This is an open thread.

82 Replies to “News roundup: reduced fare”

  1. As COVID 19 spreads through Seattle and more companies mandate remote work, bus ridership will likely fall off a cliff. I think if this happens, Metro should run a reduced schedule. Less buses. Less exposure to drivers. And an overall savings to the budget. All around a good thing.

  2. Not sure about transit use, but traffic volumes are definitely down in South King/Tacoma. I suspect coronavirus is keeping some people at home. I haven’t had a 25 minute commute in several years, and I hit that benchmark this morning. Usually, I’m hitting somewhere between 30 and 35 in the AM and 45 to 55 in the PM. I am interested to see how suppressed they will be this evening. I’ve talked to some folks who have started doing mandatory 100% telecommute days to test their readiness.
    Anybody else? How do the buses and trains look? Less crowded? Empty seats? Or no change from the normal commute?

    1. Just one data point, but on my commute from N Seattle to downtown this morning (Route 316), the bus seemed to be within its usual capacity range (ie, there were a few people standing, and a few empty seats on an articulated 60 footer.) The freeway (express lanes) did seem faster though. Without the Amazonians filling up the Mercer street exit and spilling out onto I-5, it flowed pretty freely. I was zoned out enough, though, that I didn’t notice the regular I-5 lanes.

    2. yeah I tried to pay attention yesterday and this morning. Yesterday wasn’t heavy but it certainly wasn’t light either. I’ve seen other random days display the same kind of traffic, so it could nothing more than I left work before most people.

      This morning I couldn’t tell as I got cut off by a BNSF freight train that decided to crawl forward an inch at a time.

    3. North Seattle Lake City Way @ 125th – I usually catch the bus 8:30-8:45a, and the buses have been quiet. Today’s bus (312) was down a third. Nearly everyone had a window seat, even the 85th commuters. Quite speedy today on the LCW, but yesterday (522) it seemed like the car traffic was high.

      I usually catch the 2nd bus in the bus bunch so I can get a seat; very easy to do that with any bus. Now I can rationalize it that I can better do social distancing.

      Monday I took the 41 and while there were very few standees, the bus was slow due a lot of car traffic even on the express lanes at Northgate.

      Just want to note that bus commuters dropped, but I think that early this week commuters first went back to their SOVs, then did telework.

    4. I have an enviable 2 mile “commute” but I’m hearing it from everone at work that traffic volumes are way down. School closings mean a parent has to say home and take care of kids. I think that is what’s behind a lot of the drop in traffic volume.

      1. Also, a number of employers are allowing or all but forcing work-from-home. One of my friends who went into the Microsoft office today sent me pictures of the almost-empty garage.

      2. Restaurant we went to tonight, in downtown Renton, said that they were out of a lot of food because they had had essentially no customers earlier in the week and we’re preparing as much (it’s a barbecue place so they can’t make more to order). It was obviously picking up some tonight.

  3. Can you provide some examples of how “environmental considerations are often used to stifle things that would be good for the environment”?

    1. Jerry Brown praising Marin County as an example of exemplary green development, while being suburban, car centric, and exorbitantly expenses.

      Or, Google “tree song” for some local flavoe

    2. Blocking new housing to protect urban trees, resulting in dozens more trees in real habitat cut down on the periphery.

      1. I guess the difference in that case is they don’t really care about the trees, they care about the development.

      2. Except some of them really do care about the trees. They are just being short sighted. More trees will be cut down, including trees that are part of a more natural habitat because they want to protect trees in their neighborhood.

      3. I’ve talked to a few arborists that not every tree is worth saving. Trees have functional life spans like humans. Fires and disease can cull tree coverage pretty significantly. Different tree species have different viable life spans. Some trees are ill-planted into the wrong slope or wrong soil or wrong drainage. For example, there are trees in some green strips that struggle all over Seattle.

        It’s important to realize that tree coverage isn’t a yes/no or even a mere percentage declaration. It’s a far more complex issue about whether to sacrifice a tree, move a tree or try to save it in place.

      4. I’m skeptical this is an actual problem, whereas preserving our urban canopy and limiting urban heat islands is definitely an actual problem. Can you ballpark how many acres or miles of green periphery you would argue have been lost to Seattle protecting its dwindling canopy?

        Moreover, green urban habitat is “real ” habitat. It has environmental value of its own, not to mention demonstrable economic , social, and public health benefits.

        Anti-transit and anti-bike activists using an EIS or SEIS to hold up multimodal projects was your much better example.

      5. I’m skeptical this is an actual problem, whereas preserving our urban canopy and limiting urban heat islands is definitely an actual problem.

        Sorry, but that is backwards. Habitat loss is a real problem, no matter what form it takes. But urban habitat is already compromised. City habitat is isolated by nature. There are no bears, cougars or lynx in Seattle, but there are outside Carnation.

        Oh, and the increase of heat islands as well as the impact to the earth in general are bound to be bigger in the suburbs than in the city. An increase in city density is by its very nature going to involve more compact living (less concrete and less land used per resident). City residents drive less as well.

        Can you ballpark how many acres or miles of green periphery you would argue have been lost to Seattle protecting its dwindling canopy?

        Of course not. Nor can you ballbark the ecological benefit from reducing the number of trees cut down. But what is reasonable to assume is that more habitat in areas that are wild, or adjacent to wilderness are harmed if we push development to the suburbs.

        Moreover, green urban habitat is “real ” habitat. It has environmental value of its own, not to mention demonstrable economic , social, and public health benefits.

        Yes, of course. But it doesn’t have more environmental benefit than more natural habitat. While I bristled at Martin’s terminology, I knew what he meant. Seattle’s habitat is less natural, less wild, if you will, then a forest in the suburbs, adjacent to wilderness (or even a clear cut). Preserving those areas is more important, for reasons that are self evident.

        There is local benefit or the type you mentioned, but there is more with good parks. A park like Discovery, for example, is bound to have more diversity of wildlife than my backyard (non-native) oak tree. I can visit with a friend and walk amongst the trees in Ravenna. I can’t do that on private property.

        Anti-transit and anti-bike activists using an EIS or SEIS to hold up multimodal projects was your much better example.

        But they are different things. The former is simply someone using the law in ways that it wasn’t intended. EIS and SEIS laws were meant to preserve the environment, whether locally or globally. But focusing on the local environment, to the detriment of the regional (or global) is ignoring the forest for the trees.

      6. For the record, I gave up replying to Ross long ago. To every response comes another 2000 words — who could possibly have the time to engage? Cheers.

      7. Mountain lions live in Seattle. The last sightings were in 2009. Coyote sightings escalated in 2019. Otters live in Alki. Raccoons live in Lake City (along the day lighted section of Thornton Creek). Nature lives inside Seattle city limits, whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not.

      8. Sorry, but that is backwards. Habitat loss is a real problem, no matter what form it takes. But urban habitat is already compromised.

        Seems “urbanists” want a free pass. It’s not a net sum game. Less development in the city doesn’t automatically mean that development moves to the ‘burbs. Cities with their “already compromised” development need to be held to a high standard. Of course it’s a lie that a city like Seattle can be “sustainable” there’s still a lot of low hanging fruit to be plucked.

      9. “Less development in the city doesn’t automatically mean that development moves to the ‘burbs.”

        Right, the 3rd outcome is less housing for people, which is California’s preferred approach.

      10. The region has already decided which areas to keep as rural habitats: the urban growth boundary ends at Issaquah; Carnation is outside it. Most of the concerns about environmental preservation/stifling housing are not about one-off buildings in Carnation. They’re about converting a single-family house to townhouses or apartments, or replacing a three-story apartment building with a seven-story one, or a new urbanist neighborhood in Snoqualmie or Black Diamond.

        Seattle has small habitats and these are also important. A number of homeowners along East Columbia Street between 29th and 12th Avenues have turned their front yards and sidewalk strips into bioswales and shrubs that gives bees a pollinating corridor, or native plants or vegetables. This is happening at a smaller scale at other places in the city. The waterfront renovation will have a linear bioswale that is expected to attract birds and critters that previously lived downtown before it was all covered in concrete and asphalt. That’s what’s going in instead of a streetcar.

      11. The Urban Growth Boundary does not end at Issaquah. Carnation, Duvall, Snoqualmie, and North Bend all have Urban Growth Areas. Even if you’re just looking at the contiguous boundary, Sammamish is the eastern most edge.

      1. QED? And I don’t know of any environmentalists who are against completing the missing link.

      2. Your original begging of the question did not ask about environmentalists.

        Can you provide some examples of how “environmental considerations are often used to stifle things that would be good for the environment”?

        The Missing Link is being held up by lawsuits directly related to an EIS/SEPA that was completed long ago.

        The EIS/SEPA would be considered codified “environmental considerations”.

        As for “QED”, put your fledgling Google skills to the test good sir.

      3. You’re always such a pleasure to interact with, RapidRider. I hope you get whatever you’re looking for in life someday.

  4. You can remove the paywall sign form the Seattle times article. They dropped the paywall for all Coronavirus coverage.

  5. Is there anything stopping ST from having vendors (coffee stand, food, etc.) on the mezzanine levels of the downtown link stations?

    1. I don’t see why they wouldn’t do this! Seems like a great idea. But maybe logistically it would be hard. I’m sure the city wouldn’t make it easy for them with all the permitting and health codes they’d have to follow. Plus plumbing for a coffee stand. But maybe a news stand type thing would work!

    2. Given Seattle essentially bans food carts and the like it’s probably not going to happen.

    3. The most similar thing to this I’ve seen is the food at Renton TC. I don’t think I’ve ever seen food/coffee sold actually at a transit center in this way. I wonder if anyone knows why Renton (and only Renton) has this.

      One thing about something like this is that it doesn’t have to be in Seattle. If there’s coffee at the Kent-Des Moines station on the mezzanine, then it could be conveniently used by passengers from Federal Way and Tacoma as well. They would just be delayed by one or two trains, which isn’t so bad (they wouldn’t even need to re-tap their card).

      1. Northgate P&R once had a Renton TC like fixed location. There used to be a street level small food cart at CPS during the summer months as well. Clearly this has been tried before. Why it is so difficult to maintain is anybody’s guess.

      2. Certainly in the DSTT the ingress/egress would be hard. There’s just tiny elevators and no down escalators.

    4. This has been suggested (begged for) countless times here over the years. Far as I can remember, Seattle has unusually strict codes about access to very hot running water, and maybe restrooms as well. It’s why we can’t have nice things like cheap hot dog stands in the park, but do get to pay $12 for a sausage off a truck. Have never seen any evidence that the fine people of New York or Chicago or suffer from higher rates of food-related illness, but Seattle’s gonna Seattle. Given the quaint attitudes here toward advertising on transit and at bus stops, it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s also a cultural reluctance to allow a for-profit vendor in the mezzanines — even if the old customer service window screams for it.

  6. My office has been shut since Tuesday and has a complete travel ban through the end of March. That’s many hundreds of transit riders not traveling.

    Sales tax collections are going to be much lower, which will hurt transit funding. Just on lunches I’ll spend $40 less this week. Inbound tourism and business travel to Seattle is dropping significantly.

    1. House is stocked with food. Perishables. Non perishables. Cans. Frozen. Produce. We’re good for another two weeks without a trip to the store. Every lunch this week has been packed and I’ve gotten up 15 minutes early every day to make coffee before heading out the door, so I don’t buy a coffee from a barista who doesn’t get paid sick day or have health insurance, and I don’t have to drink the office coffee brewed by a co-worker with any range of personal hygiene levels. Eating exclusively at my desk or in the car. No plans to visit any restaurant anytime soon. Only trips are going to be to and from work. We’ll probably go to church on weekdays, for now, when it is much less crowded and we can keep 6 feet of personal space. Yep, this will hurt the economy on all levels. On the bright side, maybe we’ll be able to buy that dream house after all if housing prices crash enough.

      1. …so I don’t buy a coffee from a barista who doesn’t get paid sick day or have health insurance…

        Yet another disease outbreak that points out the complete idiocracy that we are the only first world country without universal health care and the only country, outside a few tiny island nations, that does not mandate minimum leave time for employees.

      2. That reminds me of when I visited an aunt in San Marcos, CA, a few times in the past few decades. Sometime in the 90s she talked about the calls in some quarters to crack down on the Mexican border and not give free healthcare to undocumented children in schools. She said the people who are most insistent on cracking down at the border are previous immigrants who got in under the 84 amnesty and don’t want newer ones running through their yards. Regarding healthcare, she said they don’t understand that giving it in the schools isn’t just about benefiting immigrant children, it’s about keeping infectious diseases from spreading to the rest of the community and their own kids.

  7. I got on a 27 yesterday at 3rd and James. Fare enforcement also got on the bus and asked for proof of payment. This really surprised me, since it’s not a RR and no all-door boarding.

    I pointed out that I could have paid a cash fare already and have no POP. The FE told me that if you pay with cash you are _required_ to get a transfer, and keep it as POP.

    I have never heard of any such thing before, nor seen it written posted anywhere. The metro page on paying fares says you need POP for RR, but does not say that about regular buses.

    So is this an actual metro policy, either new or long-standing? If so, to say they’ve done a terrible job of communicating it would be an understatement. Or were these FE out of line with actual policy?

    I sent an inquiry/complaint to metro, but am curious what people on this blog know about this, and if anyone else has ever been fare checked on a regular metro bus?

    1. If this is the case, wouldn’t the drivers be *required* to tear off and hand a transfer to *every* cash rider who enters the bus?

      Did you get a name or badge number of the officer?

      1. I didn’t get name or badge, but gave them the route, time and location. Hopefully they keep records of such things.

        Requiring a transfer also begs the issue of what happens to people who ask the driver if they can board without paying. That’s pretty common. Are they then still subject to enforcement?

    2. Got fare checked once about a month ago on a 17X downtown in the evening commute. Only time this has happened.

      I was not really paying attention and had my headphones on so the FEO was kind of annoyed that I was not quickly compliant. I said I’d already paid with my ORCA card and didn’t understand why they were asking. They said “routine check” and moved along.

      1. Got fare checked on a bus at Third and Jackson where there is no off board payment and the driver didn’t open the back doors. The officer had literally seen me tap my ORCA and heard the “ok” ding.

    3. Theoretically all stops on 3rd Avenue between Jackson and somewhere in Belltown have off-board payment, and if there’s no ORCA reader there’s supposed to be a person with a hand scanner, but I have never seen one. Some non-RapidRide stops have ORCA readers, and they’re for all routes at that stop now.

      I think the issue of drivers allowing you to ride free and inspectors dinging you is an unintended consequence of two policies colliding, and I don’t know if Metro has thought far enough about it. Drivers are supposed to give every cash-payer a transfer in POP areas, so I suppose that might mean they should give non-payers a transfer too. I haven’t seen that. Usually it’s assumed that inspections are so infrequent that you’re unlikely to encounter one during most trips, so the issue doesn’t come up. But it can happen anytime at random.

  8. Re University Street Station: “we’re right back where we started. This incredible display of incompetence makes me sad.”

    We’re back where we started in terms of policy but several things have changed. ST reversed course after riders and transit fans recommended it. Let that sink in. And on the same day it advanced 130th Station. That should have been done years earlier but at least it’s happening now. Usually ST refuses to reverse bad decisions but now it has done so on two occasions.

    And there are other effects of the University Street U-turn. We learned that stations have acronyms. There was a pretty complete debate on the pros/cons of the original name, the new name, and other suggestions. Balducci surveyed the station herself. That may happen with other boardmembers and other stations but this is the first we’ve heard explicitly about it. Now we can tell other boardmembers to follow Balducci’s precedent on other stations. And maybe ask them to clarify what transit they take if any. Imagine if reporters asked that in every interview until we get an answer?

  9. What is the actual official policy on strollers for King County Metro & Sound Transit?

    Different bus drivers seem to have different policies. And I’d like to quote the chapter & verse of their policy manual at them when they are asses about it.

    1. The policy should be detailed in The Book, aka the Transit Operating Handbook. I don’t have a section reference; you may need to PRR it from King County. But strollers are allowed on buses and your child can remain strapped into the stroller, provided you strap the stroller into the securement area. Someone in a wheelchair would have priority if needed.

      I’ve not had an issue loading a stroller on the bus in the last 5 years; just roll right on a strap it into the securement area. Most drivers are kind enough to kneel the coach for me, but even if they don’t I can lift it up. Only once did I have to vacate the securement area when two wheelchairs boarded.

    2. I’ve seen all kinds of things but I’ve never seen a categorical prohibition of strollers. Usually it’s about non-folding strollers, or the large seats being filled and somebody sitting in a regular seat and the stroller/walker jutting into the aisle. Usually people voluntarily vacate the front seats for wheelchairs/walkers/strollers/fragile pedestrians, but I once saw people refuse and the driver said he couldn’t make someone move involuntarily so the walker or cart had to go to a regular seat, and then the driver complained it was jutting into the aisle and they’d have to get off the bus and wait for the next one. That’s one thing if the route is frequent, but another thing if it’s half hourly. I saw one low-income woman on a 101 who was told she couldn’t have her non-folding stroller she’d just gotten from some charity action, and rather than wait for the next bus since she was tired and exacerbated and may have had two children with her (I don’t remember), she left the stroller at the stop and angrily called her relatives.

  10. King County buys a motel to house infected citizens. Where was this motel-buying ability during the housing/homeless crisis?

    The motel is sandwiched between SR 167, a car dealership, a self storage facility, and other auto-centric wastelands. The mayor of Kent concern-trolls, asking why they didn’t buy a motel in downtown Seattle or Bellevue. If they had done so, i’m sure the Kent mayor would ask why King County is wasting money buying a motel in the big city.

    The site is just 1 mile north of Kent Station, and while it is zoned for General Commercial, there is a General Commercial/Mixed Use zoning right next door that has some apartments. I wonder what the county will do with their motel after this sickness is over.

    1. King County buys a motel to house infected citizens. Where was this motel-buying ability during the housing/homeless crisis?

      The motel is sandwiched between SR 167, a car dealership, a self storage facility, and other auto-centric wastelands.

      I think you answered your own question. The motel was cheap, available and remote, which makes sense for a quarantine.

      To buy a motel for the homeless, means it needs to be in a denser area with services and access to public transportation. That means the motel would be prohibitively expensive and likely not for sale.

      I wonder what the county will do with their motel after this sickness is over.

      Sell it?

    2. The county did buy a garden apartment building a year or two ago that was full of subsidized-housing residents and there were no similar places available for them to go to. So action is moving slowly in that direction, although preserving one-story garden apartments raises the issue of the number of other people who could live in a denser building there. It is frustrating that a novel virus makes things happen but the ongoing problem of homelessness and cost-burdened renters doesn’t. Still, with a virus spreading that there’s no vaccine for, they didn’t have any choice because how else can you quarantine a lot of sick people effectively?

  11. For the “net ecological gain”, I would humbly suggest exempting the largest city in each county. So, urban developers in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Spokane, etc, gets a smoother development without this restriction, while suburban sprawl in Maple Valley, South Hill, Marysville, Spokane Valley, needs the ecological gain.

    This would mean more development in central cities and less in far out suburbs, which itself is an ecological gain.

    1. Yes, if it’s applied that way. What people are worrying about is if cities like Seattle and Bellevue and Des Moines (the most vocal reactionary city in south King County) use it as another excuse to slow-walk housing expansion.


    “When using cash:

    Please have the exact fare ready (you can overpay if you don’t have the exact amount); drivers do not carry change.
    Put your money in the farebox located next to the driver.
    The farebox has a sign that tells you the fare.

    If you are transferring, ask the driver for a paper transfer at the time you pay. Metro paper transfers are valid on only Metro buses. If you are paying cash and use more than one transit system you must pay a fare each time you board a different bus.

    On Metro RapidRide buses, the driver will always give you a paper transfer when paying with cash. This transfer also acts as your receipt for proof of payment. Keep it with you at all times when riding because a fare enforcement officer may ask to see it.”

    Next question… Somebody tell me when the Route 27 turned into Rapid Ride? Hell yes, get names, badge numbers, time, route, and direction of travel. And forget about Customer Assistance and since this is Metro and not Sound Transit, get with your county council member.

    Really way past time the system needs to start looking down the bore of as many lawsuits as the courts can hold. Mike Lindblom needs a phone call too. If name of the game’s intimidation, no limit on team size.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The 27 didn’t turn into RapidRide, but it may stop at a stop with an ORCA reader, because some non-RapidRide stops on 3rd have them now. So it’s all-door boarding and fare inspectors. That has been the case since 3rd Avenue went to all-door boarding last year. It applies to all stops, and all stops were supposed to get ORCA readers last year but that didn’t happen, and Metro said the remaining stops without readers would have a person with a hand scanner like the DSTT did, but I have never seen a person with a scanner at the 3rd & Pike stop where I get the 131/132 southbound, so everybody has to board in front and pay the drifver. Still, the inspectors aren’t going to pay attention to whether the route makes some stops at stops without readers, because the same route stops at a RapidRide station further south. Whether the inspectors board at stops without ORCA readers I don’t know.

  13. Just what Metro needs. Another high paid administrator! Here we are on March 5th and they still do not have the full information posted about the upcoming service change.has the promised work been completed on Montlake around the link station for the new255:) routing??

    1. That’s not a comprehensive assessment of how many administrators Metro needs vs how many it has. It’s just a knee-jerk reaction that if followed through to its conclusion would lead to one administrator at Metro and a collapse of service. The ultra-low-income program is necessary, and if the bureaucracy handles it with an administrator position, well, getting free passes to low-income people is more important than how many administrators there are.

  14. The “net ecological gain” will likely impact housing as the article pointed out. It’s pretty vague what the law would do in practice. Chances are there will be another set of rules to follow for development. If thoughtfully implemented it could have a great impact, but will certainly entail more professionals to design a solution around the ecological impact, another reviewer to review and approve the plan for the permit, and more money and expertise to implement the physical plan.

    If it’ll be anything like our states shoreline requirements which every city has to implement (all a little differently), I can easily say the costs will be higher and will take more time.

    I’m not apposed, but I would suggest getting some folks who work on all aspects of development to influence implementation.

    1. I’m somewhat concerned with whether it will really protect the environment or be another way for nimby obstruction. It says new projects must improve the environment but it doesn’t prevent an old undense, inefficient lot from stagnating for decades because nothing can be approved, because it provides a veto point for change but not for lack of change.

      The other issue is greenwashing. A few buildings advertise their LEED certification or 100% renewable energy on the outside, but that misses the point of whether the previous building could be retrofitted, how much energy the new building is using, and whether the building has a pedestrian-friendly facade and front door, and doesn’t have an oversupply of parking. It’s like saying electric cars will be the solution, without trying to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled or increase the number of people per vehicle, and slimming down parking lots so people could more easily walk between places. It can be part of the solution but it shouldn’t be the main focus. Likewise, since I live in an apartment I can’t put solar panels or a garden on the roof, so just telling everybody to put solar panels on their roof excludes a lot of people and is an example of single-family-ism, as is the electric car issue.

    2. Oh and Governor Inslee, that bit about electric cars and greenwashing was partly directed at you. For a governor who claims to have the most ambitious carbon-reduction plan in the country, where is the major investment in local and regional transit throughout the state? Where is more comprehensive rural transit? Where is ST Express to Olympia?

      1. Second your question about ST Express to Olympia and back. Worth it if we have to give legislators free rides to Sea-Tac Airport. Anybody doubt they class as “Special Needs?” Fact we can use to get a certain elevator either fixed or replaced.

        Half hour service, ST 574, Olympia Transit Center to Sea-Tac Airport, stops at Dupont, SR 512 Park and Ride, Tacoma Dome only. Well-advertised transfer to everyplace on Link.

        Ridership better than “latent”. Seriously doubt I’m the only Olympia resident who really misses the transit system we used to have before our rents blew out from under us like a landmine. I’m lucky that unlike a lot of my cohorts, I don’t still have to work up there.

        Can “JDI” become the official acronym for “Just Do It!?

        Just do it.

        Mark Dublin

  15. Speaking of the 130th Station, I came across this old article recently: Here is an excerpt:

    “Unlike every major American city, Toronto reversed transit ridership decline in the early 1960s. A strong suburban bus network fed the older subway system and made transit a viable mode everywhere, which makes the subway system far busier per mile than its D.C. and San Francisco contemporaries to this day, which rely mostly on walk-in and park-and-ride traffic.

    It’s not that Toronto suburbs are different from American ones—there are plenty of single-family homes on winding cul-de-sacs, and a large majority of Toronto households own a car. Not only does the city have highways, it boasts a 16-lane expressway that’s the busiest in the world. The difference, though, is that transit service is also good—so much so that lots of people choose to leave their car at home for many of their trips.

    The suburban York Mills subway station, for example, is surrounded by surface parking, a golf course, and multi-million-dollar houses on large lots. It sounds like just about the worst environment imaginable for a subway station. And yet, it gets 10,890 riders a day–more than many stations in Manhattan, and most in Brooklyn.”

    (emphasis mine). Even in a city that has gigantic residential towers, you don’t need them next to a station to get good ridership. What you do need is a good overall transit network, which would certainly be possible with a station at 130th.

    1. We just got back from Vancouver, where as always, we did the entire trip by public transit (Sounder to Amtrak to Skytrain to bus to BoltBus to Sounder).

      In Toronto, the only time I’ve driven is when we were going to visit some parks near Windsor on the way to Detroit. I’ve spent several months total there only using public transit.

  16. Wellllll, Ken and Alex…. just heard back from Customer Services:

    ‘Dear Mark Dublin,

    Re: Case # 00258159

    Thank you for your recent case submittal, advising Metro Transit of the suggestions or concerns you have regarding our service. I appreciate that you took the time to contact this office and will certainly do what I can to assist you.

    I apologize for your confusion regarding fare enforcement on King County Metro bus service. Fare enforcement officers can, at any time and any stop, board the RapidRide bus and check for proof of payment. Any other route that offers off-board fare payment, even if it is not a RapidRide route, can also have fare enforcement officers board in the area of off-board payment. I have included relevant information regarding Metro policy that concerns fare enforcement.

    You can find the following information on our Fare Enforcement page, if you scroll to the section at the bottom that says “Fare enforcement questions and answers”


    “Why does Metro have fare enforcement officers? – Transit uses fare enforcement to minimize fare evasion on King County Metro’s RapidRide system and other Metro routes that have off-board payment and all-door boarding. Off-board payment allows riders to pay their fare before getting on the bus, which speeds up service by allowing riders to board using any door on the bus. While this feature decreases the time buses spend loading and unloading passengers, it may also increase the risk of riders deliberately boarding without paying a valid fare. To mitigate this risk, fare enforcement officers check riders for proof of payment and issue penalties to riders without a valid ticket or pass.”

    I thought it would be of assistance to offer some relevant information regarding Washington state laws and fare payment. Please see RCW 36.57A.230 as well as RCW 81.112.210, which are the Washington state laws that empower King County Metro to protect any losses due to lack of fare payment.

    I also did want to inform you that we have several programs available to assist customer who cannot afford a full fare. We have our Regional Reduced Fare Pass program for seniors and disabled people, as well as the ORCA LIFT program for low-income people. If you think you are qualified for any of these programs, please give us a call at (206)553-3000 and we’re always happy to assist you in obtaining the ORCA card that you need. We will also soon be implementing a very low income program, comparable to ORCA LIFT. This program will start this summer. Please reach out to us in a month or so for additional information regarding this upcoming program.

    Thank you for your understanding and cooperation with King County Metro and our fare payment system. I would always suggest that the best way to avoid any kind of citation with fare enforcement by paying valid fare and obtaining a valid transfer from your driver at the time of fare payment. Also please be sure to keep your paper transfer in order to protect your 2 hour transfer privilege.

    Again, thank you for contacting Metro Transit’s Customer Information Office. If we can be of further assistance please feel free to contact us by phone at 206-553-3000, or by web form at the following URL:


    Customer Information Specialist
    King County Metro Transit’

    And my own first response:

    “(3) If fare payment is required before entering a transit vehicle, as defined in RCW 9.91.025(2)(b), or before entering a fare paid area in a transit facility, as defined in RCW 9.91.025(2)(a), signage must be conspicuously posted at the place of boarding or within ten feet of the nearest entrance to a transit facility that clearly indicates: (a) The locations where tickets or fare media may be purchased; and (b) that a person using an electronic fare payment card must present the card to an electronic card reader before entering a transit vehicle or before entering a restricted fare paid area.”

    Little survey: What percentage of ridership have ever heard of the rule that fare inspection has in fact replaced what used to be the Ride Free Area in Downtown Seattle? Because, pretty much like the area around the fare machines at Sea-Tac, would defy anybody to find the explanation that the RCW seems to mandate. If I had the money, I’d take this violation to court for transit’s own good.

    Remembering the Ride Free Area as both a passenger and a driver, there’s a lot to be said for not forcing passengers to pay when they get off the whole length of a rush hour run. Given a choice, as I’ve personally done ever since fare cards came in, would make basic fare unit a pre-paid monthly ORCA card. But under rules which do not make a criminal out of me for wrong “tap” sequence. Also am not going to hear “You’re not a criminal, you just broke a rule.” Not ’til I’m in the same income bracket as the drafters of that rule.

    One good thing about this whole sorry business: For the first time I’m glad that Intercity Transit is now my bus line. And no, its fares aren’t “free”. The deal is that considering cost of money-handling, it’s a tax I consider an excellent investment. For the system that used to be mine…..whether I live to see it or not, when inevitable merger happens, a paid-up pass will be regionwide blanket immunity and never State’s Evidence.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Thanks for posting this Mark. Interesting you got a reply well before I did (haven’t gotten one yet). I don’t remember whether there is a orca reader at that stop (off-board payment). But you can’t use cash on that anyway.

      Bottom line, _if_ Metro is saying you need POP on any bus that has any off-board readers along the route, then they really need to start calling those transfers “tickets.” And of course posting and disseminating this information would be a good idea too, since this has never been an issue before.

      Or better yet, they could just stop doing enforcement on the non-RR buses…

    2. What percentage of ridership have ever heard of the rule that fare inspection has in fact replaced what used to be the Ride Free Area in Downtown Seattle?

      I did — although I don’t think it applies to all of downtown. The 27 runs on Third Avenue. Third Avenue started off-board fare payment a while ago. I can understand the confusion, but folks talked about this a while ago. They are applying it not on a handful of specific buses (like RapidRide), but on all buses that go to that specific area.

      I think the problem in this instance was that the bus driver didn’t hand the rider a transfer. Even if the rider said “no thanks”, the driver should say “you may need it, if the fare enforcers ask for it — just hold to it until you get off the bus”.

      I would say that the general problem is the half-ass way we are doing things. It costs money, but we should have fare boxes in the middle of every bus, and they should dispense proof-of-payment tickets. There should also be ORCA card readers in several places on the bus. We should also continue to add the readers in bus stops that have lots of riders (like downtown and close to every Link station). Put in some signage, and you are done. Then everything makes sense, and it becomes pretty clear how the system works. The existing number of fare enforcers is probably just fine (there is little evidence that increasing enforcement beyond a bare minimum actually pays off).

      1. Ross, I’d be curious to know where you “heard” about this from. Especially since it’s not listed on the “how to pay your fare” page on the Metro site. Also, most of the buses in Downtown run on Third avenue.

        And to be clear, I paid with Orca and didn’t get cited–it’s just the principle of this that is bugging me. Fare policy should be simple, and clearly explained/posted. As far as I can tell, this isn’t even posted at all.

        And still wondering about all the people who ask the driver if they can get on without a fare, and they say yes. Giving someone a citation at that point would seem rather unfair and lacking in due process…

      2. I only heard about it on this blog. For months they mentioned the new fare readers (off the bus). It was a big part of the whole crunch caused by closing the tunnel to buses and closing the viaduct mess.

        I agree though, there was very little news about what that actually meant. If they have off board payment, it implies fare enforcers. I never actually heard anyone explicitly mention that aspect of it.

        As for those “waved on” by the driver, even without fare, I would hope that the rider would simply be kicked off, after confirming with the driver that he indeed said it was OK, instead of saying, for example “Well, I can’t stop you, go ahead”.

      3. There is no ORCA reader at Third and Jackson, but I’ve had fare enforcement there.

      4. @Breakbaker — If there is an ORCA reader anywhere on the route, then you could have fare enforcement anywhere on the route. That goes for RapidRide as well. There are “stations” where they have readers, and “stops” where the don’t. But you can have fare enforcement anywhere.

        @Ken — The difference is that the driver could feel intimidated into letting a rider on. Policy is that they are not supposed to enforce payment. It is a grey area. If someone gets on and says “I forgot my ORCA card, can I please ride the bus this time” and the driver says “Sure, I know you” it is one thing. If a driver says “Fare please” and the rider responds with “Fu** you, you can’t do sh**”, it is another. The point is that if the rider says the driver let him on without paying, they should talk to the driver.

      5. There was some outreach when the change happened; I think everybody who was commuting on 3rd then eventually heard about the change. Now there’s not really any sign explaining it, you’re just expected to know and “ignorance of the law is no excuse”. It’s hard for me to perceive what it’s like for visitors or occasional riders who don’t read STB since I’m not one of those. And there have been so many changes and outreaches over the past two years that I can’t keep track of which was which or how extensive the outreach was.

  17. Sound Transit local fares going up 50 cents this summer. It will be same no matter how far one travels.

  18. Maybe just lucky. I called Metro Customer Information, got connected quick, explained what I wanted, and gave the agent my e-mail. Also registered a complaint as the system’s assumption that it has the right to threaten punishment over policies this complicated.

    And so badly explained to the point where I really am thinking of going to court with an RCW or two in my hand stating that transit can’t punish what they don’t very clearly post. In location and language usable by a stranger in a hurry. Since this is King County Metro, who is your county council-member? By experience, it helps over the years to keep elected reps familiar with my name and my thinking.

    I also really do think it’s time that we fare-payers formed a political organization capable of meeting force with force. A call that’s transit’s, not mine. Do you, or does anybody else, know a working link to the Transit Riders’ Union? E-mail I have for them keeps kicking back all my communications. Know they’re working on some measures for the future. Too bad innocent passengers are being damaged now.

    Mark Dublin

  19. Thanks, Norah. Could save me a trip to Seattle this weekend. Know I’m showing my years here, but hope the little Gravatar doesn’t depict anything that ever happened to you.

    Reason it’s massively [ON TOPIC] here is that it shows exactly the way I felt both times I was warned I was looking at a theft charge for wrong number of “taps” on a card that was not only carrying a monthly pass, but would’ve had a half hour’s time left if I’d just left it in my pocket instead of doing what I thought was a mandatory “tap on.”

    On the phone yesterday, Agency confirmed that after my first, and customary “tap on”, I could’ve spent two hours using every station staircase in the system for a “Stairmaster ” and still registered legal on an inspector’s reader. Making my offense the exact act demanded (with a picture!) by a half dozen RCW’s.

    With no word anywhere describing the legal liability. Was told over the phone yesterday that remedy for the complexity was just to watch my “taps” and shut up if I knew what was good for me. My formative transit-riding life in 1950’s Chicago left me with some strong memories of what could happen to you on the “El” for making threats like that.

    Wrong gravatar, ST. Correct image is a sweet furry little creature called a “Tapmunk” who starts to cry if somebody fails to pet the fare reader. Sell them at the counter and direct the proceeds to any sub-agency that gets cheated by a tap-missing meanie. And every three year old girl who gets one will turn 23 in a fare-inspector’s uniform.

    Mark Dublin

  20. And Ross, just a word about drivers ordering fare-refusers off buses. The Seattle police seem to make a policy of holding off on giving orders ’til backup arrives. Generally more than one officer, all enforcement trained, and armed.

    Driver doesn’t do “nothing.” He or she notes description of the thief, time, location, route and run number, and direction of travel and phones the info in when safe. Back at base, I think driver still gets paid half an hour for the incident report.

    And is also in a union-protected position to report by text, phone, or union-protected personal appearance in uniform at Metro Council or Sound Transit Board meetings, of crimes left unattended. Don’t know how it is now, but not only did elected officials respond favorably when I showed up in uniform in between split-shifts.

    Managers were also grateful that someone with contract protection could tell the Council, or the Board true things that they themselves didn’t dare. Anybody still do that?

    Mark Dublin

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