ACTION ALERT: Fare Integrate the Seattle Center Monorail

The 10 year concession agreement for operation of the Seattle Center Monorail will be discussed at this Tuesday’s meeting of the Seattle City Council Parks, Center, Libraries and Equity Committee. Thanks to commenter Ricky for pointing out this opportunity to comment on monorail operations. The City has already received a Request for Proposal from the current operator, Seattle Monorail Services, which basically continues the status quo.  If you are unable to attend the Council Committee meeting on Tuesday, December 2nd at 9:30 a.m in the Seattle City Council Chambers, you may send comments to the Seattle City Council members on the committee: Jean Godden, Bruce Harrell, Tom Rasmussen and Kshama Sawant (alternate).

The Seattle Center Monorail is a publicly-owned asset operated for private profit (of which the City receives a cut). The monorail does not accept Orca cards or Puget passes; it is cash only. Due to these fare policies it is generally ignored by local residents and workers. An amendment to the legislation authorizing the concession agreement could require that the private operator install payment readers for Orca cards and accept Puget Passes, similar to the City-owned Seattle Streetcar. As a revenue offset, cash fares could be raised significantly (San Francisco charges a $6 cash fare for cable cars). The Seattle DOT budget could be used to offset any remaining revenue loss due to accepting passes, just as it is used to subsidize streetcar operations. The table below summarizes the dissimilar fare policies of the monorail and the Seattle Streetcar, also owned by the City of Seattle.

Seattle Center Monorail

Seattle Streetcar

Regular Cash Fare

$2.25

$2.50

Youth Cash Fare

$1.00 (age 5 – 12)

$1.25 (age 6 – 17)

Senior/Disabled Cash Fare

$1.00

$0.75

Orca Readers

No

Yes

Accept Puget Pass

No ($45/month pass available)

Yes

The monorail is Seattle’s most underappreciated grade-separated rail asset. It travels between Westlake Center to the Seattle Center grounds in 2 minutes at 10 minute frequencies, all day and evening long. Yet tens of thousands of residents daily ride the myriad of surface buses between downtown and Mercer Street, taking at least 10 and occasionally as much as 30 minutes to traverse this short distance. Why? One big reason is the lack of fare integration. Monorail fare integration is a transit best practice that would greatly improve mobility in the area.