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The new joint ticket, to be printed beginning in June.

Following the lead of the Transit Riders Union, we’ve written a bit lately about the pain points introduced when disjointed interagency fare policies meet an evolving system in which Sound Transit plays an ever stronger role. With the ULink restructure incentivizing transfers between agencies at a greater clip than ever before, much noise has been made about the ineligibility of Metro’s human services bus tickets with Link. (See previous writing on this here and at The Stranger.)

The basic problem is that while Metro and Sound Transit both issue deeply-discounted tickets for their own services to human service agencies, those service agencies do still have to pay for them. Given that Sound Transit’s tickets are good only on Link, and Metro’s are valid systemwide, agencies strongly prefer to use their limited dollars on Metro’s tickets. In a network being progressively restructured to rely on Link, that’s an effective service cut for those who can’t pay any fare at all.

While we await the interagency policy alignments necessary to fix the problem – we’ve suggested free ORCA cards, broader Lift access, the elimination of paper transfers, and fare alignment between the agencies – yesterday Metro and Sound Transit announced an interim fix. The two agencies will keep the same programs and policies, but will simply issue a single joint ticket, perforated with two Metro 1-zone passes and a Link Day Pass.  Service agencies will pay $11 for a book of 10 combo tickets. The internal administrative burdens of these programs will remain, as will the disparate fare policies, but this step should serve the immediate need while long-term solutions are found.

Congratulations to TRU for effectively organizing movement on this issue. Their planned protest for Saturday will still be held, morphing into a celebration and call for long-term solutions.

30 Replies to “Metro, Sound Transit Agree to Short-Term Fix for Low-Income Link Access”

  1. Any chance of getting a joint ticket just like this to also be issued by Link machines for the rest of us?

    1. Probably not. The closest you’d get is the $8 ORCA Regional Day Pass (which doesn’t include the cost of the card). Technically that would be cheaper than a $6 Link day pass and $5.50 worth of Metro tickets.

  2. I hope the people who will be getting these joint tickets have to pay something for them. I hope they aren’t getting them for free.

    1. Realize this was trolling…
      However, the people with no money, no home, and no job are waiting in line, while the service provider fills out forms.

      If the provider happens to be share/wheel, the people using the tickets can be forced to give them back, or only receive them on the condition that they picket in the appropriate place.
      Does that count as paying, in time if not dollars?

      1. Not trolling. I really believe that handing out free bus tickets harms people more than it helps them. People value things more when they have to work for it, and working for something builds self-respect and self-esteem. Even if it’s just doing community service for an hour or two, picking up litter or sweeping the sidewalk. Require them to work for this benefit, like the rest of society has to. You do want them to rejoin the full-time workforce, don’t you? You may think me asking someone to work for a bus ticket book is heartless. Well, I think chaining someone to poverty is evil. And yes, giving someone 15 to 20 free or discounted benefits on the condition they stay poor is chaining someone to poverty. So yes, I hope they aren’t being handed these tickets for free.

      2. I actually think the opposite – transportation should be made even cheaper across the board. What would happen if Metro and ST decided to eliminate fares for all buses and trains? Sure they’d need to get the funding through other means. But to me, it seems this would greatly improve mobility around the region, both through higher ridership and lower traffic Torn between walking with your groceries for 1 mile, driving, or paying for an expensive bus ride (expensive for the distance)? That would become an easy choice. Would people value buses less if they were free? Or would they be valued even more?

      3. The tickets enable them to go to job interviews, troll. If they’re doing make-work jobs like litter control, `that’s time they can’t spend bettering themselves or looking for a job that pays more. In contrast, free bus tickets, housing, food, and medical care helps them better themselves and possibly climb out of poverty or at least benefit reliance if they’re capable. And litter control can more efficiently be performed by hiring people for longer-term positions, where more training, better equipment, and higher wages are more practical than in an “an hour or two” scenario. Some benefit recipients do actually work, but they’re still eligible for benefits because their wage is so low or their hours are so short or they have children to support. Others are disabled so they can’t work, and throwing them off benefits means they’d have to beg or starve. There’s also a large gap between the number of low-skilled jobs available and the cost of living (having a basic apartment, food, and your own transit fare). Do to changes in the nature of jobs and society, there are insufficient and a dwindling number of low-skilled jobs for all the applicants to have full-time work, and even if they have a low-wage job it doesn’t cover the basic costs of living.

        The idea of forcing everybody into jobs is itself coming under question. Jobs in the modern sense did not exist until the mid 1800s. Before that there were farmers who essentially produced their own food or engaged in a primitive coin-based trade, a few independent professionals (lawyers), patronage lackeys (artists), and rich people who didn’t work. The dwindling of unskilled jobs and their inability to cover the basic cost of living may be an inevitable result of technology and society evolving. If so, we may need to sever the dependency of a basic income on jobs. Or perhaps broaden the definition of jobs and working.

      4. The reason why buses have fares is that we, as a society, are not willing to pay for enough service, though tax dollars, to carry all the people that would ride the bus if it were free. So, we charge fares to ration bus service so demand is in line with the supply we are willing to provide. The fare revenue itself is also 25% of Metro’s revenue, which is not zero. Without fares or a corresponding increase in taxes, that would mean a 25% service cut.

        It is also not a given that the additional transit trips that would come from free fares would even come out of car trips. Many of these additional trips would simply replace walking trips for short distances, when a person walking happens to look over his/her shoulder and see a bus coming. Throw in a bunch of these sort of trips, and watch the speed of Metro’s buses grind to a crawl.

    2. Shocking but true: I actually agree with you, Sam. In my experience, people don’t value and respect what they get for free. There needs to be a nominal cost – even if its one dollar.

      1. We need to distinguish between those who can afford a dollar and those who can’t. Saying everybody can afford a dollar is like saying everybody can afford a $1.25 discount bus fare. For some people it’s easy, for others it’s difficult or impossible. ORCA LIFT was designed for people who can afford it; the free tickets are for people who can’t. If you just eliminate the tickets or equivalent, then either they can’t get around or they ride without paying. The latter causes inefficiencies for bus drivers and ticket inspectors, which cost everybody, and it’s not pleasant for them to be confronted either.

    3. Slow clap to Mike. Except one small problem. What you described doesn’t work. We’ve been trying it for decades, and it’s only led to more homelessness, more hunger and more poverty.

      1. Where’s the proof? There would have been more homelessness, hunger, and poverty without them.

      2. There is no proof.

        Poverty rates in this country were far higher before the Great Society (particularly in children and the elderly) and even more so prior to the New Deal.

        Current statistical analysis began in 1959; in the late 1950’s the poverty rate amongst all Americans was 22.3%; by 1973 that had declined to 11.1% (Great Society years). The rate remained more or less constant until 1980 (wonder what happened that year); by 1983 the rate had returned to 15.2%. Starting in 1993 (another change in power) the rate dropped again, back to 11.3% in 2000. It then rose again back to about 14.8%…see a common factor here? (Source – National Poverty Center, University of Michigan)

        His utopia lies in Mississippi. Go there and be happy.

      3. Say you’re popping popcorn. You pour a half cup of corn in the popper and it starts dropping into the bowl. Then there’s a knock at the door, you open it, and there’s your buddies Magnificent Sam and BRoss. So you pour another cup (two half cups) of corn into the popper. But now you’ve got a problem because the popped corn starts overflowing the bowl and falling all over the floor. You tell Magnificent Sam, “We should buy a larger bowl the next time we’re at the store.” Magnificent Sam protests, “No! That will just encourage more corn to jump into the larger bowl. We should just get rid of the bowl and then the corn will stay in the popper.”

      4. I’ll be awaiting Sam’s and Ed’s contributions to the expenses of this blog.

    4. I will be happy when Nobel Prize nominee Donald Trump is elected president, and makes American great again!

      1. Fully aware first-hand of the fact that titled aristocracy creates government by inbred idiots, by virtue of both inbreeding and intensive training, and senile tyrannical kings worked like puppets by advisors surpassed in evil only by Henry Kissinger…

        One reason our Country is already Great is that our Founding Fathers Constitutionally deprived our Presidents of the power to order their own dog not to wet on the rug. Rumor had it that Richard Nixon’s dog bit him when he exceeded his powers.

        Now, there is precedent for both parties to spend weeks in convention holding ballot after ballot until powerful warring factions both agree to nominate somebody neither of them likes, and nobody else has ever heard of.

        But sometimes with excellent results.

        Party chiefs decided that that hayseed Abraham Lincoln would be a good Last President of the United States when the South won the Civil War. James Garfield refused the nomination at the top of his lungs and got ruled out of order.

        Harry Truman was probably trying to go back to his haberdashery shop in Kansas City, and reclaim his old job as county clerk when luck gave out and Roosevelt died in the middle of World War II.

        But most of our Presidents were considered mediocrities in their own time, in and out of office. So while our Great country has survived worse, there is a chance that with Donald Trump’s predictable return to Entertainment, every single party in the country will deadlock.

        Still and all, nothing to fear from having you for President. Because condition of DC subways will confine the damage better than chaining you to a dungeon wall. Can I have a bumper sticker?


    5. Mike, a better analogy would be, I come to your door and demand, “Where’s my free food? I am a victim and entitled to things for free.” And because you want to boast at your next dinner party that you fed a homeless person, and out of a misguided sense of compassion, you give me some food. So I come back the next day and want some more free food. You feed me again. I tell you I want this to go on forever, and I will not pay you, nor will I do even one minute of work for the food you give me. You agree.

      Question. Which are you doing more of, helping me or hurting me?

    6. Truth is, Sam, they’re not getting them for free. In the name of giving recipients the deep-set understanding of transit necessary for effective ridership, the system requires that they log into STB before every trip, but only to view all your comments.

      The reason this is not generally known is that if the world knew, our Fare Inspectors would be recalled to reserve duty in the armed forces of several humanitarian countries (which all have great transit!), given blue UN helmets, and orders to take the ST Board and the King County Council to the Hague to be tried for Crimes against Humanity.

      The video didn’t show this, but Dutch police keep special blue bikes with handcuffs in that huge room under the train station for just these eventualities. Because, though there’s more denial about this than Global Warning….you’ve been cloned!

      Though even that weird Flying Saucer Believer show on late night KIRO “doesn’t-want-you-to-know” this one.


      1. There are a number of very liberal social democracies in northern Europe where fare enforcement is taken seriously with (what seems like) aggressive patrolling. As a very young and stupid American backpacker I learned this frequently. I certainly don’t think being a stickler for having a proper ticket is the last stop before Berlin circa 1930. Stockholm’s prosperity and liberty aren’t being threatened by its penchant for robust civility and enforced responsibility.

  3. Is there anything that prohibits someone from turning the Link ‘day’ pass into a ‘forever’ pass? I mean, erasable pens still exist (I think?) and it certainly wouldn’t take a genius to squeeze a lot more than one day out of a ‘fill in your own date’ pass. As long as the system isn’t overtly scammable, I don’t really care that much about the other details. All of the raggedy, faded and dog eared KCM transfers have made me despise paper fare products.

    1. I’ll do you one better, Felsen. Either my English minor has dug its way out of its grave or I’m more scared about the condition of our country than I’m letting on, but:

      A PCC streetcar was a Product! A 1951 Chevy was a Product! A 2015 Prius is a fine Product! Unfortunately made in Japan, because the United States of America doesn’t make Products anymore.

      Because like fraudulent mortgages, lending practices that would send the Godfather to confession, and everything in world-scale finance that’s really a bet: Transit Fare Arrangements Are Not Products!

      Thanks for calling attention to this.


      1. M.Dublin – A transit fare system isn’t a product (although, if someone designs a system, doesn’t that become a product of their efforts?), but the actual ticket thingy is definitely a product. Unless they just blink into existence, but even then I guess it would still be a sort of heavenly product. Somebody has to make the paper, design the ticket, and then print it out (or zap it into existence). Obviously, it’s not as technically sophisticated as a Prius, but the idea -> design -> manufacture process is conceptually the same.

        My critique of this particular ‘product’ is for the middle phase. Just design it to be less prone to fraud than a KCM transfer, please.

    2. I offered a solution to the fill-in-your-own-date-pass, Felsen: Passes that are printed with the month and year, and very distinguishable from other months.

  4. Was going to offer my opinion that the amount of time our transit agencies are continuing to waste on a matter like this indicates that neither of them should be allowed to run equipment by Lionel.

    Which, if it still exists, doubtless presently gives five year old LINK riders just back from going “Wheeeee!” all the way from Tukwila International to Rainier Beach some firsthand experience with a controller without Automatic Train Control.

    However, one good thing about everything being made in China, including Lionel trains if they still exist. And that’s fact that since, like our every consumer item, locomotives are made out of plastic, a precision steel and copper locomotive the size and weight of a brick will never again pulverize a living room coffee table.

    Meanwhile, thanks, guys, for temporary fix on the fares. Now, ST and KCM, back to getting the DSTT a flow-rate that wouldn’t embarrass Water Quality by backing up anybody’s toilet. But rest of us aren’t in very good shape either.

    Because for chosen subject of our comments tonight Monty Python’s mad hotel keeper Basil Fawlty of “Fawlty Towers” said it all:

    “This is EXACTLY the way Nazi Germany got started!”


    1. The buses are the only vehicles that hold up traffic in the DSTT, and since this particular kerfuffle only involved the Link portion of things (which, also, has no physical fare barrier), I’m not sure that its impacts could perceivably impede the downtown subway. The bus component (and delays) would have functioned just the same.

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