive regional pass.

      3. Oran’s San Diego example is a good one: A reasonable inner-ring unlimited pass, a more expensive regional unlimited pass. Of course, Seattle doesn’t know its ass from its elbow when it comes to differential fare value: it’s appalling that Tacoma costs only $1 more than the Central District (and that the trip takes not all that much longer).

        Calwatch, the face value means nothing. It’s totally arbitrary, and if the associated agencies wished to see a day pass succeed, they could easily decide to include or exclude various services based on the relevance to the potential user rather than the often stupidly-determined set fare. Sounder is irrelevant to the gallivanting tourist; the West Seattle Water Taxi is highly appealing. So fucking figure out how to exclude the former and include the latter!

        Until your comment, I had no idea the ORCA fare for the Water Taxi had crept up to $4. What the hell is wrong with these agencies? The whole point of the Water Taxi was to ease the rush-hour strain on West Seattle Bridge buses, and to offer an appealing foot-access option for visitors to the Alki strip (even more vital with the peak-izing of the 56 and the oft-hourly unreliability of the 50). I can understand a heft cash fare for the occasional user, but a $4 ORCA ding ensures that very few will make a regular habit of taking the boat, and that it will remain isolated from the rest of the transportation system.

        Haven’t these idiots ever heard of a functional integrated transport network!? My god! Reduce the boat fare to $3 w/ORCA, make the day pass $6.75 or $7, exclude irrelevant services entirely, consider offering a TVM-printed version to short-term visitors, and offer a useful fucking product to people for once!

      4. The day pass shouldn’t be limited to tourists. There are plenty of people – residents, taxpayers and voters – living in King County who can’t justify a monthly pass, but might want a daypass, for example on a day headed into Seattle to shop or for appointments. Especially with elimination of the RFA. They don’t give a hoot about the water taxi, and one or more of their fares will be $2.25 offpeak. Anything above $7 makes the daypass basically useless for King County residents.

        How about some products for people who live here, vote her, and pay taxes here but don’t/can’t use transit to work?

  11. $9 sounds high, but it also sounds about right. I used to occasionally buy an all day ticket for Sounder and it was $9.50, because that is what $4.75 (the longest trip on Sounder) was x2. By comparison, Tri-Met’s all-day ticket is a mere $5, but that is what two 2-hour tickets cost, so it works out to a pretty sweet deal. However, for an out-of town tourist who does not understand the fare structures here, which are pretty complicated, $14 for a day of transit seems a bit steep on the surface, no matter how much more the taxi cabs are.

    I think an optimum price for an All-Day pass would be about $7,

    1. Sydney and Newcastle are 100 miles apart.

      The purpose of this program is to allow the purchaser to make one of a handful of significant intercity trips without having to worry about paying additional fares to additional agencies for any local buses, trains, or ferries they might need at either end.

      Compare this to taking Amtrak to Bellingham, plus additional Metro and Whatcom fares at both ends. It’s actually quite a steal.

      But it has nothing to do with the all-day urban access that a daily transit pass is supposed to enable. Just as our $9-14 ORCA boondoggle has nothing to do with the all-day urban access that a daily transit pass is supposed to enable.

  12. We’ll see how long it takes for someone to buy a day pass, accidentally double-tap when boarding the train, and then get a warning or citation.

    I suppose, if ST is clever, it would set the day pass to “pass back” for all double-taps on Link, and certain stations on Sounder, depending on the farepayer category. From a fare evasion standpoint, there really is no reason to “cancel” a day pass ride (unless its value might exceed $4), nor to “tap off” at the same station where someone started (unless the rider might be charged an additional amount out of e-purse). Nor is it to ST’s advantage, from a revenue standpoint, to allow “cancel” on Link, or on Sounder when the fare can’t exceed $4.

    The same analysis goes for monthly passes sufficient to cover all Link rides or all Sounder rides. If ST is warning and citing monthly passholders because it doesn’t want to lose revenue, why not just not allow “cancel”, and “tap off” at the same station, when the rider would get no additional charge from failing to cancel or tap off?

    ST ought to go out of its way to accept as much revenue as possible from passholders without cheating them out of rebates or dishonoring their passes.

  13. $14 for a freaking day pass? Looks like I will be using Car2Go the next time I take the train up with my wife. I’ve purchased day passes in over a dozen European cities, and have yet to see one that tops $10 a day. Nice work, Seattle.

    1. The daily Oyster PAYG cap for adults is no less than UKP 7, that’s more than $10. Vistor Oysters are UKP3 (non-refundable), but I don’t see why you couldn’t get an ordinary one for a UKP 5 deposit.

      1. The Sydney daily cap is AUD 15 (about $14); however, they have a Sunday cap at AUD 2.50 and I think if 8 trips are taken in a week, everything following that is free (sounds a bit weird as it basically is a 20% discount for commuters, but I’ll bet it incentivizes the hell out of choosing to get the new Opal card). Fares are discounted as well. Their card readers also look a lot easier to view information on (balance etc.). I can’t find any information as to how much the actual card costs, however.

  14. That $14 includes the purchase of the ORCA card itself, which you could use on future trips.

    I got one back when they were being mailed out free of charge.

  15. Another option competing with the regional day pass is the Link (and Sounder) day pass, priced at 2x one-way fare, which Sound Transit has been selling from the beginning (and functioned as a de facto regional day pass until ORCA launched). As Link expands, why would someone using only Link spend $9 for something they can get for $5.50 or $6?

    1. If Link keeps its ground-distance-based formula, the cost of the longest trip will go up.

      1. But unlike the regional day pass, you can buy a Link day pass only good between the stations you want, say Beacon Hill-UW vs Northgate-SeaTac, which can be much cheaper.

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