43 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: TransLink Fare Review”

  1. The January monthly ridership report for Link is out:

    It reports that average weekday ridership grew by about 3,000 boardings or 4.9 percent. While the percentage is lower than most of the recent January reports before the U-Link opening, the growth of about 3K between January reports was very comparable to numerical growth prior or the U-Link opening.

    This trend is comparable to December, which also had a 4.9 percent growth and about a 3K numerical growth for an average weekday.

    Is a 3K average weekday growth what we should be expecting each year until Northgate Link opens?

    1. The Seahawks didn’t provide as much help to the January ridership numbers this year, FWIW.

      I’m expecting some amount of year-on-year bump when Mayor Durkan’s free passes for public high school students takes effect, and maybe a smaller bump for reverse-peak commuters to Des Moines Business Park, who now have route 635 to get them the last mile.

      Also, some 550 riders will switch to 555/556 if route 550 becomes intolerable.

      More TOD is opening up near several stations as well.

      And then there is LimeBike, Spin, and Ofo, which are less than a year old in Seattle, and which don’t take up station bike parking capacity.

      If we can get ORCA finally implemented on the monorail, a nontrivial network effect should show up.

      The Womxn’s March provided a one-time mega-spike last year, and annual protest marches tend to never be as big as their first edition.

      In other words, it is hard to predict history until it happens. And then when you make projections, and don’t exceed them, concern trolls who wanted you to fail will accuse you of failing to fulfill “promises”.

      Nevertheless, although you can’t see it in the January numbers, Link is on track to pass the rest of Sound Transit, Washington State Ferries, and SeaTac Airport in total boardings per year, in 2019 for sure if not in 2018. That’s each of those three institutions, not cumulatively.

      1. Not to hijack the thread, but it would be nice to have a designated area for bikeshare parking at stations, so they don’t become street furniture inhibiting access for sight-challenged riders.

      2. The Seahawks were not a weekday factor, FWIW. There were no weekday Seahawks games in January 2017 or 2018.

        More importantly, Link ridership growth until 2021 is more in the hands of other agencies than ST. The City of Seattle and Metro are the biggest influencers of any ridership growth until 2021 (probably more than changes in ST Express buses). Perhaps ST should be (or should have been) more proactive in supporting other agencies beyond what ST does.

  2. Metro’s March schedule shake-up brings 2 changes that I have crusaded for in the past. As expected, the 101 revises its routing in Renton to serve the downtown TC before serving the South Renton P&R. The 101 will also have 15 minute headways until about 7pm. This is a huge improvement for downtown Seattle to Renton service.

    There also is a change that I didn’t know was coming and its being listed as temporary, but it’s a modification I have long advocated. The southern leg of Route 4 to Judkins Park is going to be replaced with a shuttle bus during construction work on 23rd Avenue South. The shuttle route, however, is going to be routed on Jackson Street and MLK instead of wandering through the neighborhood streets in the Judkins Park area. This is a change that should be made permanent (along with an extension to Mt. Baker TC). It would require some new overhead trolley wire but keeping the 4 on Jackson and MLK would be a faster route path and it would provide better connections to the growing neighborhood along Jackson. I’ll be advocating for making this temporary change permanent.

      1. The walk from MLK to JPS is 5-7 minutes and deviating the 4S to the JPS back door would add a lot of time to the schedule. Ideally the 4S would terminate at Mt. Baker Station and would connect all of south Seattle with the Central District and First Hill without requiring a transfer downtown.

        Ultimately the fate of the 4S and the 8 along MLK depend on the service restructuring that will take place after Madison BRT and East Link open.

    1. $3.25 flat fare? That would drive me off Link if there’s a parallel bus. My pass is $2.75 and the only time I ever exceed it is a couple times a year when I go to SeaTac or take an inter-county bus or Sounder. This is as high as Metro’s 2-zone peak fares. Do they not know that many Link just between Capitol Hill and UW or between Central Seattle and South Seattle? Are they trying to drive those people off the train? Wasn’t Link supposed to be our mega capacity management tool?

      1. Yup Mike. But only for ST buses. I would also tell you that your “parallel bus” is not as fast as Link and I don’t want to ride a bus just because I want to dine at Dick’s on Capitol Hill.

        Yes, King County Metro’s new fares will be a flat $2.75 by July. That said, Link Is “supposed to be our mega capacity management tool” and will morph into mainly taking thousands per day off of commuter buses and onto schedule reliable light rail.

        Sorry I wasn’t 100% clear. Sometimes I forget the need to flesh out things, that’s on me.

      2. If you’re making the commute twice a day, every single weekday, the 50 cents adds up. For people that don’t have a lot of money, it could be significant.

      3. If they are making the commute every day, that’s what a monthly pass is for. If they can’t afford the extra $18 per month, there is a good chance they quality for ORCA LIFT.

      4. So just when in county fare for ST Express is about to be equalized with Metro’s fare, ST raises it by 50 cents. Single-minded pursuit of fare simplification without consideration of fare integration just causes problems elsewhere.

    2. The fare is for ST Express. That’s less bad, although it will change the balance considerably for trips like downtown-45th, downtown-Lake City, and downtown-Bellevue, where suddenly an indirect Metro route is much less expensive. It will be fairer when ST2 Link opens and takes over some of these.

  3. I’m looking at all the bus reroutes along Lander Street planned in the March service change, and watching the route 50 deviation get worse, as the bus goes all the way to Holgate. At what point do we just give up on serving SODO altogether and just let route 50 express over it on the viaduct (or do some sort of restructure so that the West Seattle and Seward Park sections are two totally different routes).

    I am not convinced that the “one-seat-ride” that the 50 is purportedly offering between Beacon Hill and West Seattle Junction is actually any faster than riding Link all the way downtown and transferring to the C-line.

    1. I couldn’t believe the 50 is diverting twice as far. But Metro will just say it’s an important transfer point and won’t change it.

      1. I know – but a transfer for what purpose. There are very few actual origin/destination pairs where a transfer between the 50 and some other route in SODO actually makes sense. And many of those trips make sense only because the 101, 150, and 594 are also subjected to the SODO slog.

        I suppose there is one bright side – the 50 *might* be a good option for getting from West Seattle Junction to a ballgame, now that the 50 deviates closer to the stadium. (But even then, you’re probably still taking the C-line back because of the 50’s abysmal frequency in the evening).

      2. Yeah I would like to know what the “ride throughs” are for Route 50 in SODO. I suspect that there are very few.

        If they are very few (or none), it would make sense to do all the riders a favor and split the two sections of the route! I know the route planners had good intentions about it — but it’s just not a good partnership. The traffic delays in SODO (congestion, trains) often make the buses late — which just adds insult to injury because Route 50 is pretty infrequent as scheduled. When a bus that only runs every 20 or 30 minutes has a 10-minute delay, it compounds the punishment for the riders.

      3. Exactly, when I go to Alki I take the C and transfer at the Junction because it’s a more pleasant place to wait with a bench and people rather than just concrete and cars. and if I have a long wait I can pick something up at Bakery Nouveau. Coming back I sometimes transfer at SODO because there’s never a long wait for a train, but if I couldn’t transfer there I wouldn’t be bothered that much.

      4. I think the original intention of route 50 was to add an east/west crosstown route north of route 60, south of downtown. The problem is that the principles of gridded service only work when the routes actually stick to the grid. When they start meandering around like spaghetti to the point where the bus becomes slower than detouring the other routes, you know the route is failing to serve its purpose.

        One could definitely make a case for just splitting the West Seattle and Ranier Valley sections of the 50 as separate routes. I still like the idea of keeping them connected, but just express over the West Seattle viaduct, without any stops. Ideally, the bus would be able to make at least one stop at Spokane. But the way the streets are set up down, there, once you get off the freeway, it takes too much zig-zagging to get back on again. It’s simply not worth it, especially if the bus has to go all the way to Holgate. Better to just keep going and skip SODO. Those in West Seattle who want to ride Link south of downtown can just make their connection to the same train at Columbia City Station.

        Also, if you split the route up, two small routes would require much more layover time than one big route. It is entirely possible that the express segment over the West Seattle viaduct, even if lightly ridden, could be effectively “free”, in that the more efficient layovers pay for what is literally just a 5-minute drive.

      5. I wonder if whoever laid out the map for the Route 50 ever once drove the route. Let alone rides every now an then now to see what passenger destination and experience is.

        To me, LINK itself speeds up travel so much that simply taking the bus to the nearest LINK, and Rapid Ride to West Seattle, would cut time in ‘way more than half.

        And for SODO area that Mt. Baker Transit Center might be better main station than SODO. A lot more comfortable place to wait. Anybody got the time to ride, or drive the route and check it out?


      6. The current 50 doesn’t go to Beacon Hill Station, and adding a stop there would involve a half-mile out-and-back. If there were huge towers at Beacon Hill Station, it might be worth it, but, with the current development there, it just isn’t. You can already sort-of get to Beacon Hill on the 50, just by walking that half mile, and those looking to transfer to Link can do so at Columbia City Station.

        That’s an interesting idea for a stop at 4th Ave. I would be inclined to do it, if it could be done in both directions. Eastbound only, though, I don’t think it’s worth it.

      7. The 50 was an experiment to meet several goals at once. 1. Get service to Alki to replace the downtown-bound 56. 2. To connect Alki and West Seattle to the nearest Link station. 3. To connect West Seattle to southeast Seattle. 4. To connect Seward Park to Othello and Columbia city and replace the downtown-bound 39. The net result is that it does all these, but it’s mediocre to barely tolerable for #2 and #3.

      8. The problem with Route 50 is the frequency more than the routing. A frequent bus stuck in traffic doesn’t pose too much of a problem for riders. A bus that runs every 30 minutes stuck in traffic poses a huge problem for riders!

        There isn’t an easy solution to this route design challenge. Still, Metro’s obsession with having “a” crosstown route forces many people in both West Seattle and SE Seattle to transfer to get to places in their own communities that they go to frequently, which giving them direct service for the occasional crosstown trip. I think getting to more places in one’s neighborhood directly is more important because many areas served by Route 50 are pretty far from other bus routes.

  4. The way I look at per-inch transit calculation State-wide, my fare payment is my key to the pearly gates of three Separate counties. Looking at the mode split, it’s one of the many hare-brained reasons our evil Singly Operated Adversaries are kicking the organic fertilizer out of us.

    Also…somehow my car-tab fees, which I pay by mail to State of Washington once a year, see to it I don’t get fined for fare evasion with a card tap from here to either Key West or Gander, Newfoundland. Ballard and Nova Scotia are somehow in same fare zone.

    So tell you what, Sound Transit and every one of you Agencies that’ve got a $124 fine hanging over my wallet because I missed a tap-off, about which posted rules say nothing, and call me a thief for legitimately tapping on. With an hour to go if my only tap was first boarding.

    And with the money I paid you for my ORCA card in your sweaty rule-letter-loving little hands. So here’s the time-being deal. You treat my Monthly Pass as the blanket immunity I’ve paid for, and I’ll give you $124 up front, Monthly Day One.

    Meantime, for my own protection, the fare rules can eat their livers with grilled onions. The little paper tickets I buy first boarding are good all day for my every ride to the Alpha Centauri Transit Center. Getting off through every airlock I feel like.While to stay right with the Environment, I replant one murdered fir tree every week.

    For ST’s own gift? Save all those coal-fired kilowatts sending me hundred paragraph detailed explanations of the rules in answer to my inquiries about first step to getting them changed. While it gets with ORCA company partners and its Separate Agencies to just do it, my credit’s good for more than one $124 for legal fees trying to save their own rat-chewed Separate reputations.

    Mark David Dublin

  5. A little context here. I’m willing to admit that if your whole service area is inn Canada, distance does introduce some factors that make additional fare revenue both fair and necessary. What a county line is here, the Arctic Circle is only slightly less important.

    Also, reindeer migrations are to TransLink what an overturned fish truck at rush hour is here. Right now, also season of the year can no longer be ascertained by what color polar bears are. And “Mais Non! The Fleur de Lis shall NEVER be stricken from the Royal Coaches of La Belle Province!”

    So having not stepped off a train into a single bear-trap, really no reason to lose it like that over anything “Distanced Based”. So is not rear-ending things. But our particular fare system is more like Ontario mosquitoes in the summer.

    So I’m sharing some information I received in answer to a request for some explanation of our present ORCA card policy. Since I haven’t told the autor I’d put this in public…I’ll take full responsibility for any mistake.

    “For any customer who has tapped on at one of our stations, a second tap within a two-hour window will always register as a “tap off.” If that second tap occurs beyond that two-hour window, the rider will be charged the maximum fare for their previously initiated trip, and that tap will count as the beginning of a new trip.

    Tapping off is important as it protects the passenger from being overcharged and ensures that their fare is accurate. It also ensures that their complete trip is accounted for in the system. In your case, there was simply no way for the ORCA system to recognize that your trip was complete when you arrived at Columbia City, or even that you had arrived at Columbia City at all.

    That said, you are correct that there should be more visible information that the fare evasion penalty may apply if a rider fails to tap off and as a result, the ORCA reader does not register their next tap as a “tap on” the next time they enter a station. We appreciate you raising this issue, and in response, I have directed my staff to update our website, as well as the ORCA website, to improve rider information on the potential consequences of not tapping off.

    Regarding your question on revenue apportionment, the revenues for paper day passes are not apportioned between the agencies. All paper ticket revenue is kept solely by Sound Transit, as it is not a valid form of payment on any other service. ORCA products work differently as they are valid on the services of multiple partner agencies.

    When a customer purchases his or her monthly pass, the revenue for that pass is held in a regional account and then it is apportioned to each of the agencies based on the customer’s rides for that specific month. If the customer only uses Sound Transit, then Sound Transit receives 100% of the proceeds from that customer’s pass.

    If the customer uses multiple agencies, the revenue is apportioned to each of the agencies based on the total value of rides taken on each agency’s services that month. Again, the best way to protect the ORCA user’s financial interest is to ensure that they tap on and off for every ride so that the ORCA system can accurately capture that passenger’s usage.”

    “……. Also, our practices are designed to compensate for a rider who makes a mistake. First-time offenses result in a warning rather than an infraction, and our fare enforcement staff explain to the rider the importance of tapping off.”

    Now. while I’ve got some questions on more than one instance of rationale, there’s really only one thing I can’t understand:

    What possible damage to service makes anything here justify any fine at all, let alone same infraction title and fine as for deliberate non-payment of any kind to the transit system? None of the fine goes to Metro- just to the Court!

    Also- shouldn’t payment in advance prove there was no intent to evade?

    A friendly “Please be sure to tap your card off. ”Til our accountants start getting overtime, please don’t make them extra work!” should save the court a lot of time to deal with slashed seats.


    1. “I have directed my staff to update our website, as well as the ORCA website, to improve rider information on the potential consequences of not tapping off.”

      How about updating the ORCA readers to make a different sound for tapoff. The telephone conference system my company uses makes a rising double-tone when somebody joins the call, and a falling double-tone when they hang up. That is easy to distinguish and intuitive,

      And how about making the readers more visibl?e Especially where they’re on the side or behind you, such as going out of Beacon Hill Station. Many people intend to tap but they forget at the moment, and a message on the ST website or ORCA website does nothing to help that.

      1. The bigger our passenger loads, Mike, the harder it’ll be to distinguish individual beeps from individual boops. And when the crowds turn into whatever lemmings use- packs? Herds? Swarms? Stampede casualties will make a second’s delay unacceptable.

        So right now, would rather concentrate on improving information. I think putting full text of above explanation on the wall-and ceiling- over every TVM. But best of all, every RCW. reference should carry whole text of its message.

        Funding should be easy. Tell SAM this will be world-famous conceptual art, which it will and….well, they built the Sculpture Garden, didn’t they? Also, they owe us one for scheming the Waterfront Streetcar out of existence.

        But most of all, these measures will perform precisely same function as $124 fines only there for punishment, since the System gets nothing. As a warning to others.


  6. Fascinating report on robo-taxis as the way of the future. If the authors are accurate, and entire robo-taxi ride could be purchased for about what a car owner today would spend, just on gas.

    Maybe someday, these robotaxis could be taxed to help fund transit (which will be needed more than ever, due to the traffic congestion caused by all those robo-taxis). Since the tax would technically not be a fuel tax, it would not be subject to the 18th Amendment.


    1. They’re making the same gigantic leap of faith as other “autonomous cars are coming imminently” true believers. They’re assuming that autonomous cars can overcome a myriad of known and unknown safety conditions, and not be so cautious they stop if there’s a pebble in front of them. Just a week ago there was a report about a car that couldn’t predict what a bicyclist would do: which can lead to either colliding with the bicyclist or going excessively slow out of caution. First the cars have to be proven in large-scale delivery fleets in limited neighborhoods and BRT in limited corridors, then expand those fleets to citywide and metropolitan-wide, then expand it to ride-hailing services for non-employee passengers.

      There’s also the breathless assumption that the cost will be less. That may be true for in-house fleets, but for rideshare companies it will contradict the profit margin and shareholders’ demands for dividends. First they need to prove fares will go down and stay down. We can’t just rip up our existing fallback and depend on them just because they say prices will be lower. What about CDs? They were $15 when records were $8, but the companies said, “That’s just temporary because there’s only one manufacturing plant now, when we get more plants on line the price will go down”, but it never did, and as CDs completely replaced records the price just silently doubled. (And the companies were shocked, shocked, that the public responded by downloading copied albums instead.)

      1. The author assumes that robust competition will drive prices down, but it’s not clear that regulations won’t get in the way of such robust competition happening. It is not at all implausible that cities start granting individual companies monopoly power in a way similar to the taxi cartels of the 1900’s. Ostensibly, the justification would be to reduce congestion downtown (without infringing on car owner’s god-given rights to drive anywhere, anytime, toll-free), but the real reason, of course, would be lobbyists from the dominant robotaxi company in the pockets of the local politicians.

        The author also seems to under-estimate the congestion effect, in general, that cheap robotaxis are going to cause in congested urban areas. Traditionally, the cost of parking has acted as a de-facto congestion charge on driving downtown, but already Uber in Lyft are starting to undermine this in cities like New York, leading to fresh calls for real congestion pricing.

        Ultimately, the only way to mitigate the effect is going to be by charging people for the use of the roads. Of course, if such charges end up applying only to robo-taxis, while drivers of private cars continue to enjoy free, unlimited use of the city streets, then the city has unwittingly created a tax policy designed to encourage car ownership.

    2. So what about that potential increase in traffic congestion if people start traveling more and switch from large transit vehicles to small ride-hailing vehicles? The summary on pp. 8-9 doesn’t mention them. In fact, it says that public transit agencies will switch from operating transit to managing these transportation-as-a-service operators. Page 28 says there will be a “rebound in demand” from 4 trillion to 6 trillion passenger-miles. At a raw estimate, that’s a 50% increase in traffic. But some of that will occur where there’s no congestion, so the impact in congested neighborhoods will be somewhat less. Still, a 25% or 30% increase would do a whammy on Seattle’s urban villages and similar suburban areas. (And suburban arterials where an entire neighborhood has only one road out and already have lines waiting for lights.) “TaaS providers who may have already lost the battle for the larger city markets [i.e., to transit or larger ride-hailing companies] may expand into smaller cities and rural areas, filling up the remaining market gaps.” Good, that’s a good place for them.

      Is it in part 3 (“Implications, Planning for the Future of Transportation”)? Not in the policy recommendations on page 49, except a promising plug for recycling parking garages into housing and other uses. What are the potential negative impacts of TaaS (p. 50)? Ride-hailing oligarchies, job losses, tax-revenue loss. Nothing about congestion yet. But we’ll all be 10% richer! ($5,600/household/year, p. 26). I guess those of us without cars and just a steady monthly bus pass won’t benefit as much. But transit might be free! (p. 21) Both from lower expenses, and from companies sponsoring transit routes (“the Starbucks bus”). Ah, here’s something about vehicle size. “We expect TaaS vehicles will be largely differentiated by size, with two-, four-, and eight-seaters, and up to 20- or even 40-seaters in the TaaS pool market.” A 40-seater; is that somewhere between a 40-foot and 60-foot bus? I’ll leave it to the transit experts to determine whether eliminating our 60′ buses would cause significant congestion (the space between two smaller buses).

      1. Even with widespread TaaS, the need for real mass transit (e.g. Link) isn’t going anywhere. Jarett Walker has explained why numerous times – it’s because road space is limited, autonomous cars take up almost as much road space as human-driven cars, and mass transit is the only way (besides walking and biking) to get huge numbers of people in and out of the city center quickly.

        Where TaaS is more likely to replace traditional transit is coverage-oriented routes out in the suburbs.

    3. The faster the driverless vehicle and the more possible things in the way, the more complicated the implementation. It’s a big leap to envision and continue to operate a utopian world where everything is driverless and moving a higher speeds.

      However, there are very pratical ways to augment rail service with lower-speed driverless shuttle vehicles that appear more like rubber-tired horizontal elevators than taxis. There are vehicles available today! In the past few days, here’s another place (one of many in the US as one of 20 countries currently implementing the technology) — Minneapolis — testing them. (https://gearjunkie.com/minneapolis-greenway-self-driving-driverless-shuttle)

      The advantage of a lower-speed vehicle is that it can be pre-programmed to know a short route, can move slow enough to both stop or divert around obstructions while allowing for standing passengers, and can be easily augmented by loading the same logic into more driverless shuttles vehicles (like for special events). As electric vehicles, it can even run indoors or through tunnels.

      Why is this important? It can expand a light rail station’s accessibility radically. It can be put onto ferries so that vehicles pre-loaded with riders can be rushed out to nearby destinations. Since we are building so many new stations, we should be determining how to apply this idea at many of them!

      A number of US cities are ir recently have been in various stages of demos and early implementation right now. Sadly, Metro and ST are BEHIND THE TIMES on trying this. At some point, some elected official is going to finally push the agencies to propose something and portray it as the coolest idea!

      I tell you; it’s coming. It’s coming. No matter how much traditionalists in the transit world are skeptical, it’s coming. The question isn’t if; it’s how soon. The costs are too low and the implementation is too easy to not be coming to Seattle sometime soon.

    4. Slow vehicles and limited service areas, yes. But in the public mind and in reports like this, TaaS will be a complete replacement for current car trips. People expect it to go from their house — no matter where it is — to downtown (multimodal conflicts), shopping centers (lots of parking cars), schools (where children can be run over), and everyone else’s house. People don’t expect to limit how they travel or where they go; these are often the same people who refuse to ride transit where it exists because it’s too inconvenient, so they won’t expect any limitations on where they can go on TaaS either. Eventually the hype will collide with reality. Hopefully we won’t have spent too much on unrealistic expectations by then, or dismantled our fallback transportation and have to rebuild it.

    1. Thanks for the notice. I’m working on my plan comments now and hope to be able to make it to the public hearing next month.

      >>>A public hearing is scheduled at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 5 at the regular Board of Directors meeting at 7100 Hardeson Road in Everett, accessible by Community Transit Route 105 and Everett Transit Route 8.

      Public comment can be sent to:

      7100 Hardeson Road, Everett, WA 98203


      (425) 353-RIDE (7433), (800) 562-1375 or TTY Relay: 711

      Facebook: facebook.com/communitytransit

      Twitter: @MyCommTrans<<<

Comments are closed.