Disembarking at Stadium Station

Thanks to a sponsorship deal with the Mariners, for the first two months of the season both digital and printed baseball tickets also serve as a valid Link fare. Until June 3rd, riders can present the ticket for that day’s home game to fare enforcement up to 3 hours before first pitch (typically 1:10 or 7:10) and through the end of the day.

To further eliminate excuses for skipping the train, Uber is discounting rides to the two Link terminal stations (UW and Angle Lake). Even though Sounder and ST Express aren’t included in the deal, a broad segment of the region now has an inexpensive means of avoiding game traffic entirely.

ST spokesperson Kimberly Reason says that the arrangement with the Mariners is a pilot. The finance staff estimated the agency makes about 24 cents per Mariners attendee (whether or not they take the train). At the end of the pilot, the team will write a check based on the attendance over the entire period.

A fare-free transit system isn’t good for most transit riders until other revenue streams fund transit service beyond the point of diminishing returns. However, an ideal (but unenforceable) framework would charge regular users a flat fee to fund the system while letting everyone use the system occasionally for free. This gives more people a stake in the system, makes the marginal cost of riding zero, and eliminates the friction of handling fares from those infrequent users.

Deals like this one provide small glimpses of that ideal system. By (in effect) giving Sound Transit a cut of baseball ticket revenue, a large number of novice riders don’t have to mess with fares and have strong incentives to ride. Let’s hope it makes enough of a measurable difference that all parties decide to continue the experiment.

46 Replies to “A Mariners Ticket is a Link Fare, Through June 3rd”

  1. This is a win-win in so many ways. It gets more people on train and avoids those ridiculous situations where families end up driving simply because the round trip train fare for 4 people ($22) costs more than parking.

    This will also help avoid long lines at the vending machines, which will further encourage use of the system.

    Hopefully, the fact that you can do this will be printed on the tickets, themselves, so people know about it.

    It should also be a no-brainer for the UW to do the same thing for Husky football games.

    1. Don’t they? It has been years since I’ve been to a Husky football game, but we just showed our ticket to get on the bus.

      1. Skinflint UW discontinued providing free transit quite a few years ago. I think they may have been originally been required to do it as part of a traffic mitigation plan when Husky stadium was expanded. But they have cut the benefit completely

        The P&R shuttles require a fare (I think it is $8 round trip)
        Regular service requires regular fares

      2. All the shuttle announcements I’ve seen charge $4 or so, cash only. A higher-than-normal fare makes sense since these are special expresses, often from places where regular transit would require a transfer and a local route, and it costs money to provide special one-day services.

      3. I don’t know their current state. I’ve never used the shuttles; I just see announcements for them at various times.

    2. Students already have a U-Pass on their Husky Cards.

      UW could save some money on the football shuttles by combining shuttles from Federal Way TC to Angle Lake Station with a day pass on Link, combining shuttles from South Renton P&R to Rainier Beach Station with a day pass on Link, and combining shuttles from Eastgate P&R to International District / Chinatown Station with a day pass on Link.

      Then, one shuttle can make several runs each way, and they don’t add do the armada that parks on Montlake Blvd and shuts it down to regular transit on game days.

      1. I would imagine the vast majority of fans at a Husky game are not students. A high portion of the students also walk to the game. The traffic jams are caused by the large number of people who choose to drive to the game.

      2. I believe the Husky Bus Shuttles are no longer free. Metro Transit may supply most of the buses, but a private contractor collects the $$$ at the park and ride prior to boarding, so ORCA passes and transfers are not valid on that service. At one point, you could show your Husky Football game tix for a free ride on some regular bus routes, but those days are gone now too. LINK is already full during Husky Football games and adding Federal Way shuttles to Angle Lake is not going to help things. Yes, there are riders would prefer an “one seat ride” (might been valid if the husky bus shuttles are free, but if you are paying, you don’t want to do a transfer).

      3. The traffic jams are caused by the choice of those who control the roadways to allow general traffic on game days, while re-routing buses. That encourages people to drive there and pay for parking rather than navigate the dysfunctional game day transit web.

        That said, the City of Seattle makes no effort to close streets to general traffic where most of the people using it are on buses before and after games downtown. At least one of those streets needs the red carpet for buses 24/7/365, regardless of whether a game is happening.

        And then some transit lanes get turned into parking lanes on “holidays”, even though the City has paid Metro to provide regular weekday service on those “holidays”, so then, the City has to pay for more service than on regular days to make up for the time those buses spend stalled in general traffic while a dozen parked cars make the transit lane unusable.

        I’m skeptical that UW will get its mode priorities straight before the City does. But UW allowed a red-carpet lane before the City did, so I could be wrong.

      4. I’m always skeptical when someone says a transit vehicle is “full”.

        I’d have to check whether the whole fleet has been deployed on a Saturday game day, and still had lots of riders unable to get on at Capitol Hill Station, before I accept such a claim. I don’t think the marginal cost of running one more train before and after games is exorbitant, and it only takes one to two trains to carry the parking capacity at Federal Way TC.

      5. Lest I fail to mention: ST doesn’t need to run its full fleet all the way from Angle Lake Station. It just needs to deploy some extra trains northward from the base before Husky football games, and have some designated “to SODO Station Only” after the game.

        There are ways to increase capacity on game day easily while ST waits for more LRVs to arrive next year.

  2. Even though Sounder and ST Express aren’t included in the deal, a broad segment of the region now has an inexpensive means of avoiding game traffic entirely.

    I feel like we are forgetting someone. You know, the biggest transit agency — by a huge margin — in the area. From the Seattle Times article:

    This pilot program does not cover rides on Sounder, ST Express or Metro buses.

    So basically this covers only a small subset of those who ride the train, and a tiny sliver of those who ride transit. If you happen to be able to walk to a station, or find a park and ride that isn’t full, this is great. But for most people, it is meaningless.

    1. Some riders do the “Hide and Ride” thing in Seattle LINK station neighborhoods. For weekday evening and weekend games, not a problem . However, it is meaningless during those Weekday Matinee games, since Angle Lake/Tukwila Int’l Blvd lots are full and RPZ Zone 28 prevent all day parking in SE Seattle LINK neighborhoods.

      1. Last Mariner’s game I attended, I parked for free a couple blocks from Beacon Hill Station (on a weekend). This agreement makes that an ever better plan, as everyone in the group can get free transit (I have a pass).

        The reason to focus on light rail for the promotion is that it has a congestion-free path direct to the stadium, even before and after games, unlike every other bus in the region (except those on the SODO busway).

        In a sane world, both 1st and 4th Avenues would have permanent bus lanes and frequent transit service, but in our current world Link is the only fast reliable way to get to the stadium.

    2. Nice snark, as always — as if I’d forget about the existence of Metro. Park and rides are almost never full at times relevant to baseball attendance, and most RPZs don’t apply. A strong majority of people that want to avoid dealing with game traffic and parking (and therefore have cars) now have a viable option to do so.

      It is not “a small subset” of people who ride the train — Link ridership is the vast majority of train ridership. “Tiny sliver?” About 13%. Your meaning of “tiny sliver” might vary, I suppose.

      1. Sorry about the snark, but come on. The Seattle Times manages to mention the agencies that don’t provide free service, but you didn’t. That is arguably the most important fact about all of this, yet you can’t spare a sentence.

        Of course Link ridership is greater than other train ridership. I never said otherwise. You seem to be forgetting (or simply chose to ignore) the folks that transfer. The same goes for the 13% number. It is quite likely that the number of people who only ride Link is fairly small. The same is true for those who ride transit to the game.

        In other words, you are burying the lead. It is great that Link is giving Mariners fans a free ride (they do deserve something for suffering with one of the worst sports franchises in recent years). But it is not enough. Until other agencies (especially Metro) steps up, this is like spitting on a fire.

        In many ways, it is worse, as it promotes the idea that the light rail is a stand alone service. I met someone who lives a few miles from TIBS, and she said she tried to drive to the station, but the parking lot was full. So of course her complaint was lack of parking, instead of more connecting buses. With this sort of isolated service, I can understand her thinking.

      2. I think you meant burying the lede, but I understand the confusion, as burying the lead is something the Mariners have been very good at for the last 17 years.

      3. “In other words, you are burying the lead (sic).”

        I don’t know if I agree with that, but I get your point about Metro being left out of the OP’s narrative.

        I’m actually more curious about this part:

        “The finance staff estimated the agency makes about 24 cents per Mariners attendee (whether or not they take the train). At the end of the pilot, the team will write a check based on the attendance over the entire period.”

        This makes it sound like all M’s games attendees will actually be subsidizing the fares for those peers who select to use Link to get to Safeco Field. When I read about this arrangement in the news yesterday I was under the impression that there was some other more deliberative process by which the club would be able to calculate the fare reimbursement cost owed to ST at the end of the program.

      4. The lede is in the eye of the beholder. (And this is the only time I’ll use the word lede; I think newspapers should have stayed with lead.) It is news that the Mariners are bunding Link with tickets; it’s a step toward the sensible German solution. And I understand why they only supported Link: its brand has cachet in the public mind, and it deals with the biggest mobility bottleneck between UW and SODO. Even if only people from Capitol Hill and Beacon/Rainier and the P&Rs use it, that’s still a lot of people who aren’t crowding roads or buses or sidewalks in central Seattle. Of course they should extend it to all transit, and the public should be more enlightened to expect it and use it. But things are progressing: ST2 Link will vastly extend Link’s cachement area to half the city and several suburban areas. The twenty RapidRide lines will come as soon as the county figures out funding for them. If the sports teams start offering free transit on all buses by that time, they will be able to have a greater effect then, and they will have more of a cachet.

      5. Regular bus routes don’t have the capacity to handle all those fans trying to get home after the game at once. Especially the expresses that run just once or twice per hour around game ending time. To anyone who ever takes a bus home from a Mariners game to the Eastside, you should be grateful that everybody else is driving; otherwise, you’d never fit on that bus at all. To some extent, this could be mitigated by running extra buses, but that would cost money, and Metro doesn’t have the funds to pay for it.

        Link is different because the vehicles are so much bigger, and to the extent that people are willing to squeeze, there’s a lot more spare capacity.

      6. Both Metro and ST have figured out how to have stand-by buses for their most frequent routes. For some riders, taking the one-seat ride from downtown is a better option than taking Link to a transfer bus, since those transfers are much farther away from the bus bases and don’t have a ready supply of spare buses.

      7. The standby buses only work for routes that are frequent enough to begin with that there will be people standing at the bus stop to get on a bus that shows up at an unexpected time.

        Furthermore, you have to have money to pay for them. This can be expensive, since every trip is going to be accompanied by a deadhead back to base, just like rush hour only service. Worse, there’s an awkward 3 hour period between when any extra buses arrive before the game, and when they leave after the game, so most likely, Metro has to pay the drivers to sit with the bus for the entire game.

        Handling gameday crowds is just so much cheaper if you can absorb the demand with the capacity of the regular schedule, rather than have to add special trips, just for the game crowds.

      8. Transit is so much more expensive if service levels are designed to cover events that only happen a few times every year. Setting nightly service to handle baseball crowds during the summer Pick, however, makes sense.

      9. Tlsgwm, Five will get you fifty that the majority of “all M’s games attendees” will get their quarter back in slightly less congestion before and after the game. That is, if the Mariners sufficiently advertise this.

    3. I believe parking at Husky Stadium is still free on Sundays. It could get a lot of use as a park and ride for Sunday games.

      1. A lot of those free parking lot are slated for development in the new campus master plan

      2. Yes, in the next few decades. But Link will be extended to Lynnwood and the Eastside in 2024 and Everett in 2036, so there will be less demand for parking at UW.

  3. I’d forgive the Sounders paying an anti-transit hate radio host who doesn’t know much about futbol to do some of the announcer work for the club if they’d just make a transit day pass part of the season ticket.

    Radio being the car-dealer-financed business that it is, I’m guessing the Mariners and Huskies have a similar example of auditory dissonance.

  4. When I went to Innotrans a year and a half ago, the trade show entrance ticket also doubled as a Berlin region wide transit day ticket fare on buses, trams, u-bahn and trains extending as far southwest as Potsdam. Apparently this is fairly common practice for trade shows at MesseBerlin to do it that way?

    Sure made getting around easy.

    1. I believe this is common at trade fairs in Germany generally, that your trade show ticket is also a transit pass for the duration of the trade show. It encourages attendees to use transit to/from the venue. The trade fair venues tend to have good transit access, often with rail service. Quite the contrast to USA.

      Another cool thing in Germany is that when you buy a long-distance train ticket ahead of time, usually you get it as “+City” ie. “Frankfurt+City” and it includes the local transit fare to the origin station and from the destination station.

      1. You can do this in the UK as well, at least to/from the London stations – your rail ticket can be set up to include Tube travel (not sure about buses; I don’t think so but not sure).

    2. I was going to mention this. Conventions and sports events in Germany often include same-day transit in the ticket. I thought it was limited to trains (including subways and trams but not buses), but maybe it has been extended to buses too. German cities have more train lines so the exclusion of buses is not as big a deal as it would be here: because all the high-volume and tourist-facing neighborhoods have trains.

    3. Same goes for soccer tickets in most cities. I had the pleasure of attending a Hertha match at Berlin’s Olympiastadion without needing to buy a day pass. The S-Bahn was especially good at clearing the platforms that night.

  5. I think it’s great! Of course, it is a great way to promote transit to occasional users or non-users. It’s very possible that one in a group of 3 or 4 already have a transit pass, so not everyone in a group would need this; the non-pass holders become theoretical ride-alongs.

    I wonder how a system could be implemented to reward existing unlimited pass riders better. This mostly benefits those without a pass. Other attractions elsewhere give admission discounts or concession discounts if you have a transit pass, for example.

    Finally, I wonder if ST will choose to actively market the service. Media ads? Interior train ads? Rail car wrap? Staffed info booths? Prizes? It could be more than a mere quiet discount!

    1. Neither Metro nor ST have ever compensated passholders for discounts or free days that others get. If the farebox doesn’t work or there’s a major weather delay or a bus breaks down and there’s a major delay, everyone rides free, but while that’s great for cash payers and e-purse payers, it does nothing for passholders. That’s a psychological annoyance but passholders are already getting a discount, especially if they ride much above the nominal pass rate of 44 trips a month. My effective fare is somewhere between $1.25 and $1.50, so I can’t seriously expect a discount beyond that.

      This raises the interesting issue that if we eventually go with universal residents’ passes or free transit, the agencies will not be able to give an extra mitigation when a bus breaks down or there’s a big snowstorm, unless they come up with some other kind of mitigation.

    2. Those with full passes benefit from having additional riders, even if they are infrequent, because that is how the demand for more service is created, leading to better frequency.

  6. Arrangements like these should definitely work systemwide. As should the whole system. Except for toll bridges an Hot Lanes, we don’t charge different streets and arterials separately. We want people to think of transit as a flexible network, with easiest possible transfer from one segment to all the others.

    Especially people who drive for the system, and even more the ones who manage it- where the real problems originate. I’m curious whether one of these free fares can get somebody a $124 fine for Fare Evasion if they “Tap On”, as in the pic of the inspector, after they haven’t “Tapped Off”- offense never mentioned until Fare Inspector gives you a “warning”. Or next time, same fine as a thief.

    Might be good if sports fans did start getting “nailed.” Unlike management level earners who can shake the fine out of their couch, or passengers earning too little for an attorney but too much for leniency- can the court even give that?……. fans get combative about “shakedowns.” Used to be, somebody could get “decked.” Word to the “prosecutor”: Don’t let me on the “jury.”

    “Mark Dublin”

      1. Thanks for the clarification, Brent. But in view of the terrible damage I inflicted on the system by tapping on after I didn’t tap off, by advocating and using paper passes, I feel like some nasty remorseless little fourteen year old Twittering Socialmedian who’s tormented Sound Transit into committing suicide from thousands of self-inflicted little paper cuts.

        But never any question whether any transit vehicle in our region is overloaded. What we call a crush load would get any run in San Francisco canceled for lack of ridership. But take heart. There’s no need to send all those little white hand-holds back to Home Depot. Bolt them onto the car roofs ’til they’re needed. Mumbai was not built in one football season.


        Mumbai regional transit has its own morgue. The innocent eyes of my conscienceless little contacts in Appland (no, they don’t have reindeer) are already glittering with ideas of how to make the County Medical Examiner and ATU Local 587’s facilities maintenance division believe we just got one. Lost and Found, too.

        Though best send Transit Security, and especially Fare Enforcement to England for training as to how to keep fans from Liverpool and Manchester United from getting on the same train at Stadium. Otherwise, if we don’t already have a morgue, we’ll some game day regret it.


  7. Back in the early days of the Mariners, I could drive down Aurora and the viaduct from my Wallingford apartment, park for free right smack in front of the Kingdome and buy a ticket about 10 minuets before game time. Then, along with several thousand other fans, I could watch the game.

    Things have changed.

  8. I just took light rail from uw to downtown.not realizing its opening day! Packed. As we enteree Westlake, a voice said “due to vehicles ahead, thus train will stop, and all passengers will need to deboard.” Impossible! Headed to game! But it was a mistake, we jeot going to downtown.

    1. When UW had its Apple Cup or something at CenturyLink stadium, I was at 45th trying to take a 71/72/73X home from work. All the frat boys and girls and dormies and apartment-dwellers were trying to get to the game, and in the first half hour three buses passed us packed too full to take on passengers. A few people walked further north to try to get a seat. I wasn’t in any hurry so I just stood and watched. It got to the point that even if a bus came, by the time they got to the stadium it would be a half hour into it. A few people left but there was still a big crowd. I finally got tired and went to take the 49. It was pretty busy and I saw a few refugees from the other route but there were still a few seats. This is the kind of situation that Link makes a major help in, and why even in its current state it helps circulate large crowds of sportsgoers and non-sportsgoers and protesters through central Seattle and is worth encouraging everyone to use it even if it means dangling freebies in front of them.

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