These signs will be removed at Link and Sounder stations (photo by author)

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

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

Community Transit

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.

31 Replies to “Fares and service to be partially re-introduced on June 1”

  1. ST’s plan seems odd, if I am understanding it correctly. ORCA users must pay their usual fare, but there is a substantial discount for buying individual tickets from the fare machine?

    Incentivizing people to use the machines will lead to more touching of those surfaces. The app is one thing, nobody else is touching your phone. But the machines – yikes.

    Also unclear how an inspector can socially distance and also check your fare. Or is that not going to happen?

    1. They can’t easily change the amount the card readers charge? They seem to have no problem updating them when fares go up.

    2. It’s schizophrenic. I doubt the fare differential will do any lasting damage. Link tickets don’t offer free transfers to buses, and if you ride more than 44 times a month it’s more economical to get a pass. With Link running every 20 minutes and parallel buses running every 15 minutes, you can simply ride a bus rather than paying Link’s full fare. Or just buy a ticket until Metro starts charging fares.

  2. Pierce Transit is having passengers enter through the front door and pay at the front of the bus, but “is installing clear barriers around the operator area to protect drivers.” Metro will probably do the same when they decide it’s time to collect fares again.

  3. With so many restrooms unavailable at public facilities and shopping malls, and an ongoing shortage of shelter for the thousands experiencing homelessness thanks to Seattle’s decades-long snob zoning crisis, what did transit leaders expect?

    Keep in mind that the mere presence of someone on the train or bus has been considered a potential biohazard where they were sitting, regardless of any bodily fluids or who they are.

    I find it troubling that ST’s spokespeople would be asked to blame a class of riders, rather than the need to start getting some revenue, for the fare reintroduction. If it is about money, tell us that, straight up.

    I recall the ads on the train saying the train is a “hate free zone”.

    1. Sound Transit says, “Beyond providing money to support transit operations, the resumption of fares will also allow Sound Transit to increase safety and security for essential riders.”

      Where is the blame and hate in that statement?

    2. From the ST website announcing the resumption of fares: “The agency saw a dramatic increase in unsanitary conditions, rider complaints and incidents of vandalism after fares were temporarily suspended in March. The issues have been associated in part with riders taking repetitive trips without apparent destinations.” What does this have to do with restrooms and zoning? Buses are supposed to be used for essential trips only these days, and as the economy starts opening up again space will be at a premium if we are going to maintain distancing. I’ve been on Metro buses that had more people on them than Metro policy dictates. If any of those people don’t need to ride the bus, they shouldn’t be taking up space that’s needed by people for who have to be on the bus to get to work or to shop.

  4. The Guardian has a wonderful podcast about the fact that in London the government has moved over five thousand homeless people, rough sleepers, into hotels, providing accommodation and food. Charity workers keep tabs on them and are taking this opportunity to work with them on long term solutions to their problems – everything from mental health help, medical issues and getting a birth certificate in order to access benefits.
    Why can’t Seattle take this opportunity to do something similar?
    Is this transit related? Yes.

    1. Spending $200+ per night per homeless person is not a fiscally sustainable long-term solution. We can get away with now only because the county is able to negotiate deep discounts because the hotel rooms are empty because nobody is traveling.

      1. “It’s not a sustainable long term solution”

        Who cares? We’re in the middle of a crisis. It would help hotels and, obviously, people who are homeless… but would also have some generalized public health benefits. It’s absurd that we’re still failing to deliver such a basic human service in a place as wealthy as Seattle.

      2. Sam, Charles, and asdf2, remedy for social injustice and bad sanitation (which is in King County Metro’s purview) is not Sound Transit’s work.

        Which means taxpayers need to get onto the employees they elect to get Western State back from being a dangerous part of the Corrections Department and into the world of mental health.

        But are you ready to look me in the eye and tell me your presence on the train is permissible and mine’s not? Why do I think that under present Administration in The Other Washington, by Federal Law “ICE” will soon have a field-rigged tent for a Hearing Room at every station?

        I’ll be sure to bring along my little stuffed Tapmunk to gain sympathy. But dead serious. If this is going to get judicial, you want my seat, you’d best get a lawyer.

        Mark Dublin

      3. It may be justifiable in the short term to help keep the virus from spreading, but in the long term, this does not look sustainable. 5000 hotel rooms at $200/night each adds up to $1 million/day. And, if more homeless people flock in from elsewhere, demanding that they get a hotel room too, it could easily balloon into $10 million/day.

        Is the intention to keep this up indefinitely and fund it with new taxes? Or, will all these people end up being evicted and forced back on the streets when the pandemic ends?

      4. The answer is small houses with on-site mental health care and probably mandatory cleanings. The developments need to be small enough that they don’t become a breeder of crime but large enough that otherwise homeless people can have a couple of friends nearby. Salt Lake City is having great results from them and it’s a heck of a lot colder there, so they have to be considerably more substantial than they would be here.

        Now because of our better climate we might have more applicants than they do, but that simply can’t be helped. It also means we have more people “sleeping rough”.

        The problem can’t be avoided; some homeless people need caring institutionalization but most don’t. They just need a reliable place to stay with some social support.

  5. Really miss Intercity Transit this morning, and have constantly regretted how few times this I’ve been able to ride Sound Transit and its affiliated service. When I get done with my coffee, I’m driving up to Freighthouse Square to load my June monthly pass on my ORCA card. Best and least I can do.

    Ever since the idea of it came into being, I’ve supported Sound Transit, and I’m looking forward to seeing Thurston County’s IT become part of it. But most to the point here, if service needs the revenue, I very strongly support the ORCA program, and encourage everyone who can to use it.

    And same goes in spades for the young people who check the passes. Please, everybody, be kind and polite to them. And most important of all, as fellow citizens, parents, educators and above all politicians- think of Fare Enforcement and school-kids as all belonging to the same generation.

    Upon whom is now being unloaded a country in pretty much the same condition as the West Seattle Bridge. My opposition to one single element of fare policy is as isolated and grieved as it is non-negotiable.

    Threat of theft-prosecution for an easy mistake registering a fully prepaid card on a reader is a smelly plague-spot on a fine system, and a personal insult to every employee who has to dirty their hands with it.

    Security Chief Ken Cummins and former ST Deputy Director and also King County Metro Transit Director Ron Tober who introduced me to him are heroes of mine, so whatever remedy I can help deliver, I’m dedicating to them. I wish my resources could put more power behind my verbiage.

    There’s no reason the month of June should even have this indecency for a footnote on a single RCW. Lord knows the walls around Sea-Tac’s fare machines are full. Inspector’s reader shows my prepayment and the time I boarded.

    Also that I’m owed, I believe, two hours’ travel if I don’t tap anything. Obvious mistake over the tap-sequence? Charge my account Everett to Dupont. Apportionment between Agency divisions? Transfer funds In-house to whoever needs it most. Superior. Court. Is. Busy.

    The single phone message between all requisite officials? Cost of the call is in the budget, but be extra-nice to staff. Many of them seem new.

    Like the Fare Inspectors’ historic founder Starfleet Commander Jean-Luc Picard would have put it: “Make It So!”

    Mark Dublin

  6. “Beyond providing money to support transit operations, the resumption of fares will also allow Sound Transit to increase safety and security for essential riders. The agency saw a dramatic increase in unsanitary conditions, rider complaints and incidents of vandalism after fares were temporarily suspended in March. The issues have been associated in part with riders taking repetitive trips without apparent destinations.”

    God damn it to Hell! I’ve got Sound Transit, the regional agency I’ve helped build, fought for, and supported through my whole driving career and beyond, taking the side of the right wind bigots and transit- killers who won’t sign their names to their hateful comments to Seattle Transit Blog!

    This is whole service-areas worse than sending fully pre-paid passengers to court for theft for a mistaken number of “taps” on an the unreliable mechanism of a fare system whose lack of coherence is its own admitted chief source of violations. FARES ARE NOT THERE TO SORT OUT WHO DOESN’T DESERVE TO RIDE TRANSIT!

    Who really runs ST now? Has an unpublicized merger replaced Peter Rogoff with Jared Kushner? Which would at least enable desperate last-minute Artistic attempt at a conciliation: Ivanka gets an adorable furry suit with sad eyes, a fluffy tail, and a franchise at Westlake Information booth to sell compliance-pleading little “Tapmunks”! Mr. President, your eviction from 1600 Pennsylvania is off forever! DEAL?????????????

    As I promised in this morning’s communication below, I’m just back from Tacoma Dome with my June pass on my ORCA card. Now headed to my complex’s office for the copy of my rental agreement I’m going to wrap it in for my every ride. You’d best leave Ken Cummins and his blameless troops out of this.

    Because I’m going to demand, in front of TV cameras at Sea-Tac to send it Worldwide, Mike Lindblom and the whole bloody Galactic Internet, that the author of this piece of moth-eaten Royalism look me in the face and tell me for the record whether, bathroom breaks included, my presence aboard is ESSFRIGGINSENTIAL!

    And to demonstrate intended compliance, publicly suggest that everybody else on the boarding platform one by one do the same. Sound Transit, what this shares in common with its kid brother the “Taptravesty” is this: It goes light-years beyond what you do, to What, for our sins, You Are. ‘Til we can arrange your replacement, Shame On Us.

    But to conclude, as with Tapfix(tm) below, simple cost-free measure. From rail transit’s horsedrawn beginning, Common Practice is to clear the train at the end of the line so the operator can walk the cars, pick up trash, and collect lost items.

    With transit security, or preferably police, standing by to apprehend anybody damaging trains or violating anyone’s rights. Like Jean Luc Picard would’ve said if he’d been US Marines instead of Star Fleet: “Just Do It.”

    Mark Dublin

    1. How is Sound Transit taking the side of bigots? I don’t own a car, and I depend on Metro/ST to get around. I think anybody should be able to ride the bus as long as they obey the rules that we are all supposed to live by. That’s the only criterion for determining “who doesn’t deserve to ride transit.” I don’t know what the unsanitary conditions Sound Transit is talking about, but if they’re talking about people who eat on the bus and throw their trash on the floor, or don’t social distance or wear a mask, then I can affirm that there are people like that on many of the bus trips I take. I’ve also seen the results of vandalism. There are people who get on the bus and sit anywhere they please, even right next to you in the same seat. I’m sure most of them aren’t doing it maliciously, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a potential danger to other passengers. The main purpose of fares is to bring in revenue, but if they also help maintain a safer riding experience, then I’m glad ST is reintroducing them. If people don’t feel safe riding transit, then how are we ever going to get more people to leave their cars at home and ride the bus?

      1. I don’t see how charging fares weeds out non-“essential rides”.

        I especially don’t see how charging just a $1 for a paper ticket helps, resulting in fewer people using ORCA. Indeed, it will increase opportunities to spread the virus. But hey, for the cost of millions in potential liability, ST will make a few more pennies.

        Encouraging ORCA use reduces anonymity, which in turn discourages bad behavior for which the passenger could be tracked down. (Maybe using ORCA to track down offending passengers is illegal or not feasible, but most people wouldn’t know that, so would behave themselves knowing ST might know who they are.)

        Encouraging paper tickets increases anonymity, and the accompanying greater sense that they can get away with bad behavior.

        The best solution would have been to move forward the no-income ORCA passes, so that those who can’t afford the fare but need to ride can do so, and are incentivized to behave because their ORCA card has the appearance of being trackable.

      2. Charles, I’m thinking that what’s needed is to put my fare, in addition to others’ at a level where Sound Transit can afford to hire and train people whose job it will be to ride the system and make sure nobody crowds anyone else’s space, or otherwise degrades their ride.

        Which will mean at least one extra person on board. But make up for their presence by maintaining ride quality for remaining riders. Somebody with recent experience in military service, tell me this. In World War II, my father spent his term as a “Separation Counsellor”.

        Tragically, his chief duty was to assist soldiers to leave the army after being dishonorably discharged for being gay, as punishment for the sin of heroically surviving the Normandy Invasion. After being forcibly inducted with full knowledge of their orientation.

        So I wonder if we now have skilled veterans like my father whom we could employ for what amounts to ward mental health work aboard transit?

        I’m also thinking that the kind of militarily-assisted housing and health care that’d come in response to an earthquake, soldiers and veterans might be employed to deliver now, at times and places needed to keep public transit healthy. Doubt their Commander Jay Inslee would object to that.

        The need for skilled help, employment, and the growth from the roots of a new entire economy, there’s no question it counts as an Emergency.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Transit is supposed to be for transportation, not a substitute for homeless shelters. The politicians should first explain how we’re going to get to universal housing. As Deborah said above, London has put 5000 homeless people into hotels and is also providing food. Seattle’s homeless population is 5000 if I recall, so if we did what London did there would be no people sleeping on the street or hanging out in buses, and they would also have bathrooms and showers. We may not have the money to do it all at once, but we should ask the politicians why did they let it get this bad?

      1. Their answer, or their poor staffer’s, would probably be, “Why did you let us do it and still expect to be re-elected? And now, leave us in the position that if we do what you ask, our opponents will leave us Essentially dead?

        For real danger up to out-and-out political violence, the most deadly thing about this virus could be the shutting off of citizens from each other at the exact time the Republic’s life depends upon widespread and active cooperation.

        Whatever our Founders felt about Firearms, I really think their basic understanding of the Government they invented was that (OK, for a lot of them meaning only white men who owned property including slaves)
        the average person would leave grade school with a “feel” for lifelong active participation in Government.

        At this writing, we’ve certainly got nothing to lose with some active effort to try and get back on track. Have noted before my sense that events both including and on the order of the collapse of the West Seattle Bridge will finally convince careful people that for our country’s survival, the proximity’s worth the risk.

        Without which, everything that makes life worth living in the United States of America will be nothing but the truth beneath the highest-priced lie hammered down on top of it.

        Mark Dublin

  7. And just to get this straight, I’ve got no problem whatever with fare collection, especially with my ORCA card, whose “feel” I really enjoy. Which is also reason I viscerally hate its present misuse as a possible tool of punishment.

    Intercity Transit’s own balance sheet proved that fees-for-service cost more money than they brought in, so financing the system with a tax of its own was not only good business, but to any self-identified “Conservative”, mandatory.

    If Sound Transit’s accounts show that the agency needs additional revenue, as a passenger trained from childhood to behave like a part-owner, I’d be willing to pay $50 per month for my ORCA pass, instead of the $36 I’ve been paying up to now. Or whatever, truly, I can afford.

    Frankly, as seems to be loose-upon-the-land, ST PR should have just let Fare Inspection dispense justice as I think they’ve been doing all along. Has anybody here even been mildly “Challenged?” Really doubt it. As the continued existence of The United States and its Federal Government attest to, since policy can’t be figured out anyhow, they just do the right thing and let the action do their blabbing for them.

    If false-prosecution were really as prevalent as I’ve been making out, somebody with less ST-Goodwill than mine would’ve had Superior Court’s next move be to throw it out to the last RCW at least ten years ago.

    The Inspectors know who’s “Gaming” and who’s been lifelong “Railroad Day-Dreaming”, and cite accordingly. Justice-wise, close enough for most

    But as somebody deluded into thinking Link’s mine to care for, there’s one piece of policy that’s ‘way past plain Unprofessional and well into Freelance-At-Its-Worst, that owes it to the railroad world to dry up and blow away with the CO(R)VIDS. (Squawk).

    The really sweet lady in the booth at Tacoma Dome- she put my June pass on my ORCA card by hand, since the machines are still locked up across the street- was careful to inform me I was paying for a half month’s more service than I’d get.

    So anybody looking to nail an Unnessential, word from me is I already took care of it.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Some of y’all(A certain someone in particular) have straight lost your minds if you think that it’s acceptable for any person to pee or sh*t all over the seats on a train or a bus. Get out of here with that lunacy!! We are in the middle of a health crisis and these people need to be kicked off and kept off public transportation. It will only further spread the virus. While it’s unfortunate that these people have no where to go, that has nothing to do with sound transit. So enough already! If you’d like to give them a place to use the bathroom then open your front door and let them use yours.

    1. Exactly. It’s never about *who* is taking the trains; it’s all about *what* they’re doing on the trains.

    2. Because this totally happens with ANY regularity.

      Quit harping on the edge cases. It is NOT by any means common.

      1. Sorry Ness, it is regular on my routes. The last 2 months have been the worst of my driving career, and most of my colleagues say the same. All because of the homeless.

      2. There’s a wide difference between routes. Most routes don’t have any problems with cleanliness other than an occasional spilled drink. Middling routes like the 131/132 have a more working-class demographic than surrounding routes and some passengers are only moderately clean, but I haven’t seen any acute sanitation problems. The worst routes re cleanliness/noise/violence are generally Aurora (E), Rainier Valley/Renton (7, former 106, maybe current 106). Pacific Highway (A) may be in that category. These are consistent over the decades as routes change; they have to do with the number of poor people and where the cheapest motels are.

        Still, I’ve never seen feces on a bus. If I have seen piss it’s only once or twice. Occasionally you see vomit. The place where I do encounter piss smell and sticky floors regularly are certain elevators, especially the northeast Westlake elevator and once an Intl Dist elevator.

        I haven’t been on Night Owl for a long time so I can’t comment on how that may have changed.

  9. Jay, raise my fare until it helps pay for the ward staff we need to see to it that no passengers’ rights are violated by disturbance and filth. And for starters, get that mental hospital a few miles from me into condition where it’s able to serve the same purpose. And build as many more facilities as are necessary.

    Risking [OT] I know, but our country’s survival depends on thousands of us finding an Essential workaround to get our country back from the political forces who’ve given so few people such grossly unchallenged power over the vast majority of us. Truth or not, present health emergency could not have been better timed to obliterate our people’s ability to Peaceably Assemble and set things right.

    Thirty years ago, I took the wheel of my first Route 7 several weeks after a driver was beaten into lifelong brain-damage by at least five proud gang-members (slang boast was “Cold-Crushin'” ) after he’d grabbed one of them for spitting on him. Their grievance was that the standing-load bus had sat there for fifteen minutes while he waited for his riders to settle down.

    Because his training hadn’t included how to get on the radio and ask Control for help. His life was saved by three lady school-teachers leaving a meeting, who waded in and literally threw the attackers off their victim. Only good to come out of it was that by the time I took my shift, enough police had been added that aside from nuisance, I never had to fear.

    Retired now, with a fixed income that does not include a pension, my own residential status is in the hands of an owner who runs a business, not a charity.

    My departure from the home I loved in Ballard was sudden and non-negotiable. My neighbors and I offered John Goodman money for his property, to be told his business plan was his business. Including the eviction cost me my every ounce of political control over the Sound Transit Board.

    For the political power necessary to restore civilization in Seattle, you’ve got a union and empowered elected officials, and I don’t. I do know my State Legislator. Anything you need me to tell her, please put it in these pages. But best you don’t make me start carrying my ORCA card wrapped in my rental agreement. If we don’t have Jared Kushner for a relative, we’re all one blunt notice from being Homeless.

    Mark Dublin

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