Monorail ticket booth at Seattle Center Station Photo by Joe Mabel / wikicommons

As Martin pointed out Thursday, the Seattle Center will be holding a hearing on Wednesday, September 11, and taking email comments through September 18, on a proposal to raise monorail fares as part of the rollout of accepting the ORCA card, along with interagency transfers and passes.

The published proposal focuses on the fare increases. But, as part of joining the ORCA pod, transfer credit from other ORCA trips will be good on the monorail, and vice versa, according to Seattle Center Director of Communications Deborah Daoust. Likewise PugetPass, Business Passport, U-Pass, and the Regional Day Pass will also be good for covering part or all of monorail fare.

The regular fare is going from $2.50 to $3.00, while the youth, senior, and disability fares are going from $1.25 to $1.50.

At the same time, a new low-income fare category will be introduced, at $1.50, available only by using loaded fare product on the ORCA LIFT card.

The eligibility age for the youth fare will expand from ages 5-12 to ages 6-18. Five-year-olds, accompanied by an adult, will now get to ride for free.

US military personnel with ID can get the half fare, but not by using ORCA.

Monorail non-ORCA monthly passes will go up from $50 to $60, and the reduced fare non-ORCA passes will continue to be half the cost.

Daoust offered an explanation for the increase to $3.00:

The proposed adult fare considers many factors including the cost to Seattle Monorail Services of implementing changes in its ticket structure and the fact that it relies on ticket revenues to cover operating costs and some major maintenance. The increase also factors in increases in consumer price index (CPI). Other considerations include fare alignment with other ORCA providers and the acceptance of transfers when ORCA users combine a Monorail trip with other transit use.

The increase to $3 helps the Monorail to offset losses it will incur by participating in One Regional Card for All, since only =/-$2 will come back to the Monorail under the ORCA program.

Everett Transit and Community Transit have also rolled out low-income fares this year. The last holdouts in the ORCA pod from having such a fare are Washington State Ferries — for which the Washington State Transportation Commission recently approved a pilot project to have a low-income fare, once funding is found — and Pierce Transit.

As at happens, the monorail would be the second entity for which ORCA LIFT would actually be a discount of 50% or more from the regular fare, joining Kitsap Transit.

ORCA acceptance on the monorail and the accompanying fare increases are set to commence October 7, assuming there is no public backlash in the comment period.

26 Replies to “Monorail proposal raises fares to offset ORCA transfers, passes”

  1. Is it also confirmed that Orca payers will be able to just tap and go (no waiting 10+ minutes in line behind cash payers for a human attendant to check the Orca card)?

    As the monorail stands today, it is the line for fare collection – not the train ride or even the wait for the train – that dominates the time commitment to ride the monorail.

    1. Has anybody reading this ever been fined over honest inability to find a working ticket-reader anyplace else in the system? I’d phone in incident date and time to the second to Fare Enforcement.

      Personal peace talks still stalled over the matter of incorrect number of taps on a fully-paid-up monthly ORCA pass. Just for peace of mind and because my own age leaves me so shamefully under-charged, presently handle the problem by buying a paper All Day Pass before first LINK boarding. Souvenirs.

      Any further harassment on the system’s part, that’s what Mike Lindblom, Bob Hasegawa, and Tim Eyman will be for. My present residence also takes my usual motor route to Tacoma right through State Senator Steve O’Ban’s district, and his office is ten minutes from my house. Deterrence seems to be working do far.

      Anyhow, great to finally get ORCA to the Monorail.


    2. Mark, do you do less than 45 trips per month? If you commute five days a week and take transit other times, then you’re paying more than if you had a monthly pass. I wouldn’t find it worth it just to have something that’s guaranteed to satisfy the fare inspectors and you can look down and see the receipt without needing an ORCA reader or wondering what it will say. I get a full-price $99 pass at $2.75 fare but I use it so much that my effective fare is around $1.25, so without the pass I’d be paying something like $250. So I’d rather just keep the pass and deal with the anxiety of not remembering whether I tapped or going back up again to make sure or wondering if the inspector’s reader will say I didn’t tap when I did.

    3. By the way, I’ve never failed an inspection, so the system works at least good enough for that. But Erica C Barnett wrote about when she forgit and had to pay a fine rather than spend all day going up to a Shoreline court to contest it, and other dilligent fare-payers have gotten caught in the trap. So it’s a problem that should be resolved.

      One thing I’ve noticed is many people don’t understand the readers. All the time at UW Station I see people who don’t understand the beeps, don’t realize their tap didn’t register (“please tag card again”), don’t realize it thought their tap in was a tap out, etc. Sometimes I tell them but I don’t want to seem like a pedant, and often even after I tell them they still don’t understand the issue. So there’s that.

      If the monorail has people scanning the cards, then that’s equivalent to turnstyles and they probably wouldn’t have fare inspectors on the train or in the waiting area. That would eliminate that problem, because you’re able to simultaneously pay, satisfy a fare-collector, and enter, rather than having all those be separate steps that may get out of sync. And if they question your payment then you can deal with it on the spot with a person and they can’t say you entered without paying.

      1. Confession, Mike. If memory serves, which it now fails frequently to do, my original idea was to save my paper passes and eventually present a pile of their shreds to the Sound Transit Board in front of cameras as a protest.

        Initial result of privately and permanently losing my temper not so much over being threatened with same fine as for deliberate theft, but of reading official e-mails defending an indefensible measure.

        Some more truth-telling. No personal persecution here. In whole life of LINK, I’ve been warned twice by inspectors, who’ve always been professional and polite, but never been fined a penny.

        But still and all, two years after having had a nice late afternoon dinner in Columbia City, followed by a beautiful sunset, ruined by false evasion-accusation in Columbia City, this whole thing’s staying as personal the as system we passengers, and transit personnel, helped build you.

        In reams of your own campaign publicity, Sound Transit, you promised to get the very existence of your separate sub-agencies out from under your own wheels. Opposite of criminalizing wrong number of card reader “taps” in the name of dividing up the money you’ve already got in your pocket.

        Deserved or not, I’ve neither the time nor the money for Freedom of Information Act inquiries over details of individual citations. Lack of vocal public reaction from the Transit Riders’ Union tells me that average passenger wrongly accused of theft is either too poor to contest the ticket (still a bus ride to Shoreline?) or too well-off to bother fighting it. Any guesses?

        Bitterly regret how little I get to ride LINK now. Change of voting address no more my choice than leaving the drivers’s seat. But however low my own ridership now, during and after my own transit days I put in too much of my own time to bring about Sound Transit’s existence to watch the resulting agency keep dirtying its own platforms, aisles, seats and good name with passenger treatment like this.

        Show Mike some respect for the suggestions he’s trying to help you with as to card readers and their beeps and boops. Though they’re really beside the point, which is a month’s worth of my transit money in your account equalling end of story.

        With what the passing years do to a passenger’s memory, thing I value most about my full-monthly card is being able to relax over whether I’ve paid my fare. Take that comfort away from me because you’re too cheap and lazy to apportion the money I’ve already paid you, ST……

        And then let’s you and me and a Public Defender and The Seattle Times and a TV station or two and Twitter see how forgivable real hard core age discrimination has become in the world of the self-identified pro-rail transit liberal. Or must that now read “Progressive?” Your call. And give Erica Barnett her money back. She works for her living.

        Mark Dublin

  2. Raising rates on the backs of discretionary riders is nonsense. My family of 3 will stick with Lyft and pay less.

    1. The city owns the monorail so the issue is what’s the best public policy, not how can we get the maximum number of non-ORCA riders by enticing them with an unchanged fare. Tourists will pay it anyway because it’s a monorail and part of Seattle’s history and you get a view from it. They are also the ones who are least willing to get an ORCA card because they’re only here for a short time. This switch incentivizes people who transfer; i.e., who use the entire transit system and come to the monorail on transit. They have been shunning the monorail to some extent avoid paying double fare. 99.9% of the region’s residents don’t live within walking distance of the monorail so they have to use some other mode to get there.

      That was also the problem with the Ballard-West Seattle monorail: it wasn’t going to accept transfers because its budget was too tight, so people like me coming from somewhere beyond downtown would have to decide between riding the monorail and not paying double fare every time I went to Ballard. If you travel five or ten times a week, it quickly becomes “take the bus”.

      1. IIRC, the monorail is run by a private company and as people say below, the profits go to Seattle Center, so it’s more like private organization greed.

    1. A big chunk of Seattle Monorail Services’ profit goes back into Seattle Center programming. That’s why the Seattle Center doesn’t want to risk a huge downturn in operating profit, and has requested the fare increase. You’ll notice that the page making this claim says nothing about fares covering capital expenses.

      (It’s also a reason why I haven’t patronized the Seattle Center for several years, but I look forward to going there a lot more after October 6.)

    1. It’s apparently a nice connection for parts of Seattle, especially if a midway station was built. There’s also locals attending Seattle Center events.

    2. People who like to ride a monorail of course. And people who like a view from an elevated train. And people who want to ride something that goes every ten minutes and isn’t hindered by traffic and stoplights. While I said I don’t like paying double fare and I stopped riding the monorail for years because of it, in recent years I’ve been less tightwad and now I treat it as part of my recreation budget and take it a few times a year. Or sometimes I take it one way and the bus back.

      1. The last time I rode on the monorail it broke down just before 5th and Denny heading toward the Westlake Center and they had to bring the other train along side so that we could transfer to it. Not a great experience and it wasn’t the last time it broke down.

        Since that time if I had to travel between downtown and the Seattle Center I take the bus. It may not be as fast but I would prefer that then riding the monorail which is approaching its 60th birthday.

    3. When I had a friend living in Magnolia, I would definitely have tried it at least once and maybe used it regularly had this been in place. The 24 and 33 can get stuck in traffic for very long periods between Westlake and Denny. The stops at Seattle Center have been moved now so maybe not now, but it would have been worth a try I think.

    4. I used it when living above Uptown. Faster than the buses, which got bogged down in rush hours. So much more comfortable a ride.
      I could stop at the stores on the walk home from the station. If it was very cold or wet I’d catch a bus for the last few blocks.

  3. I’ve always looked at the Monorail as the kind of moving sidewalk common in airports. Same mental image I use for streetcars. Is proposed fare-increase fair?

    Average Lyft driver probably better-than-average. But if I come into town on LINK, as usual, doubt the best of them can meet me at the foot of the Westlake mezzanine elevator shaft. Or get through even light traffic faster than the monorail trains, old as they are.


  4. This is a must-have and I sincerely hope folks e-mail in hopefully supportive comments. I also want to thank all who made getting the Seattle Monorail onto ORCA possible.

  5. Because subject of today’s posting is so important, have been hoping people would start using Saturday’s comment portal.

    My own first visual on the subject was in Washington DC in 1970, long before phones stopped having cords and started taking pictures. Pet shop whose evil owners let a cat family inbreed all over the store just for fun.

    Twisted limbs and spines. Each poor animal had a skull like a crescent moon, with an ear on each point. Savagely cruel “visual” to the reality of Birthright Government as our country’s founders observed it firsthand.

    Two real close examples in our time and place: A respected airplane manufacturer requiring a second survivor-free crash to verify results of a first one its founders would never have let happen.

    And multiple companies’ and agencies’ collaboration in celebrating upgraded Seattle to Portland rail passenger service with, what, three dead passengers and sixty injured?

    Every day now, aren’t we hearing warnings and laments about the repercussions of so many skilled tradespeople aging into retirement? And it’s not fair except to God how much in America breaks and falls apart because the only people who can fix it are being detained by ICE for bad papers.

    So can we please have today’s topic re-posted with comments activated? Based on all human, as well as feline, history, this one’s Life and Death. Incidentally: for me, STB’s most urgent posting yet.

    Mark Dublin

  6. It’s pathetic that it’s taken literally years to finally get a orca card readers installed so the monorail can accept them.

  7. Just making sure I understand the fare structure. A monorail ride from Westlake to Seattle Center is $3. A Link light rail ride from Westlake to Rainier Beach is $2.50. A Metro ride from Westlake to Aurora Village is $2.75. The Monorail doesn’t seem super cost efficient.

    1. All the other services operate at a loss, covered by tax revenue. Tax revenue still pays for monorail capital improvements, but the operating costs are covered by ticket revenue, and most of the profit then goes to the Seattle Center.

      For those transferring from Metro and using ORCA, it will now be a 25-cent up-charge instead of a $2.50 up-charge. Seniors 65+ and riders with disabilities will see a 50-cent up-charge instead of $1.25. Low-income (ORCA LIFT) users will see no up-charge, compared to $2.50 today.

      Children 0-4 will see no difference. Five-year-olds transferring from Metro with a youth ORCA card will now get to ride for free instead of paying $1.25. Youth 6-12 will transfer for free instead of paying $1.25. Youth 13-18 will transfer for free instead of paying $2.50.

      Those who managed to get downtown without riding public transit and didn’t use ORCA will see fare increases of 50 cents, 25 cents for seniors and riders with disabilities, and 25 cents for riders 6-12. Riders 13-18 will now get the youth fare of $1.50 instead of the full (current) $2.50 fare.

      For low-income families, this fare change is a serious victory.

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