For those who are still riding transit for essential business or activities, it’s time to dust off your ORCA cards and keep your cash and cards handy. Three regional agencies have announced plans to re-introduce fare collection as part of a phased recovery process.
Beginning on June 1, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, and Community Transit will have fares on some or all services for the first time since March. The two-month pause in collection has impacted revenues for most agencies and contributed to an increase in “unsanitary conditions” according to Sound Transit. Link will also be boosted to 20-minute frequencies on weekdays, while Sounder remains on its reduced schedule.
Sound Transit will charge discounted “recovery fare” of $1 for Link riders and $2 for Sounder if paying at a ticket vending machine or using the Transit Go mobile app. Riders with ORCA cards will have to pay the regular fare that are assigned, including for LIFT, youth, and senior/disabled riders. ST Express will remain fare-free, with riders asked to use the rear doors unless in need of accessible accommodation.
In an email to the blog, ST said that the temporary fare change was only able to be deployed with ticket vending machines and the mobile app.
King County Metro has not announced plans to reintroduce fares on its buses, according to a statement in The Seattle Times ($).
Pierce Transit will begin restoring its regular weekday service on May 24 for major routes, including Routes 1, 2, 48, 54, and 500. Other routes will remain on their modified schedule (based on normal Saturdays with extended hours) until September. Fares will be re-instated on June 14, with all riders required to board through the front door. Coaches will be limited to 15 passengers per trip, with “follow-behind” buses picking up extra passengers.
Several of the ST Express routes operated by Pierce Transit will also be returning to normal weekday service on May 24 to meet demand and in response to greater staffing availability.
- Routes 560, 574, 577, and 594 will return to full weekday service
- Route 578 will return to full weekday service, along with additional trips during the p.m. peak to account for reduced Sounder South service
- Routes 566, 586, 590, and 592 will return to most weekday service
- Route 595 will return to some weekday service
- Routes 580 and 596 will have service correspond to the reduced Sounder Schedule
- Routes 544 and 567 remain temporarily canceled
Beginning June 1, Community Transit will be collecting fares on its Swift bus rapid transit lines, while other routes remain fare-free until further notice. Swift uses ticket-vending machines and off-board ORCA readers, allowing for appropriate physical distancing from the coach operators to continue. Riders will still board through the rear and middle doors unless needing the ramp or accommodation in the front section, which remains cordoned off.
The agency is also looking ahead at a potential recovery, as ridership has dropped by 70 percent to 12,500 passengers per day. An online survey is available until May 29 for Snohomish County residents and riders, asking for feedback on future plans and strategies.