Community Transit is proposing a small fare policy change for next year, as part of preparation for the next-generation ORCA system planned to launch in 2021. If approved at next month’s board meeting, the fare policy change would eliminate a lower-cost fare used on commuter routes by riders who only ride within one or two zones. The change comes as part of a region-wide push to streamline fares for the next-generation ORCA system, which will already be limited in some ways.
As it currently works, a rider in Lynnwood who is bound for Marysville can take Route 421 (the Seattle-Lynnwood-Marysville Express) and only pay $2.25, the regular local fare, as opposed to the $5.50 fare charged for commuter routes from the North and East ends of the county. Route 421 is also able to carry Seattle-Lynnwood commuters and charge the South County fare ($4.25) through the same arrangement. Riders request the lower fare from the driver, who will either accept the lower cash fare or manually override the ORCA reader with the Local or South County fare option, before switching back for the next person in line.
A 2013 study by Community Transit determined that less than 2 percent of commuter route boardings used the “local fare override” described above, while 30 percent of Route 421/422 boardings used the Lynnwood-Seattle fare override.
The portions of the commuter route network that venture off Interstate 5 and away from park-and-rides are well served by local routes, which Community Transit suggests as an alternative for in-county riders. In some specific cases, taking the local route may be no slower than their express counterparts, thanks to their aversion to using Interstate 5; for example, between Lynnwood and Marysville, Route 421 can take up to 47 minutes, while Routes 201 and 202 take 51 minutes and travel further into Marysville, saving a cumbersome transfer.
The subset of commuters hopping aboard the North County routes at Lynnwood Transit Center would also feel relatively little impact. According to Community Transit data, Route 402 and Sound Transit Express Route 511 have enough spare capacity to fit all 397 average daily boardings for users of the “South County Commuter Override”, albeit requiring them to catch a bus on 4th Avenue instead of 2nd Avenue.
Community Transit will accept public comments on the proposed fare change until September 11, through a variety of methods, including:
- In-person hearing at the Board of Directors Meeting on Thursday, September 7, at 3 p.m. (7100 Hardeson Rd., Everett, WA)
- Phone: (425) 353-RIDE (7433)
- Email: email@example.com
- By mail: Community Transit; Attention: Strategic Planning; 7100 Hardeson Rd.; Everett, WA 98203-5834