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At its October 22 meeting, the Sound Transit Board heard proposals to reduce concession fares for Sounder and reduce the law enforcement footprint in fare enforcement.

In community discussions about fare enforcement, ST has heard four main things:

  • fares are confusing;
  • the law enforcement character of enforcement causes “discomfort;”
  • fares are a hardship for some; and
  • riders appreciate a security presence.

In response to this feedback, and broad board settlement to meet the moment in decriminalization, ST is launching a “fare engagement ambassador” pilot program. These ambassadors will be agency employees rather than private security contractors. They will have new, less threatening uniforms, more emphasis on education and warnings, and less on infractions. Ambassadors will only call law enforcement for “other aggravating factors.”

Existing FEOs will decouple of fare enforcement and focus and security, which implies this will raise the agency’s costs overall.

The $124 fine goes to court fees, and can’t shrink without state action. Board members would like to get the courts out of it, but CEO Peter Rogoff is still looking for the magic solution: “what do we do, if not the courts?”

The new [Community Court] Chief Judge is not interested in partnering with us… No one is interested in putting a poor person through the court system. [There are] persistent fare violators who are not clearly economically distressed… Metro is on the same journey as we are… Folks who set up appointments for alternative resolution [with Metro], some 90% never show up, and then nothing becomes of those cases. Which is to say, there is no consequence for persistent violators… What does the community want for these cases?

Peter Rogoff

Rogoff’s plan is to continue discussions with the community, and with Metro, until there is an alternative he can take to the Board.

In related news, the Board was positive about a proposal to make Sounder low-income, youth, senior, and disabled fares the same as they are for ST Express ($1.50, $1.50, $1, and $1, respectively). These fares currently range from $1.50 to $4.25, in keeping with generally higher fares on Sounder. Staff projects that this would have forfeit roughly $300,000 in annual revenue in 2019, or 1.7% of the Sounder total. This fare cut might raise Sounder by 20,000 per year, or 0.4%. A public comment period will begin later this month, and implementation could be as soon as March 1.

74 Replies to “ST considering more changes to fares, fare enforcement”

    1. I would guess the following elements might be added:

      1. No/different enforcement-gear vests and tool belts (I don’t know if current staff wear vests that are technically bulletproof but it isn’t material to this point)
      2. No visible markings of “ENFORCEMENT” or “OFFICER”
      3. No security force badge — only a standard ST employee ID badge
      4. Standard ST color clothing instead of all-black or alternate color scheme uniforms

    2. They will be less uniformly pale male, without ST having to force employment policies upon a contractor. That is to say, they’ll look more like Metro’s very diverse (if overwhelmingly male) driver force. That, by itself, will make them look less threatening.

      I assume winter reflective vasts will be part of the uniform. Bodycams, perhaps not.

    3. In Gothenburg, Tlsgwm, fare inspector’s jackets have a little message on their coat-tail at seated-passenger’s eye-level saying: “If you have a question, please ask me.”

      Make ours bi-lingual and it’ll also further the International Streetcar (which over there includes Light Rail) Sister City program we really need to have soon as the vaccine arrives.

      Mark Dublin

      1. +1

        I was just going to mention the “ask me” message on jacket coat tails of fare inspectors in Gothenburg. You beat me to it.

  1. I confess, I haven’t memorized the Link fare chart, and I’m an OCD fare obsession czar. I can read the plain English in which it is posted (the only language in which it is posted, but aren’t Arabic numerals universal?). Finding the chart — the full chart, not a screen shot with most of it cut off — on the website is a treasure hunt.

    ST is missing out on fare revenue with this wierd base fare of $2.25, a full 50 cents lower than the Metro fare, because inertia? And then they make up for it by embarrasing and threatening mis-tappers who happen to be in possession of clear-and-obvious proof of prepayment, including those who were told they have a free pass.

    East Link will raise new questions regarding how “fair” the fare system is, and raise the obvious question of how to totally avoid having any reasons for riders to tap off and tap right back on at ID/C Station (and hopefully not punish riders for continuing on to Pioneer Square Station to take advantage of that beautiful center platform).

    If riders cared about the 25-50 cent discount they get for riding Link instead of Metro from Rainier Beach to downtown, you’d think Link would be immune to the narrative of it being the mode white people prefer. Nope.

    And then there is the issue of having the fare become so large for the longest trips that it incentivizes riding competing express buses, including the ones with which Link is time-competitive. Should there be both a floor and a ceiling on the fare? If the floor is $2.75 to match Metro, and the ceiling is $3.00, to stay below ST Express, why bother having it not be flat?

    1. Why do think they would require people to tap off and back on at the I. D. just to make a transfer? I can’t think of any system that does that. Not from the same agency. I don’t think our system does that. I’m pretty sure I can tap on at the UW, get off downtown, then take the train the other direction.

      1. “Why do think they would require people to tap off and back on at the I. D. just to make a transfer?”

        Because Sound Transit. It has done many other idiotic things.

        I don’t think tapout-tapin-transfer is likely, but ST should be clear about what its policy will be rather than keeping everybody in uncertainty until East Link opens.

        Tapout-tapin-transfer would have three logistical hinderances. (1) The ORCA readers currently can’t do it. If you tap out and in at the same station within a 15-minute period, it says “CONTINUE TRIP” as if you didn’t tap out. (2) Dozens of transferees would crowd the ORCA readers all at once, getting in the way of others who need to tap out. (3) How could you tell the reader which line you will board? Will there be line-specific readers and you have to tap out at one reader and in at another?

      2. If you tap out and in at the same station within a 15-minute period, it says “CONTINUE TRIP” as if you didn’t tap out.

        Which is why it is pretty clear that you don’t need to do anything.

        Look, I get it. ST does some weird things. But as far as fares go, most of those weird things have to do with inter-agency issues, and in that regard, so do a lot of agencies (e. g. San Fransisco). My guess is this will be just a normal transfer, like very other system in the world (no need to do anything, just walk to the other train).

      3. I think Ross is right. There will be an Airport to Redmond fare which will be very similar if not identical considering the distances to the Airport to Lynnwood fare.

      4. I have never noticed the fare readers say “CONTINUE TRIP”.

        A distance-based fare from the airport to Redmond is exactly the sort of incentive to tap out and tap back in at ID/CS that should be avoided if at all possible.

        I’m afraid that IS where ST is headed, and it will be an operational nightmare at ID/CS (kind of like how the insufficient / too-long-per-user ORCA vending machines at SeaTac Airport Station were an operational nightmare until the pandemic). The most obvious solutions for speeding up the vending machine queue at SeaTac Airport Station are (1) a flat fare; and (2) having more signage approaching the station for riders to download the fare app, with a flat fare so they don’t then try to get a better deal at the vending machine.

        The most obvious solution for avoiding unnecessarily long tapping queues at ID/CS are (1) a flat fare, so there is no incentive to tap out an tap back in; (2) buying more readers; (3) building in an assumed transfer in the fare charts at ID/CS if the first tap on is on one line and the tap off is on the other, which will annoy some people’s sense of fairness if they are getting charged more to ride from the airport to UW.

        If you are motivated to soak people living in the suburbs with a higher fare, consider what the outcomes of said higher fare will be. The only good outcome I’ve heard is more fare revenue, but I haven’t seen proof that will actually be the outcome.

      5. You can’t tap out and back in to avoid a high fare, so the operational nightmare will be just once until people realize it’s futile. You’d have to wait at the station fifteen minutes or walk to the next station. It could only happen if the ORCA readers are reprogrammed, or if the ORCA 2 readers behave differently.

      6. The first idiodicy at Intl Dist is not converting it to center platform for transfers. The second idiodicy would be requiring a tap-tap ritual. That’s what I meant by ST has done several idiodicies before. Another is the separation of Mt Baker Station from the transit center. A third is the location of UW Station, although we can blame UW for that, but ST didn’t try harder to push for a better location or designing the station better or extending the Triangle Garage tunnel to the station or having better bus transfers. All this shows a failure to prioritize passenger circulation and convenience, which is the point of a subway system. It’s supposed to circulate people as efficiently and conveniently as possible, so that the most people choose that mode. All these flaws hinder that. Then there’s the failure to design a transfer stub at U-District Station for a future 45th line that’s in ST’s long-range plan, and the possibility of Ballard Station on 14th instead of 15th or 20th, etc. Oh, and not ordering ST2 trains with open gangways so you can walk between cars and have more seats at the car ends — that would have added 20% to the capacity.

    2. “incentivizes riding competing express buses” – isn’t the idea that those competing routes disappear?

      Yes, it may be cheaper to take STX from UW to Redmond rather than Link through downtown, but so what? The STX is shorter.

    3. Oh, c’mon, Brent…”Competing express buses?” Isn’t the whole idea of a transit agency, and especially a regional one, that it’s all the same service?

      If my ratchet wrench and my screwdriver are in fact elbowing each other to be picked….they’re really not rattling the metal ammo box I keep them in at all.

      Cuddled up in her car-port, safe from jack-knifing semi’s and crashing police cars, my car senses no competition with her bigger siblings. Especially those possessed, like she is, with regenerative braking.

      Steep and also serving a pro-environment State College, Intercity Transit Route 41 really should be trolley-wired. And whether Patriot Prayer likes it or not, money’s doubtless being academically-crowd-sourced to pay for it.

      Mark Dublin

    4. It’s not just Link’s fares in isolation, it’s Link combined with the different fare structures of Sounder, ST Express, and the other agencies’ buses. Especially for multi-seat, multi-county trips. And Link and Sounder having a tapout requirement that the other modes don’t have. And the positioning of ORCA readers, which are often out of passengers’ line of sight as they’re entering/exiting. It’s all of that together.

      Link’s fare is lower than Metro for trips up to Westlake-Rainier Beach because it’s a more cost-efficient service when ridership is high, and it crossed Metro’s cost curve several years ago. So Link’s fare should remain lower for short trips. That allows high-capacity transit to do what it was intended to do: move people around more conveniently and efficiently, and in an easier-to-understand way (i.e., the subway map).

    5. Link’s and Metro’s fares are based on fare-recovery ratios, but the costs and targets are different for each mode. Metro is vulnerable to volatile diesel costs and has an unstable sales-tax base, so it has to raise fares often to keep recovery above 20%. Link’s fare was set in 2009 with a built-in cushion to cover moderate cost increases, and it hasn’t had to raise it since. it’s also electrically powered and a more stable tax-funding mix, and electric motors are less expensive to maintain than diesel motors.

      1. Link’s operating cost has risen pretty rapidly, partially due to a need to staff up for ST2 operations, but have been more than offset by higher ridership. Link would have had a farebox recovery problem if U-Link hadn’t been a success.

    6. Elaborating on my point that fares are a values judgment reflecting a vision of the route’s role in the transit network, Link’s fare should be as low as possible so that people choose it as a first choice. That’s the point of building a subway network in the first place: to be the trunk, and carry the bulk of circulation.

      With Sounder it’s more unclear because Sounder’s costs are higher, and expanding it requires expensive track leases from BNSF, that may not be available if it crowds out freight too much. All cities should have a subway network that’s the primary circulation mode, or in smaller cities a BRT network that fulfills the same function.

      Whether commuter rail should be in the same category is more debatable. I think it should be: the Metras and S-Bahns of the world are a larger-scale counterpart to a subway, and it’s more effective and efficient to have people on them than on express buses or floundering on local buses for long-distance trips. But that has to be balanced with commuter rail’s higher costs, limited right-of-way slots when shared with freight, and the fact that people take commuter rail less often than they take subways (so it matters less).

      1. I think I would consider South Sounder the primary circulation mode for the cities directly served, with the local bus network oriented around connections & transfers at Sounder stations alongside Link stations.

        Given the amount of peak capacity created, I’d argue it’s cheaper than comparable Link capacity. Link gives you other things, like all day service for negligible higher capital spend and better 2 way service, but I think South Sounder – at the ridership level that merits 10-car trains at 15 minute headways – if a very cost effective form of truck service.

        Off peak, however, you then need to design an entirely different network that uses east/west (in King) and north/south (in Pierce) routes that plugs into the Link spine to create a robust grid. This grid can run all-day, but doesn’t need to ramp up as much during peak because Sounder does most of the heavy lifting.

        So I’d argue that at peak, Sounder should be treated as a trunk service, but then midday/evening/weekend Sounder and its ST Express equivalents can be viewed as a premium service secondary to the all-day, Link/Stride oriented bus grid.

        It’s both/and because ridership isn’t the only relevant metric to what ‘matters’. Commuter rail can never compete with Link in number of trips, but South Sounder should be very comparable to Link in terms of daily passenger-miles for Pierce+SKC. Commuting might be a small fraction of total regional trips but it’s a large share of VMTs.

      2. Both Metro and Pierce Transit have long-range plans to provide those feeders. They just aren’t fully funded yet, and the recession has taken away money that would have gone to it.

  2. I live in Virginia now. The cost to ride The Tide light rail is the same as riding the local bus (admittedly: The Tide is a very short route taking about 30 minutes end to end), and an All Day Pass good for local bus service is also good for light rail service. I guess it helps that we have one agency (Hampton Roads Transit) that manages the region.

    1. There are two patterns to subway fares. In London and I think New York, they’re higher than buses, but they also give you access to a comprehensive several-line subway network running every 3-5 minutes, so you’re getting something for the money. In other cities like Portland and San Jose with small light rail networks (or at least they were small when the fare policy was decided), the fare is the same as buses and they’re treated like just another bus. Chicago is a mixture: its el network is extensive but I think the fare is the same as buses.

      The reason Link can’t have a low flat fare like local buses is it’s planned to extend thirty-five miles to freakin’ Tacoma. It’s the same issue as Sounder and ST Express. The other cities with subway fares the same as local buses don’t go so far out. ST Express did finally flatten its fare, but it’s a high $3.25 to pay for the long-distance expresses (to avoid giving them an extraordinary subsidy). Would you want to pay $3.25 or $4 to go from Capitol Hill to the U-District?

      Re Link sometimes having a lower fare than Metro, I’ll address in another thread.

      1. Before deciding the best fare system, there has to be general agreement on the system’s goals.

        What is the point of charging, say, $7 to ride Link from Seattle to Tacoma?

        It won’t discourage building the segment in the first place (and I happen to be looking forward to getting to ride that train instead of having to backtrack downtown in order to go to Tacoma).

        It won’t seriously impact where people choose to live.

        It *may* impact how much competing STX service riders demand, and how much gets retained.

        It *may* impact mode choice between driving and riding transit.

        It *may* bring in more fare revenue, but I have my doubts. BART’s $13 fares for some of the longest rides may have cost enough ridership that the long-distance fares may be a money-loser (and come with a higher carbon footprint from people’s mode choices).

        OTOH, having a flat $2.75 fare (ignoring inflation for the sake of simpler argument) would likely have little impact on bus vs. train mode choice for short trips, reduce demand for STX between Seattle and Tacoma, and leave Pierce County voters feeling less “deplorable”d.

        I think we can agree that getting the most fare revenue without hurting ridership is a goal. I think we can agree that minimizing carbon footprint is a goal. I don’t know whether reducing ridership on competing STX service is a goal, and I haven’t asked ST if it is.

        I think getting the fare system out of the way of operations is also a reasonable goal, but I don’t think it is one ST has truly taken to heart, not at SAS so far, not with their ham-handed treatment of mis-tappers in possession of clear-and-obvious proof of prepayment (except to finally add the double-tap-off after a decade of ignoring the problem), and likely not at ID/CS.

    1. When Sounder is at capacity – as it was pre-pandemic – it may make sense to price it as a premium service. OTOH, when Link in RV has capacity issues and 10-car Sounder trains have spare capacity, the incentive might switch to nudge Tacoma-Seattle riders off Link and onto Sounder.

      1. Depends on how capacity is defined. Peak runs for South Sounder were running out of seats; for commuter rail and long haul bus, you try to have a seat for everyone. If your service standard says it’s OK for people to stand in the aisle on most runs, then yes Sounder had plenty of capacity.

        When I was at ST, I asked why we ran the 590/594 during Sounder service window (unlike the 578, which starts after the last peak inbound Sounder run), and I was told the 590/594 carried enough riders that if it was removed, Sounder wouldn’t be able to meet service standards. The 590 does slightly different things than Sounder, but I always thought that was low hanging fruit to save operating cost by reducing that route’s span of service and shift riders to Sounder. The 590 was slightly cheaper, so it would get riders at peak of peak even though Sounder was consistently faster.

      2. How about we concentrate on both Link and Sounder cooperating to take the load off the criminally-mislabeled “Free”-ways which are now our worst obstruction of our freedom of travel.

        Aboard light-rail in Sacramento, my train driver called my attention to the elevated structure under our rails, and told me that anything spec’ed out for Interstate can also carry trains.

        Skate-boards off-topic, but definitely bicycles. Which, considering the speeds those lanes are capable of carrying, should at least along those stretches never have to share grooved lanes with streetcars.

        Mark Dublin

      3. Even if people have to stand, it’s likely just for the part between Tukwila Station and King St. Station, which takes about 15 minutes. People stand for longer than that on buses all the time. So, I still say Sounder is not at capacity.

      4. “It’s likely just for the part between Tukwila Station and King St. Station”

        Interestingly, no. The peak usage was between Kent and Tukwila, with Tukwila roughly equal on/off, with Boeing commuters roughly offsetting Seattle commuters. What happens to the Longacres campus will likely determine if that patterns holds true; I’d imagine that as both Longacres and Southcenter get more TOD, onboardings will grow faster than offboardings at Tukwila in the AM.

        I think it’s plausible that with modest TOD growth at Kent/Auburn/Puyallup, along with the 2 garages likely to break ground soon, Sounder will continue to be “at-capacity” by Kent station even after shifting to 8-cars trains. The 590 might last until Sounder can add additional peak trips.

      5. AJ, people stand on CalTrain which takes 70 minutes from Diridon to San Francisco, so commuter rail isn’t immune to standees.

      6. Did not say it was immune. Just saying that STX routes and fares are currently structured to minimize Sounder standees.

    2. The Sounder proposal affects only special discount fares. Regular fares will still be the same.

      What Sounder’s fare should be is a values judgment. Different policies reflect different visions of Sounder’s role in the transit network. If it’s higher than express buses, Sounder is a premium luxury service for the few. If it’s the same or lower than express buses, then it’s the primary trunk for the corridor and intended to be everyone’s first choice. There’s good reason to make it the primary trunk: it’s more effective and higher-capacity than buses. On the other hand, the subsidy per trip is higher, and it would get even higher if the fare were lowered. ST would have to make a strategic decision that this is the primary trunk and taxpayers should pay the higher subsidy to shift bus riders to Sounder at the bus fare. Sounder has always been positioned as a luxury extra, so this would be a change.

      Another reason for the parallel buses is I think Sounder doesn’t have capacity for all those riders. it can’t fill up in Tacoma or there would be no room for Auburn and Kent, even though their taxpayers are paying part of it.

      1. I’d argue that right now it’s a premium service, but the goal is to make it the primary trunk and remove the overlapping STX service. Commuter rail has high fixed cost, which means the subsidy per trip is going to look much better once it’s running 10-car trains with >50% people per trip than current trains

  3. The post omits another effort described in the presentation — clearer delineation of paid fare areas.

    This remains an embarrassing problem, particularly at SeaTac Airport and Westlake Stations — both with high volumes of non-regular users without Orca cards. Surely, the basic positioning of Orca readers before ticket vending machines creates a huge amount of confusion. While the visual yellow “gate” will help, ST needs to allocate funds to fix this obvious flow-logic problem.

    At the very least, the vending machines or the baggage cart gates need to be moved at Seatac, and there is plenty of room to add vending machines outside of where these visual “gates” would be in DSTT Stations.

    This issue particularly needs to be addressed at the transfer point between Lines 1 and 2 once they begin to operate in 2023 — the ID/C Station.

    When will ST staff present station design changes? Will Board action be required? Will some funds be required?

    1. That’s related to what I was going to say. it’s not just fares that are confusing. Fares and tapping are confusing, and sometimes the ORCA readers aren’t in your line of sight so you forget about them. The readers are often positioned for escalators but not for elevators. At Beacon Hill the readers are off to the side, and if you’re exiting you won’t even see them unless you look sideways behind you. If you’re entering, you may look at the elevators and not notice the readers on the side.

    2. +1

      These are common sense changes that would help to reduce the top of the funnel (people not paying correctly, unintentionally).

      ST’s persistent inability or unwillingness to fix these issues is perplexing. I’d hope many ST staff read this blog where we’ve had mentions of similar improvements for years. None of this is especially expensive except the fare machines.

    1. Take away their drivers’ licenses. Let them keep riding transit for free in exchange for eliminating most of their carbon footprint.

  4. Brent, forget “Fare Evasion.” In all the years this feline hair-ball of a system has been enforced, why do you think nobody’s taken Mr. Rogoff and his Agency to court for character defamation? Over a theft charge owing to a paid-up monthly ORCA card getting “wrong-tapped” amid a rush hour mob.

    My guess is that, one way or another, our young Fare Inspectors take advantage of their familiarity with the trains and their passengers, especially certain really familiar individuals, to see to it that they Warn a lot more than they Cite.

    And that over years, the Courts know how to make “Justice” and “Ad-just” sound so much alike that nobody innocent loses. Otherwise Sound Transit would’ve long since found Tim Eyman in their shorts and giggling. “Initiative. I-600 Trillion. ($)TOP THE THEFT! MAKE PRE-PAID MEAN WHAT IT ($)AY($)!”

    Flash to now, the real crime here is the amount of taxpayers ($) time being wasted on a problem that’s been solved since the first ORCA card cleared the slot. How MANY years, incidentally? Let’s BEAT FARE EVASION by MAKING ORCA CARDS THEMSELVES IMPOSSIBLE TO EVADE!

    Right by the pastries in every single espresso stop. And in every Walgreen’s, same aisle as the contraceptives. And for monthly re-charge? Hint. My phone company and Puget Sound Electric just take it out of my checking account. Tell me ST can’t reach a deal with COMCAST?

    Also, the poor Fare Inspector whose nice evening I ruined when he ruined mine with a wrong-tap Warning had to suffer through explaining something about the “Private Corporation” that’s really to blame.

    On Warn-to-Fine stats, since our Freedom of Information people all Work From Home now, can we at least get a posting containing a Private Name and Address? Because for so many years Problem 2 -Fare Apportionment has already been ($)olved.

    Original Intent of ST’s Founding Parents was that the Agency’s own accountants go No-Seams- Allowed on apportionment among sub-groups. Alexander Hamilton would’ve left the task “In House” upstairs from the stately classical “Great Hall” over IDS.

    That “Private Company?” Go look them up on Australia’s branch of “Indeed!”

    Mark Dublin

  5. I just got a new touchless credit card. Why can’t this be turned into an Orca card? What needs to happen to make this technology for boarding Link? When will this inevitably happen?

    1. Be careful what you wish for. One day, everything will be on your cell. You won’t have individual cards or keys. Your cell will be your: ORCA card, car keys, credit cards, house keys, gym card, library card, driver’s license, debit card, social security card, employee key card, insurance cards, loyalty cards, etc. Then, when you lose your cell, your life is pretty much over. Maybe it’s best to have some separate stuff.

      1. Some people also prefer to not integrate everything into one provider. Integrating everything into one device makes it that much more likely that one provider would have access to all the data, making it that much more likely that it could be used in unintended ways. But yes, the single point of failure that Sam mentions is a fairly strong reason for concern, and one that computer scientists learn about as a matter of course (literally – it’s in the standard distributed systems course textbooks).

      2. Sam, isn’t the real threat that what-all your phone CONTROLS, will do like all those buckets and brooms did in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and multiply ’til they flood the whole universe while pretending to just wash the floor?

        Tell me the President of Nigeria won’t be in front of the UN demanding a military response to what my account number did to his SON’s credit score!

        And also, while I think it’s my duty to often say some hard things about our conduct of our Government, my Loyalty will never be to Walgreens!

        At least not ’til they give me back my chocolate malted milk at the SODA FOUNTAIN which the Bill of Rights used to require. You’ve got your laptop.

        Whatever the make of your car, e-mail the closest dealer and guarantee they’ll also tell you where you can get hired with full possible IMPACT! There’s worse places than Nigeria.

        Mark Dublin

      3. The single point of failure also occurs if you drop your smartphone, the battery runs out, it malfunctions, or it gets hacked.

  6. This is not that hard. Fine people who don’t pay the fares, arrest people who don’t pay the fines, and ignore the whiners. The system is not that complicated, and the fare is not expensive.

    1. Christopher, hand the fare information available to the average passenger to a judge, and he’d call it “Blanket Immunity.”

      Try and impose a blizzard of contradictory density like that on motorists, and the amount of guns people would start carrying would make the whole Highway Patrol quit the force and become mercenaries in Eritrea.

      Maybe we’ll agree that the cure has long been at hand. Everybody gets sold, not “Given Away for Free” a pass that’ll cover a month’s travel and there’ll be nothing hard about it at all.

      All Enforcement has to verify, through existing instruments, is possession. Apportionment? “Tap Off” is a courtesy that’s fun to do. Kids fight to be the one. But needs only be advisory. Serious interagency revenue division, if your accountants don’t like the work, they can join Local 587 and grieve.

      But rest assured one thing. Call me a thief over a mistake registering a fully paid-up pass and I’ll get Representation that whines in a baritone. Or either snarls or hisses before it bites.

      Mark Dublin

  7. I’m not sure why ST just doesn’t get conductors or security guards, and stop enforcing fares.

    People who haven’t paid their fare know they haven’t paid their fare, they don’t need “education”. They are either poor or don’t care about paying the fare. Their problem most likely is not ignorance, it’s poverty.

    The general concern seems to be that POC are intimidated by FEOs and that poor people can’t afford the fare and for whatever reason haven’t gotten an Orca Lift. Getting rid of enforcing fares solves all these problems.

    1. Seems like a strong argument to get rid of fares altogether, or at least make them explicitly run as donations instead of fees. There is precedent for this, with bands like Radiohead choosing to put their albums online for free but allowing donations. The problem seems to be in keeping the revenue stream predictable to smooth out any dips in the donations due to recessions, etc. But then it becomes a technological problem, rather than a social one, and thus perhaps easier to solve with the right people in the right employment opportunities.

    2. Brad, we need re-instatement of an official who personified the authority you’re advocating. We called them “Conductors.”

      In addition to fare sale and inspection, job description always included the depth of passenger information that enabled the passenger to not only be the decider, but get it right. Hiring qualifications including both patience and wisdom.

      So let’s do this. Give all those “advocates” blue uniforms and drill them to stand calmly straight and radiate deliberation. Probably illegal to go by height, but any community college theater program can train people any size to project it.

      Same with the watch at the end of the chain- which in skilled hands, could deter a lot of malice. Skilled conductor can just project having one.

      Keep the program for a year and see what happens. We really have nothing to lo($)e.

      Mark Dublin

    3. A lot of visitors and occasional riders don’t know they need to tap, or tap out, or they hold the card up to the reader and it doesn’t register, or they don’t look at the reader’s message or realize there is a message. This is a continuing educational issue that will always occur as long as there are visitors and occasional riders. For people familiar with turnstyles, Link’s open access, seemingly arbitrary tapin/tapout requirements, and the poor placement of readers seem strange and unbelievable.

      1. If it’s that confusing, put in turnstiles. Seems to works, well, everywhere else.

        London, New York, Montreal, Chicago… see the turnstile, insert your card.

        This doesn’t need “studying” or “pilot programs”.

        Why does ST need to reinvent something that doesn’t need reinventing?

      2. I’ve always preferred turnstyles. ST says turnstyles would cost more than it’s losing on fare evasion. The fare evasion rate is around 3%. And some of those people can’t afford to pay so ST was never going to get money from them in any case.

      3. ST is “penny wise” and rider foolish. People don’t like systems that they don’t understand. And there are too many built-in failure points to the current one.

        The problem with turnstyles is that they don’t work with surface light rail. People can just walk into the stations on the tracks.

      4. Muni Metro has POP too — and still has turn styles. The two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive control strategies.

      5. Adding turnstiles at a station like SeaTac might be good design. Muni using turnstiles in their tunnel seems very comparable to the DSTT now that there are no buses.

        POP is great and fits Link. If there are design issues with specific stations, that can be fixed, but the issue isn’t POP itself.

    4. “Seems like a strong argument to get rid of fares altogether”

      Link did run without fares for six months, and I think Sounder did too. ST said that vandalism and biohazards (people leaving bodily fluids) increased, and that increased security costs. Since the homeless have nowhere else warm and dry to go, they’d hang out at stations or on trains.

      1. Mike, using fares to make sure who DOESN’T get ride transit is only slightly less disgusting than using lifelong-impoverishing school loans to deter the income-related unfit from distracting anybody’s hiring process.

        But given that we all exist in the super-Impacted world of “Indeed!” A cautionary warning from some “Old Country” of my own.

        Kiev 1938. “Problem with Comrade Stalin? “(Click) “Unfair world. So where you’re going Today?” (Bang!) “Could be me Tomorrow!”

        The Sound Transit I’ve fought for all these years can damned well budget to get those floors mopped. And to the power-lunched wealth that decrees what doesn’t get disinfected that I still pay pass-money to sit on…

        That decision-maker above could very well be your own chief creditor’s grandfather. Show me your own Clean Seat reservation from God. Hmf. (Click). Too bad your transfer says Hell.

        Mark Dublin

  8. Re 12:35 pm, AJ, experience convinces me that Sounder and the ST Express 590-series aren’t either-or, but strongly both-and.

    Because between freeways that show Dave Ross at his most savage and pedestrian mishap/suicides all the way from King Street to Lakewood Station, on both services, break-down question isn’t “if” but “when.”

    Increased ridership-base? Diamond-stud as many I-5 lanes as possible. And since signature hand-signals can twitterize world-wide….communicator, best a young woman between four and maybe forty. Poised at bus or train window. Thumb on nose. Wiggling fingers-five.

    Bus or train going sixty, recipient’s car varying six to zero for the whole thirty miles. Call it a subliminal thing, but pretty sure transit receipts will start to bear out the validity.

    Mark Dublin

    1. It makes sense to keep a bus fleet in reserve when there is a service disruption, but I don’t there there is a need to keep the 590 in regular service at the same time Sounder runs, if Sounder has the capacity.

      1. Sounder takes longer. That matters to some riders.

        It is also more expensive. That matters to some riders.

        STX drops off throughout downtown without a transfer, and picks up throughout downtown Tacoma. That matters to some riders.

        Link will take even longer than Sounder. The idea that STX 590 will go away when Tacoma Dome Link opens requires more attention to the details. My money says STX 590 stays, and so does STX 577.

      2. Sounder will have the same speed (or get faster with electrification), while the 590 will steadily get slower as the region grows. Whatever speed advantage is has now during peak will certainly disappear in the future.

        I think the 590 is likely truncated at Federal Way when FW Link opens, which then guarantees it goes away when TDLE opens. The 577 is explicitly the ‘preview’ route for FW Link – I would be flabbergasted if it still runs when FW Link opens, unless the Board/public simply rejects STX truncation and we are still running routes like. Aside from the SR520 routes, there will be zero STX routes in Seattle in 2026.

        The 578 from Puyallup to FW via Auburn will likely exist in some future iteration as an all-day shadow for Sounder, probably as an ST route simply because it crosses county lines.

      3. ST’s preliminary plans in January 2016 had 100% bus truncations. Only the 574 went north of Kent-Des Moines. (Federal Way Station wasn’t in ST2, and Redondo was deferred earlier due to the 2008 recession, so the buses went to KDM.) The board never made a final decision because ST3 superceded it, but that’s what ST was leaning toward then. There were three alternatives, low, middle, and high (service hours), and all of them had 100% truncation at KDM, Lynnwood, Bellevue TC (or South Bellevue or Mercer Island), UW, and 145th (for the 522).

        There was always the issue of whether ST would really follow through on truncating the 57x and 59x given Link’s longer travel time and the likely backlash about that. But we won’t know that until Federal Way and Tacoma Dome open, how much pressure there will be, how much the board will resist it, and whether ST could afford to run the buses even if it wanted to since they weren’t included in ST3’s budget.

      4. Well, if the elimination of STExpress 577 is deemed to be an element of ST3, maybe ST could collect ST2 taxes forever.

        Sen. O’Ban won’t be around to file any more ST-bashing bills. The investigation is closed.

      5. I believe each levy supersedes the one before, so I don’t think “collect ST2 taxes but not ST3 taxes” is the right framework.

        IMO, ST will indeed collect taxes at roughly ST2 level in perpetuity to fund ongoing operations and SOGR, but I think that is completely independent of the service network and which route ‘belongs’ to which levy.

  9. My suggestion was based on the five-hour delay in my return from my last ST Board Meeting in Olympia. Resulting from my Sound train being held in Sumner, because its leader had hit somebody walking too close to the tracks in Puyallup.

    Not, if memory serves, an isolated incident. Possibly indicating that somebody needs to secure their tracks a little better, but that’s off topic. We were instructed to deboard and wait for buses.

    Since I had zero familiarity with bus service there, I took advantage of my conductor’s invitation to ride his turned-back train to Seattle. Fallback was to my more customary ride. IDS right across the street.

    Arrived at Sea-Tac station a comfortable three minutes before ST 574 left southbound for Tacoma. Forget if the elevator worked or not. Beautiful brand new bus.

    Only problem was a half hour delay near Fife due to a two-car quarrel over one lane of I-5. Five minutes ride from my car at Tacoma Dome garage. Nice ride home. Pretty night.

    Also a comprehensive multimodal interagency case study, wouldn’t you say? But just for clarification, I’m advocating just the opposite of keeping 590’s in reserve just in case. I want to see them in motion, with full seated loads of de-disgruntled former motorists.

    No question they’re THERE. What I want is to use the buses, along with the trains, to re-unite them with their cars in places like their own garage. That’s all.

    Finally, I apologize for running over time, but radio just went definitely transit-topical. Republican State Senator Steve O’Ban has been replaced by a Tacoman named T’Wina Nobles.

    Kind of sad I never got to help Steve return Tacoma streetcars to Steilacoom’s Bair Drugstore terminal. Lost fence-mend.

    But in addition to helping find a Black Union Army volunteer named Franklin Pierce to rename Pierce Transit after, Ms. Nobles might at least help get me me a trolley-wired extension of the Route 1.

    Mark Dublin

  10. As someone who rides transit occasionally, the fare system is confusing. Just learning the ORCA card system and buying one is confusing for a tourist. I just load a bunch of money on my ORCA card and tap, but have no idea what I am paying for, and never knew about tapping out and then back in again. For the first month I didn’t even know you had to tap out at all. Who ever reviews their ORCA account?

    Once accomplishing that hurdle, figuring out different fares for different modes of transportation or different lengths is more confusion on top, when Uber/Lyft’s fare structure is pretty simple.

    Intuitively a rider thinks that once they enter the transit system their fare will cover where they want to go, without specifying the location, and without “tapping” out and back in again. Yes, a ride from the airport to Redmond costs ST more than a ride from Mercer Island to Seattle, but we are talking maybe a quarter or two.

    In the past some on Mercer Island wondered why their fare on the 550 or 554 to Seattle and back was the same as someone from Issaquah or the eastside, and we were told simplicity, and the cost differential per mile was not that great. Whether that is true or not when it comes to cost, it does make sense when it comes to simplicity.

    People on this blog are transit experts, and represent less than 0.5% of the folks who take and understand transit. It is up to different transit operators like Metro and ST to figure out how to coordinate. IMO if someone figures out how to tap in and out, they should only have to do it at the beginning and end of their route since tapping out alone is an extra and unusual step for most transit, and the fares should be as uniform as possible despite length of trip assuming it is within King Co.

    If one of transit’s prime selling points is cost then the cost differential has to be plain and simple, because the disadvantages of transit compared to renting a car or Uber/Lyft are readily apparent. So make fares very easy to understand, and make a fare good from beginning to end of trip no matter how many trains or buses you have to take within a county.

  11. I like the proposal to flatten the reduced Sounder fares.

    If routes like the 157 (currently suspended) and 162 go downtown primarily for riders who can’t afford Sounder, then let them afford Sounder.

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