SounderBruce (Flickr)

In a public process starting today and running through May 5, Metro is asking for public feedback on two fare overhaul proposals. There is a new survey up here, and a final proposal will be taken up by the King County Council later this summer.

The overhaul comes after 4,000 survey responses and 2 meetings with a 19-member Advisory Group. Whereas currently there is a complicated 3-layered fare structure – a base fare of $2.50, a peak fare of $2.75, and a peak fare of $3.25 for trips crossing the Seattle city limits – the new proposal would significantly simplify things:

  • Option A: a flat fare of $2.75 for any Metro route, anywhere, anytime
  • Option B: a flat fare of $2.50 during off-peak periods, and a flat fare of $3.00 during peak

So no matter the outcome, Metro will do away with zoned fares, and any surcharges will be based upon time rather than distance or geography. Metro will also not consider pricing based on class of service, where peak expresses would be priced differently than the all-day network.

Metro estimates both revenue gains and modest ridership losses from either alternative. The $2.75 flat fare would reduce ridership by an estimated 400,000 annually, while the $2.50/$3.00 structure of Option B would reduce ridership by just 200,000. While this may seem like a lot, it’s worth noting that it’s less than 1 day’s worth of Metro ridership, or 0.1-0.2% of the total. Revenue gains are estimated  at between $3.5-$4m annually, again quite modest in the context of Metro’s overall budget.

How can Metro make more money from fewer riders? In Option A 33% of riders would pay $0.25 more, while 7% of riders would pay $0.50 less. In Option B, 30% of riders pay $0.25 more, while 7% of riders pay $0.25 less. The increased revenue from current Seattle or intra-suburban riders pays for the cut to current city-to-suburb fares.

Any simplification is welcome in reducing customer ‘friction’ and creating a more legible system for riders. But simplification also magnifies tradeoffs, and these proposals are no exception. Option A ($2.75 flat fare) would further increase the price for off-peak urban trips by 10%, while reducing peak suburban express trip fares by 15%. Urban riders may feel that this further incentivizes long commutes, sprawl, and Metro’s most expensive services. A rider from Black Diamond to Seattle would pay the same as someone riding from Belltown to Pike Place Market.

On the other hand, Option B would be closer to status quo for short trips, with the same price off-peak, a 9% fare increase for peak urban trips, and an 8% reduction for peak suburban trips.

Both options would still align awkwardly with Sound Transit’s fares, though the outcome would be much better than the status quo. A flat fare of $2.75 would match Sound Transit’s one-county fare, which would finally align fares between agencies for routes across Lake Washington and from Seattle to Federal Way. Retaining a peak surcharge would make Metro more competitive with Link during off-peak hours, yet make it even more uncompetitive during peak. Metro also notes that peak pricing complicates the implementation of the ORCA Next Generation project.

Please take the survey and let Metro know what you think. There will also be two public meetings on the proposal:

65 Replies to “Metro Proposes Doing Away with Zoned Fares”

  1. B

    There are lots of routes overcrowded-at-peak, below capacity after routes. I recognize the number of trips that are not time-sensitive and taken by people with that kind of price-sensitivity are relatively few, but even just shifting a few trips from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM could help with overcrowding and improve efficiency and rider comfort at the margins.

    1. I would rather Metro work on securing more buses and handling demand versus pricing people out with peak rates. The people who would overcrowd a bus because it’s a quarter or 50 cents less still exist, they don’t just disappear in a vacuum when you raise rates.

      1. The question is whether Metro can effectively add service in the peak. It seems to be difficult and expensive: higher costs for more buses, challenges to recruit and train more part-time drivers, and limited capacity on 3rd Avenue which handles many of the most crowded routes. Because of those higher costs, I don’t think a peak fare is unwarranted, although I do like the simplicity of a single amount.

        3rd in particular is struggling to handle the current numbers of peak hour buses, especially in the evening. Even the slightest hiccup causes block after block of stopped buses.

      2. The One Center City project is assuming Third Avenue is at its maximum bus capacity. More buses would just bunch or get bogged down. That’s why Metro is moving toward more north-south RapidRide lines to replace the current spaghetti, because that means fewer buses total downtown while giving full-time frequency to more areas and improving transfer conditions outside downtown.and getting non-RR routes out of downtown,

        Metro couldn’t find enough drivers for recent service changes and had to silently cancel runs here and there to match the available drivers. I don’t know if it has fully caught up yet.

      3. The people who would overcrowd a bus because it’s a quarter or 50 cents less still exist, they don’t just disappear in a vacuum when you raise rates.

        OK but my Metro’s own estimates, B chases away half as many riders as A does. That’s because some trips aren’t time sensitive, so holding the line for normal fare might just a) retain some of those riders, and b) nudge them to ride when the system has capacity to spare, not when the system is pressed to the limits.

        I also prefer B because I hate any more fare increases. Inflation-adjusted fares have basically doubled in two decades, just as every other damn thing in this city has also gotten more expensive. Stop it. The $2.50 base fare should stick around for while if at all possible.

      4. It’s amazing how we don’t learn from some of the best transit systems in the world and continue to make mistakes and headaches. The more I watch Sound Transit, Metro, etc, the more I wish we had someone with a clue running these orgs. Eliminating peak-time fares is a no-brainer.

        The first question that needs to be asked is, “Why do we charge more for peak-hour travel?” There are really only two answers.
        – 1) Make more money
        – 2) Try to discourage overcrowding

        #1 – If that’s the goal of the organization, then yes, it makes sense to have peak-hour rates. But I’m guessing they won’t admit that they are out to make more money.

        #2 – If this is the goal, then that’s not the best way to encourage use of public transit. “Let’s try to get people to use more transit to get cars of the road by charging them more when they need to use the system the most…” If the goal of the Transit organization is to not increase ridership, then peak-hour price hikes makes sense.

        Even if someone talks about the higher cost of providing peak-hour service, I’m not sure I buy that either. You actually are at a time when your capacity is actually being used. By charging the same rate as non-peak hours mean that you will actually be covering more of the operating costs than non-peak hours, even with more vehicles in operation. If you strictly look at cost, then you should really charge the non-peak hour riders more because the cost per rider goes up (fewer passengers per bus).

  2. Metro needs to edit its press release, to wit, “We used this feedback to develop two new fare options. We tried to balance several goals: simplify our fare structure, increase ridership, improve safety, decrease travel time, reflect the cost of service, and reduce barriers to using transit for vulnerable populations.”

    “increase ridership” should read “minimize ridership loss”.

  3. It would be nice if Sound Transit would just do the same with Link so that Link charges the same flat in-county fare as will Metro and Sound Transit bus, so that the fares will be mode-neutral and people can use the most convenient routing without facing price differences.

    The notion that lowering the suburban peak fare encourages sprawl is mainly a specious argument. Those people will be paying with longer commute times and generally much less frequent and accessible bus service. Saving 25c or 50c of bus fare isn’t going to make a difference. More applicable is the people going from Bellevue to UW on MT 271 won’t be paying 50c more than people going from Bellevue to downtown Seattle on ST 550 or from West Seattle to UW.

    1. This. Sprawl development is more a function of the highway system than the bus system. We’re not talking NYC, Chicago, or DC which have extensive suburban/exurban commuter rail systems.

      1. The highway system and the zoning, but you’re correct. Improved (or reduced-cost) long-haul transit service is unlikely to incentivize sprawl. What it will do is incentive mode shift among the people whose current car trips emit the most GHGs.

    2. Also, with the suburbanization of poverty, the person sitting on a bus for an hour to get to work is becoming more likely to be a low income service worker commuting into a job center from somewhere with cheaper housing.

      1. Hmmm, I would like to see the data on that. My guess is folks riding a bus from Auburn to Seattle, for example, are way more likely to be working in an office (and making decent money) than those who live and work in Auburn, or take a bus from Rainier Valley.

    3. In general it makes sense to charge more for longer bus service, just because it is more costly. The main reason that ST continues to charge more is because unlike Metro, the bulk of the runs that cross the border are long distance routes. Very few people actually ride it a short distance while crossing a fare border.

      It is different with Metro, both because the border is different (city versus county) and because they have a lot of non-express routes that cross the border. For example, the 372 goes from Bothell to the U-District. If you ride from Lake City to Lake Forest Park, you pay a two zone fare. If you go from Lake City to the U-District, you pay one zone. This is hardly fair, as both distances are roughly the same, and cost Metro about the same amount. There are also lots of people who go across the border but are traveling a short distance. It is also very complicated. If you take an outbound bus from the UW, there is no way to tell where the person is getting off.

      Since ST doesn’t charge when you cross the city line, a similar bus (the 522) doesn’t have the same problem. It only occurs with buses that cross the county line, like the 590, which goes from Tacoma to Seattle. Very rarely does someone ride between the counties a short distance on these bus routes. Thus very few people are getting a bad deal.

      1. This also gets to be an issue with ORCA, as the card reader may nail you for a 2 zone fair when you are staying in one.

        I had this happen to me on a 348 when in Shoreline.

  4. Some principles for deciding:

    1. Low fares for deserving folks are more important than high fares for undeserving folks. It’s like housing or healthcare: ensuring a decent minimum for everybody is more critical than preventing a few theoretical welfare queens from exploiting loopholes. We need to look at the poor schlob who’s commuting to three minimum-wage jobs off-peak, and not be distracted by the few rich people commuting to a 9-5 power job from North Bend at a possibly too-low fare.

    2. A flat-fare system is is simpler, but the cities that have a high-frequency flat-fare network (New York, Chicago, San Francisco) have a smaller city-only service area.

    3. Peak-hour service does cost more to operate because of congestion and capacity.

    4. Short-distance trips are usually a luxury (because walking is an easy option), but that’s not the case for going to the top of Queen Anne or Capitol Hill or Phinney Ridge.

    5. The long-term network will be different from the current one. Metro will take over the all-day Federal Way-downtown expresses, and add new all-day expresses to Burien, Auburn-Snoqualmie, and Issaquah-Sammamish, etc. What should the fares for these be?

    It’s hard for me to decide between options A and B. A is a transit best-practice (a more usable total network). But the extra peak runs and reliability hedging do have real costs, and it’s worth incentivizing off-peak travel slightly. The biggest thing is to get rid of the fare zones, which are unfair to those who live near the boundaries or whose closest urban village is on the other side (e.g., Delridge and Highland Park to White Center, Skyway to Rainier Beach). Just doing that would be a significant accomplishment.

      1. All ST’s planning scenarios in 2015 had all south end routes truncated at Kent – Des Moines, which we can assume now means Federal Way in 2024. ST has not publicly committed to this yet, but none of the scenarios have a Federal Way – downtown route. Metro’s long-range plan has a Federal Way – downtown express route, so it looks like the successor to the 577/578. So it looks like Metro thinks the 577 is going away and it is replacing it.

    1. With regards to item 5, I think that is where the “any surcharges will be based upon time rather than distance or geography”, comes in. A Federal Way to downtown express is likely to take a while, especially if it happens to dead head on the way back (and you count that part). Maybe I’m interpreting things favorably, but I see this as being an express surcharge. If you have a bus that is simply not that cost effective (but still popular) then you charge for this. Most urban buses are cost effective because folks are getting on and off all the time. But a long distance express is very expensive, because the bus spends a huge amount of time picking up no one. So I see basing a surcharge on time being a very good proxy for basing a surcharge on inefficiency. At the same time, often these aren’t based on need, because there are often other options (albeit slower ones) such as transferring.

      1. RossB: I don’t think its the “the bus spends a huge amount of time picking up no one” that makes routes expensive, its one way demand. Route 41 fits that description, but its also a really productive route with some demand both ways. The most efficient bus routes would pick everyone up at one stop, and drop everyone off at another stop, but those are pretty rare.

        And FWIW, Metro does try to do a fair amount of trippers, where the coach makes two runs a day, one toward downtown, then its parked in Sodo, then one run from downtown, then its parked at its home base. From what I’ve seen this is often done with the oldest coaches in the fleet.

      2. The 41 doesn’t spend a huge amount time picking up no one. [Sorry for the double negatives, let me try this again]. The 41 is constantly picking up and letting off people. From Lake City to Northgate, it is picking up people, and dropping them off. Then it gets on the freeway, and spends a few minutes getting downtown, and continues the process. It is only that middle section — Northgate to downtown — which is costly. During that time, it picks up no one.

        A bus like the 512 appears to be doing much the same thing. Except that the gaps between pickups are longer (several minutes). Just as importantly, very few people get off. If a 41 is full when it leaves Northgate, it is quite likely that the bus carried a lot more than it’s capacity during that run — just not all at once (lots of people got off at Northgate or before). The 512 isn’t like that, meaning that if it is full, then it is likely that it carried very close to its capacity. Thus the 41 collected more fares *and* spent less time doing it, thus making it a lot more efficient.

        You are right, though, strong one way demand greatly increases the cost. It is probably the biggest contributor to the high cost of express routes, as traffic is very bad heading into the city in the evening, but people don’t ride the bus as often in that direction.

        >> The most efficient bus routes would pick everyone up at one stop, and drop everyone off at another stop, but those are pretty rare.

        That would only be efficient if the stops were close together. If the first stop was in Seattle and the second one in Portland, it would not be nearly as efficient as the 7, which has people trickling in (and trickling off) all the time. Five people every couple minutes is a lot better than fifty people every hour.

      3. Are there really that many people riding the 41 just to go between Lake City and Northgate, (which are also connected by the 75)? I would have thought at least 90% of the 41’s ridership, if not more, was people going to/from downtown.

    2. Riding the bus a short distance may be a ‘luxury’ option for an able-bodied 20-year-old. Not so for the most of us.

      1. Also, if we’re trying to get people to switch to a car-free or car-lite lifestyle, short distances become important trips. A 0.5-1 mile trip to the supermarket, or to take toddlers to the dentist might be physically short, but isn’t very walkable.

        I don’t like peak fares because they can be confusing. If it’s not clear to passengers and drivers what “peak” means and what they should be expected to pay, that leads to potential frustration and delays.

        I’d also like to see fares completely harmonized between agencies. It’s silly that a Metro and ST bus serving the same route, like the 312 and 522 which are both operated by Metro, cost different amounts.

    3. My biggest policy concern is with the short-distance trips. I see an equity when Metro charges people for going just 6 or 9 blocks the same fare as 50 or 100 blocks. There are a number of ways to mitigate this:

      1. Give everyone a transfer slip and make sure that Orca registers boardings for two hours, so that riders can return on one fare if they are doing shopping or errands.

      2. Introduce short-distance circulator buses (with round trips of less than 1 to 2 miles) that have only 50 cent fares or free fares. The LA area has these kinds of routes provided by several operators. The service hours can be covered by trading frequency on less productive tail add frequency on high usage segments. A Pike-Pine circulator between Westlake and 12th, a Yesler Terrace/Pioneer Square circulator, a Queen Anne circulator up and down the hill, a Downtown Bellevue loop circulator or a U-District circulator from UW Station to U-District and to University Village are examples.

      Other ideas to address this?

      1. Here in South Florida, our free trolley bus systems are the only bus systems gaining ridership in the past few years. If you’re ever down here check it out. Washington, DC also has a circulator bus system with $1 fares. I was a bit surprised to find out Seattle does not have a similar service for short local trips.

  5. Re: Increasing fares for high earners.

    The one thing I’m not pleased with from an equity standpoint is how cheap employers get passes for. the most expensive one is $60/mo which is a whole lot more than the corresponding individual pass.

    Although I’m really pleased with getting rid of zone fares. It made for some really stupid things on the north side. the 330, 345 and other shortish Shoreline to Seattle routes were two zones at peak, even though they were no longer (and served a similar purpose) than many routes completely in Seattle. (7, 36, etc.)

    1. I think you mean the employer-purchased passes are a whole lot *less* than the individual ones.

      Keep in mind that the employer must purchase a pass for every employee, whether each employee wants/needs it or not. This encourages transit use while mitigating the “punishment” employers take for unused (but still-paid-for) passes.

      1. Crunchy. Yeah you’re right the employer passes are a whole lot less than the corresponding individual pass.

        AFAIK, aren’t employers of some sizes in certain areas required to have a commute plan of which buying people passes is part of the plan? I’d think that if its required the price should be closer in line to the individual pass rate.

        I’d also be interested in knowing what the usage percentage of employer passes is. I’m guessing for many employers it’d be reasonably high.

  6. I would support any option that does away with the paper transfer scam and introduces fare enforcement on Metro. On my bus (48 or 8), it’s become a daily occurrence to see either the transfer scam (lately, it doesn’t even seem to matter if it’s not the correct color or time range) or somebody who just basically tells the driver they’re going to ride for free. Enough is enough…just come up with an equitable fare structure and strictly enforce it. Sound Transit seems to have no problem doing this on their services.

    1. >> Sound Transit seems to have no problem doing this on their services.

      It’s a different game. If I try and scam Metro, then the Metro driver has a couple choices. Either argue with me, or just accept it. If he argues with me, then the bus might be delayed, or worse (the driver might get assaulted).

      On the other hand, Sound Transit doesn’t have to worry about that at all. The driver doesn’t handle fare enforcement. Random checks mean a security guard (or two) comes around and checks everyone. If you don’t have the fare, you get a ticket. If you cause trouble, you are arrested. The trains keep moving the entire time.

      That doesn’t mean the transfer problem should be accepted. I agree that the transfer scam needs to be eliminated. Once that happens, Metro should simply go with a photographic “enforcement” system. If you fail to pay, your picture is taken, and displayed publicly. If you have any class, you will clean it up (or your mama will make you do so). Pay the fare, pay a nominal fee, and you are off the “scofflaw list”. Otherwise, your picture is up there, just like the guys that didn’t pay for their Chow Mein.

      1. I’m not a fan of shaming and naming.

        1. Its a lot of effort, someone would have to go through those captures and pick out a good frame and someone would have to do some facial recognition. (perhaps computer assisted.)

        2. Its not conducive to driver safety. Non-paying passenger: “Don’t you dare put me on that damned fare cheater list.” Driver: “Not my call.” I can see it spiraling out of control.

        3. Paying to get off the list is reinforcing economic inequalities. The software developer who was a drunk ass one night and refused to pay doesn’t have much as a percentage of income to pay. The food service worker pays more as a percentage of income. (FWIW, speeding tickets have the same problem.)

        4. Metro will almost certainly make a mistake and put someone on the list who doesn’t belong there, and they’ll get sued for deflamantion. (Hey, metro is made up of humans, and humans make mistakes.)

        I’d be much more in favor of guiding people to the other options. Give drivers postcards/transfers to hand to non-paying passengers which warns them of the penalties, but also guides them to other options they have to pay. (Orca Lift, Youth Card, Senior, RRFP, etc.) Perhaps even give them $5 or $10 on a Orca Lift card as incentive to get on the right side. (Its not really lost revenue, since they were already riding for free, and it does take more effort to get the Lift/Youth/Senior/RRFP cards than it does a normal Orca card. Plus since those require identification to get, they can prevent people from continually getting $5/$10 free.

      2. The bus driver wouldn’t have the camera, it would be on the bus. It would be taking pictures of people all the time. Fare scofflaws would get their pictures posted. There would be no facial recognition, nor any effort to figure out who those people are. Just blurry pictures of folks who didn’t pay their fare.

        You make a good point about making a mistake though. That could be a problem. The best thing is probably just to track it, then try and find patterns and notify police. In other words if some dude keeps forcing his way onto a bus, then have a cop or Metro security guard ride it at roughly the same time. At that point having the cop give him a warning (and a card like you suggested) would make the most sense (and that could occur off the bus — make him wait for the next one).

        I think folks who don’t pay, though, would ignore the little cards you suggested if the bus driver handed it too him. If someone is aggressive enough to say “I’m not paying, what are gonna do about it?”, then I doubt having a driver give him a card is going to have much influence. The rider knows he has power in that situation because the driver is not a security guard, and the driver just wants the bus to keep moving.

  7. I like it. I think the zoned fare model is now outdated. It also suffers because in an attempt to be simple, it fails to be fair. A good example is the 373. This used to go downtown, but now it goes to the U-District. If you board the bus south of 145th, you pay one zone. North of 145th, two zones. This means that if you are simply going from 155th to 105th, you pay more than if you ride from 125th to 45th. It also means that it is quite likely you will be overcharged if you ride the bus from 175th to 155th. I’ve been overcharged because the bus driver failed to switch over (when he crossed into Seattle). All of this might have made sense (or at the least been a small price to pay) when this bus went downtown. But now it is much more of a corridor bus, and less of an express.

    If they really wanted the zone system to work, then it should have been designed like area codes. From adjacent codes there is no charge, but if you cross two zones, you pay extra. That makes sense for phone calls (and is essentially how the light rail system works) but is crazy for buses. It means you have to know where you are going. That might be OK if everyone is headed downtown, but like the 373, that simply isn’t the case anymore.

    It will be much simpler, and that is great. I like the fact that “any surcharges will be based upon time rather than distance or geography”. That makes a lot of sense as well. It means that commuter buses that spend half their time as empty buses going the other direction charge a surcharge. This seems fair to me. In general I like it.

    As far as peak versus off peak, I personally like charging for peak, because I’m a leftist. Peak riders are way more likely to be subsidized by their employer and way more likely to be employed in higher paying professions. At worse they can afford the extra quarter or two. But folks trying to get to their job waiting tables, flipping burgers, operating the Slurpee machines or cleaning the bedpans are way more likely to be counting quarters.

    1. And as someone waaay more right of center than Ross, I like charging for peak because it leverages market prices to encourage people to ride off peak. Most riders aren’t flexible in their commute times, but it should help on the margin, especially with non-work trips such as running errands.

      1. Careful, AJ. What if an honest balance-sheet shows that when all factors are taken into account, the simplest system yields the most return?

        On the right-left scale, whose own value is questionable, everybody transit oriented should know about The New Electric Railway Journal, which in the formative years of the Downtown Seattle Transit Project was leading periodical on the whole subject.

        The publisher was proudly monarchist Paul Weyrich. Who thought correctly that the private-car-heavy transportation system of the United States was the biggest and most wasteful piece of Socialism in history.

        BART and its like, same category. But street rail, including its high speed intercity rail descendant the interurban, personified true conservatism. Also my own definition of the term.

        Luckily, though, We the People generally inherit these systems when they fail to make enough short-term profits for usual would-be capitalists, whom true conservatives also disdain. Think of your favorite elegant heirloom. Like an 1890’s slot machine.


    2. To clarify RossB’s comment, the 73 used to go downtown and now loops around the Montlake triangle. 373 has always been Aurora to UW since it started back in fall ’03. Back when I rode these routes, I did have a U-PASS so didn’t have the need to watch for the zones.
      Both options have pros and cons and I’ll need to sleep on it for a few days. (Though, now than my public transit is Sound Transit only, it’s so much easier! 98% of the time, I am a peak commuter though.)

      1. Ha, yeah, good point. Oops. Not exactly a perfect example (I often conflate the 73 and 373 because I never took either one downtown, and both work fine for getting to the UW).

    1. This was my comment to Metro on the survey.

      $2.50 for an all day bus; $3.00 for the commuter, peak only expresses.

  8. I can’t believe I’m reading that anyone thinks any ridership loss at all is even thinkable, let alone beneficial! Dare anybody in wastewater management to say that.

    Sixty years ago actor Jackie Gleason had a sit-com called “The Honeymooners.” Lead character bus driver named Ralph Kramden always hatching schemes to make money. Incidentally, his best friend, played by Art Carney, was sanitation-worker Ed Norton. Probably where they got the idea for Metro.

    Most transit-related scam was trying to “game” a jellybean-count-in-a-jar contest. Ralph appropriated one of those great mechanical fareboxes with a little crank wheel that spun and clicked with each counted coin. And had to explain to Maintenance why he was feeding a jar full of jellybeans into transit company property.

    Except that cost of one dropped passenger isn’t funny. Especially if it means one more car in the way of transit. Pretty much same as for an operating minute lost to fare collection. Penny wise. Dollar-dumptruck-full-of-dog-droppings-dumb. So what say we use the red magic maker for that one? Though brown is more fitting.

    How about we make basic fare a whole-system day pass, encourage buying monthly passes, and bringing back the yearly ones we used to have? Which precisely matches the way Department of Motor Vehicles sells permits to use whole street and highway system in US and Canada. Same regardless of miles, boundaries, road categories, or time of day. So region-wide should work for us.

    Operator Shaner, your Base Chief wants to see you in his office! The’y can’t get that ORCA card out of the ‘box before the bus goes on shift!


  9. One fare to rule them all
    One fare to find them
    One fare to bring them all
    And on the busses bind them
    Except in the land of Orca where the discounts lie

  10. I don’t like either of these options. I’d rather the higher fare be based on route (specifically, peak-hour long-distance express routes) than time. This penalizes intra-Seattle users and rewards sprawl users. Yes, it’s a small effect, but it’s an effect.

    I’m disappointed to see that Metro didn’t address the real fare elephant in the room: discouraging cash and encouraging Orca. I filled out my survey to request these things:

    1) Longer transfer window (3 hours)
    2) Free or much lower cost of ORCA card
    3) Get rid of paper transfers (and the two-bit fraud and evasion they enable)

    1. >> I’d rather the higher fare be based on route (specifically, peak-hour long-distance express routes) than time.

      Isn’t that the same thing? Maybe I’m being too generous, but I assumed that basing the surcharges on “time” accomplishes the same thing. Of course the term is a bit vague. But I doubt it means that a bus that like the 8, which takes a while to go end to end is going to be placed in the same category as an express. I would imagine they are looking at the time per fare — in other words, the cost per rider. The average user may not quite get this (they have no idea what a deadhead is) but understand that an express like the one you describe picks up very few riders per minute (unlike the 8).

      1. I think the statement that “any surcharges will be based upon time rather than distance or geography” refers to time of day, because option B has different fares depending on whether it is peak or off-peak.

  11. Hey, thanks for the insight, Chris. Because the accents of the savagely evil enemy foot soldiers in “Lord of the Rings” movies prove what a lot of us have long suspected. That Rupert Murdoch is an Orc.


  12. “Metro will also not consider pricing based on class of service, where peak expresses would be priced differently than the all-day network.”


  13. doing away with zones is dumb. it’s making the assumption that a neighborhood trip has the same value as a commuting trip. commuters have a lot more incentive to get on the bus. the option not on the table is charging cash fares more. it’s could be easy to track distance traveled aka zones with a tap on tap off system like link. could have a base fare and increments based on the number of stops traveled. express service should cost more

      1. Nick, thing I can’t stand is getting my ID photographed and threatened with citation by a fare inspector for one too many taps on a fully-paid monthly pass.

        Essentially criminalizing sending a check to the wrong department. Worst I’d get from the phone company is a reminder it didn’t get my payment. To be cleared up on the phone, not as as a defendant in court.

        I wonder how many people have paid $124 for tapping a pass like mine too many times. Because if I ever get cited I’ll have Mike Lindblom come with me to court and report me suing for slander.

        The microsecond my payment leaved my checking account, I’m immune from charge of “Fare Evasion.” Nobody stands there with my money in his or her hand and and calling me a thief.

        Mark Dublin

    1. It would be way too complex. Cash fares aren’t going away even if and when paper transfers do it would dramatically increase dwell times. In Vancouver they tried a tap on tap off model. It was an epic fail and now all bus trips are one zone. Only seabus (water taxi) and skytrain (light rail) have zones. And then even just during peak hours. They do give discounts for COMPASS card users though something we ought to do.

  14. “Revenue gains are estimated  at between $3.5-$4m annually, again quite modest in the context of Metro’s overall budget.”

    So how about just $2.50 all the time, and take a modest revenue hit? If they get an improved fare system that works better for more people, isn’t that worth cutting maybe a few under-utilized bus trips? Are they really going to make this more difficult for everyone just to meet an arbitrary and high (highest in the region except ST Link) farebox recovery? Uggh, metro, consider taking a modest loss, you’re not a taxi company! If a better fare system is not worth any net cost, why even do it???

    1. That’s easy to say, until the announcement comes that it’s your bus that’s getting cut.

    2. There’s a bigger issue: what are these ridership projections based on? Who’s in this loss group, how important is the trip to them, and what alternatives do they have? In some cases people can easily merge two trips or forego unimportant trips. In other cases it’s a serious hardship and inconvenience. In all cases they may or may not have a car available and may or may not use it instead. Can we get numbers or percentages on these? That would help to determine how acceptable the proposals are.

      The main thing we can assume is that people are leaving because of higher fares, since it’s unlikely they would leave because of lower or unchanged fares. In option A the losers are off-peak riders. In option B the losers are one-zone peak riders. I am a one-zone peak rider, so I can say I wouldn’t mind paying $3 if it’s part of improving the overall transit network. (Especially since my net cost is around $1.25 with my high pass usage.) However, I’m more concerned about off-peak riders, especially those with odd low-paid work shifts. That’s not enough to rule out option A, but it is a factor.

      Metro’s farebox recovery is around 25%, so that’s hardly high. The county council has a target window, and when it reaches the floor they raise the fare. The floor is around 20%,

      Taking a revenue cut would mean deleting bus runs, laying off planning staff for the long-term plan, or cutting administration. The planners and administrators were already laid off in the 2008 recession to keep the buses running, and it has hardly turned into a bunch of fat with the recovery. They rehired planning staff they really needed (if you believe in the long-term plan as much as I do). As for route changes, we’ve seen exactly what that means in the 2014 cuts and the 2015 and 2016 Prop 1 and Move Seattle additions. The most under-utilized routes were deleted in 2014, and they’re still gone. The remaining worst routes are higher-performing.

  15. So it sounds like the decision to have lower/middle income Seattle riders subsidize the region was made in advance.

    A $9/month (every $.25 impact on monthly pass price) functional tax on Seattle riders in the name of simplicity should not be entered into lightly.

    I’ll echo what others have said. If we are going to make it simple, make the fare $2.50 for everyone and take the revenue hit/add to ridership.

    Seattle recently passed a big bump to Metro’s funding – a fare increase is a slap in the face.

    1. It’s all Seattle riders, not just the lower/middle income ones. However, I agree with your statement that it should be a flat $2.50.

    2. You speak as if no riders in the suburbs remain in the suburbs. But John Bailo cited a city of Kent study that over half the trips that start in Kent end in Kent. And people in Bellevue and Redmond and Renton go to Bellevue College, which is all one fare zone. So they will be impacted the same way as Seattlites.

      1. “Over half the trips that start in Kent end in Kent”

        It’s actually not that surprising considering the service pattern that Metro offers. Taking the 150 all the way from Kent Seattle is too slow to be attractive to most people. Yes, faster buses do exist during rush hour, but those routes only offer so many trips, and can, therefore, only carry so many people.

  16. It’s great to see all this feedback – please take our survey:

    In response to some of the comments on urban/suburban riders: As housing prices go up, we also don’t want a new fare structure that penalizes people who can’t afford to live in Seattle. Metro’s analysis shows 55% of riders on 2-zone routes are low-income riders, compared to 42% on 1-zone routes. While ORCA Lift riders pay a $1.50 flat fare, not everyone who is struggling qualifies.

  17. Metro has an advisory group assisting with input on these choices, according to the ‘Take The Survey’ link above. I hope all these folks are bus riders.

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