The Sound Transit Board of Directors is scheduled to take action on systemwide fare changes next month, raising all non-free fares $0.25, and creating a low-income fare, matching the youth fare.
However, the fare-revenue projections in the recently-released 2015 Draft Service Implementation Plan show a dip in fare revenue next year, even with the increase. (p.103)
The resulting ST Express fares, if the proposal goes through, would be $2.75 for 1-county trips and $3.75 for multi-county trips. It would be a simple matter to raise the cash fare to an even $3 for 1-county trips and $4 for multi-county trips. If it helps push riders to pay by tapping ORCA, then that would be wonderful for the rest of the riders already doing their part. If riders insist on paying with cash, at least most of them would be just shoving in dollar bills, instead of fishing for bills, then fishing for change.
If these fares seem high, consider that they are still less than or equal to what Community Transit is charging for its express routes, in all payer categories.
Charging more for cash fares than ORCA fares is not taboo. King County Ferries has been doing it for years. The low-income fare is ORCA-product-only, which means a de facto cash surcharge for low-income riders of $1.25 on 1-county ST Express trips and $1 on multi-county ST Express trips, if the Board approves staff’s fare proposal.
Given that most ST Express riders are already using ORCA, the reaction to tacking on an extra 25-cent cash surcharge for regular-fare payers would likely be something like this:
Okay, Sound Transit wouldn’t actually be banning the nuisance of cash fumbling, but hopefully the effect of a 25-cent cash surcharge would be almost as good, and not leave anyone stranded if they lose their ORCA card.