Fare list posted at SeaTac Airport Station
photo by author

Those of you who have been riding Link Light Rail lately may have noticed some changes to the signage at each station, in preparation for the opening of University District, Roosevelt, and Northgate Stations on October 2. Among other changes, each station has a list of fares specific for trips from that station to each of the other stations, now including the three new stations, grouped by fare amount.

Two of the new trip pairings will charge a new top fare of $3.50:

  • Northgate to SeaTac Airport
  • Northgate to Angle Lake

The full new fare chart can be found here.

Listing all station pairings by fare, from north to south, would look like this:

$2.25

  • Northgate to Roosevelt
  • Roosevelt to U-District
  • Roosevelt to UW
  • U-District to UW
  • UW to Capitol Hill
  • Capitol Hill to Downtown (Westlake, University Street, Pioneer Square, and International District / Chinatown Stations)
  • Capitol Hill to (baseball) Stadium
  • Capitol Hill to SODO
  • Downtown stations to Downtown stations
  • Downtown to Stadium
  • Downtown to SODO
  • Downtown to Beacon Hill
  • Stadium to SODO
  • Stadium to Beacon Hill
  • Stadium to Mt. Baker
  • Stadium to Columbia City
  • SODO to Beacon Hill
  • SODO to Mt. Baker
  • SODO to Columbia City
  • Beacon Hill to Mt. Baker
  • Beacon Hill to Columbia City
  • Mt. Baker to Columbia City
  • Mt. Baker to Othello
  • Columbia City to Othello
  • Columbia City to Rainier Beach
  • Othello to Rainier Beach
  • Tukwila International Blvd to SeaTac Airport
  • SeaTac Airport to Angle Lake

$2.50

  • Northgate to U-District
  • Northgate to UW
  • Northgate to Capitol Hill
  • Roosevelt to Capitol Hill
  • Roosevelt to Downtown
  • Roosevelt to Stadium
  • U-District to Capitol Hill
  • U-District to Downtown
  • U-District to Stadium
  • U-District to SODO
  • UW to Downtown
  • UW to Stadium
  • UW to SODO
  • UW to Beacon Hill
  • UW to Mt. Baker
  • Capitol Hill to Beacon Hill
  • Capitol Hill to Mt. Baker
  • Capitol Hill to Columbia City
  • Capitol Hill to Othello
  • Downtown to Mt. Baker
  • Downtown to Columbia City
  • Downtown to Othello
  • Downtown to Rainier Beach
  • Stadium to Othello
  • Stadium to Rainier Beach
  • SODO to Othello
  • SODO to Rainier Beach
  • Beacon Hill to Othello
  • Beacon Hill to Rainier Beach
  • Mt. Baker to Rainier Beach
  • Columbia City to Tukwila International Blvd
  • Othello to Tukwila International Blvd
  • Rainier Beach to Tukwila International Blvd
  • Rainier Beach to SeaTac Airport
  • Tukwila International Blvd to Angle Lake

$2.75

  • Northgate to Downtown
  • Northgate to Stadium
  • Northgate to SODO
  • Northgate to Beacon Hill
  • Northgate to Mt. Baker
  • Roosevelt to SODO
  • Roosevelt to Beacon Hill
  • Roosevelt to Mt. Baker
  • Roosevelt to Columbia City
  • Roosevelt to Othello
  • U-District to Beacon Hill
  • U-District to Mt. Baker
  • U-District to Columbia City
  • U-District to Othello
  • U-District to Rainier Beach
  • UW to Columbia City
  • UW to Othello
  • UW to Rainier Beach
  • Capitol Hill to Rainier Beach
  • Stadium to Tukwila International Blvd
  • SODO to Tukwila International Boulevard
  • SODO to SeaTac Airport
  • Beacon Hill to Tukwila International Blvd
  • Beacon Hill to SeaTac Airport
  • Mt. Baker to Tukwila International Blvd
  • Mt. Baker to SeaTac Airport
  • Columbia City to SeaTac Airport
  • Columbia City to Angle Lake
  • Othello to SeaTac Airport
  • Othello to Angle Lake
  • Rainier Beach to Angle Lake

$3.00

  • Northgate to Columbia City
  • Northgate to Othello
  • Northgate to Rainier Beach
  • Roosevelt to Rainier Beach
  • UW to Tukwila International Blvd
  • Capitol Hill to Tukwila International Blvd
  • Capitol Hill to SeaTac Airport
  • Capitol Hill to Angle Lake
  • Downtown to Tukwila International Blvd
  • Downtown to SeaTac Airport
  • Downtown to Angle Lake
  • Stadium to SeaTac Airport
  • Stadium to Angle Lake
  • SODO to Angle Lake
  • Beacon Hill to Angle Lake
  • Mt. Baker to Angle Lake

$3.25

  • Northgate to Tukwila International Blvd
  • Roosevelt to Tukwila International Blvd
  • Roosevelt to SeaTac Airport
  • Roosevelt to Angle Lake
  • U-District to Tukwila International Blvd
  • U-District to SeaTac Airport
  • U-District to Angle Lake
  • UW to SeaTac Airport
  • UW to Angle Lake

$3.50

  • Northgate to SeaTac Airport
  • Northgate to Angle Lake

Reduced fares will remain flat for each payer category. All trips for seniors (65+) and riders with qualifying disabilities who have obtained a Regional Reduced Fare Permit will continue to be $1.00. Trips for youth (6-18) with a youth ORCA card and trips for qualifying low-income riders with an ORCA LIFT card will continue to be $1.50. Children 5 and under ride free with a fare-paying adult. These reduced fares cover all trips on Link Light Rail, ST Express, King County Metro buses, the Seattle Streetcars, Everett Transit, and Kitsap Transit buses. Free ORCA transfers among these services are good for 2 hours.

The new top fare for a Link-only day pass will be $7.00, but if you want it to be for riding the whole length of the line all day, you can only get it paying with a TransitGo ticket on your smart phone (a great way to avoid the queue at the ticket machines), or by purchasing the pass at one of the terminal stations (Angle Lake at the south end or Northgate at the north end). The downside of TransitGo is that the tickets and passes are not transferable among agencies or services. A regional day pass covering $3.50 of fare on each service accepting ORCA (excluding Washington State Ferries) is available to be loaded onto your ORCA card at any ORCA vending machine, for $8.00. A regional day pass covering $1.75 of fare on each service accepting ORCA (excluding Washington State Ferries) is available for $4.00 on an RRFP, ORCA LIFT card, or youth ORCA card.

With Metro fares now $2.75, Sound Transit may be leaving fare revenue on the table, in a time when it is searching couches for savings and preparing to value-engineer stations down to the bare bones. The number of station pairings charging $2.25 (45 out of the total of 171 pairings) is much larger than those with $3.50 trips (2 pairings). Raising all those trips to $2.50, while leaving the other fares alone (or maybe even capping fares at the maximum fare for ST Express at the same time) ought to help bring fare recovery back up toward ST’s goal of 50% on light rail, while still being below Metro’s fare for short-to-medium-length trips.

Some may have consternation that some Link Light Rail fares are higher than the flat regular fare now charged on ST Express, for trips of any length, $3.25. Others have long had consternation that the fare is higher than Metro’s for various similar trips, such as downtown to Tukwila International Boulevard, which costs $2.75 on Metro route 124 and $3.00 on Link. Still others would like Link to be free, as it was during the early days of the pandemic, so … long … ago.

44 Replies to “Welcome to $3.50 fares on some Link rides”

  1. $3.50 for a end-to-end ride, that consistently takes the same amount of time any hour of the day, is one hell of a deal.

    1. “At $3.50 and a mostly reliable 49 minutes from Northgate, I expect that there will be an uptick of air travelers using Northgate as a drop-off point. Even waiting for a train as long as 10 minutes, it will still make that connection in an hour.”

      Al, as the Irish say when asked what they want to drink: “it depends on who is buying”.

      If you are flying for work you might take Northgate Link if it is faster including first/last mile access and wait, and you can get dropped off and picked up. The cost differential between Link and Uber/Lyft or airport parking is irrelevant. Still it is a long walk from the station to the terminal if you are carrying anything.

      If you are flying for pleasure, and are not flying alone which most are not for travel, then it depends on how many are going with you. Then the fares begin to mount up, and so does the luggage if you have kids or a wife, and still need first/last mile access to the train. And you can use the HOV lanes if you drive or take Uber. Plus, I hate to say it, but a lot of folks think Link runs through some sketchy areas on the way to the airport.

      Ross has posted before about how few travelers today actually access the airport by Link. I doubt Northgate or East Link will change that much, unless you are travelling alone, are carrying very little, and can get dropped off and picked up at the Link station, and for East Link don’t mind the transfer and time differential.

      1. I usually catch flights that leave before 730am, so this doesn’t work. The lines are so long for security, I leave at 5am to get to the airport by 530am. Link needs to start earlier for early morning flights.

      2. I would venture to guess that 75%+ of air travelers are alone or with one companion only.

        The reliability factor is a huge consideration. For example, Shoreline residents who fly worry about Seattle traffic when going to the airport and have to allow for up to 90 minutes or maybe even two hours. Link will be almost like clockwork on travel time. I think that reliability aspect grows as destinations furth away begin to be served by Link.

        It’s one of those things that travelers won’t try at first. However, once they try it and no longer stress about traffic congestion once or twice, they will prefer Link for reliability unless it’s a times when there is little congestion.

      3. Many people catch the first flight of the day when airfares are lowest and it’s easier to get a seat, or when the flight is only once a day so they have no choice. Link doesn’t start early enough for departures before 8am.

        The 124 used to extend to SeaTac when Link isn’t running. It’s not in the current online schedule, so was it dropped at some point? Without it you’d have to transfer to the A at TIB for the last mile. And when I went the other way after midnight arrivals, they were uncoordinated so you had to wait at TIB for a while.

      4. Unless you’re willing to pay $30/day to park in the airport garage, driving to the airport requires waiting for a shuttle. This is unpredictable enough to make Link easily time competitive, even in many cases where a short bus ride is required to get to Link (most KC Metro routes are more reliable than parking shuttles).

        Even when traveling as a family, if the adults already have passes and the kids get discounts, the fare isn’t as much as it seems.

        That said, I still wish Sound Transit would open up Angle Lake station to long term airport parking, once other Link stations open further south with lots of parking in them. Lots of people would pay $10/day to park there, especially if Link fares are included in the parking rate, as a train shuttle is just so much more convenient than a parking shuttle that gets stuck in traffic. Sure, you have to walk a bit further, but I’ll take that any day over standing in a crowded pickup line for 30 minutes, breathing diesel exhaust, not knowing when or if the parking shuttle will show up, or if will have room for me once it gets there.

      5. Mike Orr, Metro route 124 still extends to SeaTac on late night/ early morning trips, the online schedule doesn’t show it properly, but you can see it on the PDF schedule linked at the button with 3 dots below the Map button.

    2. I wouldn’t encourage people not to pay, even though you are correct, there is no longer any enforcement or penalty, at any level, for fare non-payment. What I would encourage people to do is get a low-income or disabled pass.

    3. “But there are no fare gates, and no one is enforcing fares…. Why bother to pay?!”

      That’s easy to say for people who don’t get intimidated by officials asking for proof of payment.

    4. They just started fare ambassadors (which should really be called link ambassadors). During the next six months they’ll be checking fares and educating riders about fares and link. No citations will be issued during this time because they haven’t been enforcing fares for some time but I’d expect some level of enforcement to resume. Most riders I suspect of not “paying” fares during commuting hours are actually in possession of a valid transfer or pass just not tapping their cards.

      Just saw people get off the 255 this evening and in the station with no taps.i suspect most paid their bus fare with orca cards.

  2. At $3.50 and a mostly reliable 49 minutes from Northgate, I expect that there will be an uptick of air travelers using Northgate as a drop-off point. Even waiting for a train as long as 10 minutes, it will still make that connection in an hour.

    It may also be popular for returning from Seatac. The daily evening traffic jams are insane and return rides are pricey.

    $3.50 is still a phenomenal deal! I almost exclusively use Link when I fly so I’m not personally aware of Uber and taxis, but I’ve heard that both are costly (as high as $70).

    1. I doubt very much that there will be a huge increase in ridership for SeaTac. Similar expansions did not result in a big increase. To be fair, U-Link added 500 more riders, but that was as much as Columbia City and SoDo. SeaTac ridership then went down after Angle Lake opened, losing 1,000 riders. It still hasn’t reached the level it was before U-Link. Whatever increase came from riders at the UW and Capitol Hill (what we would assume to be significant) have been overwhelmed by losses elsewhere.

      If anything, we may see an increase as Link goes south. A lot of the SeaTac workers live down there. Who knows, maybe someday the SeaTac Link station will carry as many riders as it did in 2015. To paraphrase Jarrett Walker, folks like trains to the airport because they can imagine taking them, but the ridership comes from workers.

      1. Jarrett has a point. I actually caught a taxi home when I came back from vacation. It was a late-arriving flight (but not completely packed, which is one reason I chose to fly that late) on a Sunday evening. I missed the last train.

        The bus connections would have been an intolerably long wait, when I had to be at work the next day.

        I feel for the airport workers who have to go to work or come home from work during the graveyard period. Transit wasn’t designed for them.

      2. The 511/512/513 ending at nortgate will add riders connecting at northgate going to seatac. Anyone going to the airport from snohomish county off peak
        Will transfer at northgate and those on the peak only 510 will wish they did.

    2. During the Lynnwood Link open houses, Snohomish County residents were excited about being able to take Link from there to the airport. The alternatives are worse there than they are in Seattle or the Eastside, and all alternatives take an hour or more, so taking Link to the airport looks relatively better from there than it does in Seattle or Bellevue. And a $4 fare is nothing compared to the cost of their plane ticket.

      With Northgate Link the effect will be less significant because it won’t be a one-seat ride from Snohomish County. Still, taking a bus to Northgate looks much better than taking a bus to downtown, where you have all the intervening traffic and you’re sitting on a bus for half an hour.

  3. Let’s see, 25 cents more to go 4.3 miles further? And to do so in a fast reliable manner completely free from traffic? Where is the mystery?

    Oh the horror. The horror.

    1. That brings up a question I had not thought to ask of ST:

      If someone has an ORCA card with a $117 monthly pass covering $3.25 of fare, and no loaded e-purse, then when they tap on at SeaTac Airport Station, do they get an “insufficient funds” message?

      Don’t try this until October 2, or you might get a false negative.

  4. Meanwhile, the fare for traveling 50 miles on an ST bus from Dupont to Seattle is exactly the same for traveling 1 stop on an ST bus from the Bellevue TC to the Bellevue library. $3.25.

  5. Some may have consternation that some Link Light Rail fares are higher than the flat regular fare now charged on ST Express, for trips of any length, $3.25.

    Who? Anyone have consternation about the fact that an extremely long trip on Link costs a quarter more than an express bus? [crickets]

    Long distance trips should cost more. Should we raise the fares for ST express? That sounds reasonable, if ST express routes were exclusively long distance routes (the type that add tremendous value, but are very expensive per passenger to operate). The problem is they aren’t. There is no fundamental difference between the 550, for example and similar buses run by Metro. Unlike some ST routes, Metro would definitely run a route between downtown Bellevue and downtown Seattle, so charging more is unfair to riders.

    Should we create a two-tiered system for Metro and ST routes? Both have lots of problems. In contrast, tapping on and tapping off is pretty simple, and a common practice on trains that have proof-of-payment.

    Others have long had consternation that the fare is higher than Metro’s for various similar trips, such as downtown to Tukwila International Boulevard, which costs $2.75 on Metro route 124 and $3.00 on Link.

    Again, meh. Metro has a simplified fare because the alternative is chaotic. Even the relatively simple “zone” fare system was a mess. A trip from Tukwila Station to downtown on Link is essentially an express, with miles between stops. The fact that it costs you a quarter more is a bargain.

    Still others would like Link to be free

    That would blow a giant hole in its budget. Link has fairly good fare recovery, Metro does not. If anyone should switch over to free transit, it should be Metro — although again, they can’t afford the hole (even though it would be smaller). I could also see it creating political problems.

    Our fare system isn’t bad. It is a little high, but a very large portion of the fares are paid for by employers (via employee passes) and well-to-do riders. We have a good low-income fare system. Speaking of which, I would probably start there. Drop those fares down to nothing.

    I would also bump Metro cash fares to 3 dollars, while keeping ORCA fares the same. This would encourage ORCA use. Oh, and I would also make ORCA cards free, or maybe a quarter.

    1. I would make cash fares be $3, and only increase by $1 increments, to avoid the whole change handling hassle. I’m thinking of short term travelers and visitors and “emergency” type riders (e.g. car didn’t start in the morning, flat bike tire far from a bike shop, bought too many groceries to walk home with) who are less likely to want to hassle with an orca card or downloading yet another phone app. (For lower income people who are most sensitive to the fare increase, there are other better options available which use the regular orca card rates.)

      1. I’m sure a lot of people — especially those in that situation — will just pay $3. It is too much of a hassle to find the quarters. So the price change only effects people who routinely pay by cash, which we want to discourage.

        More than anything, it is symbolic. You get a discount if you use the ORCA card.

      2. I’m with Brandon on this. I’d add what we badly need is a daily fare that’s good on all transit in the ST area. $10 for a day pass I’m fine with.
        the price change only effects people who routinely pay by cash, which we want to discourage.
        Paying by cash is easy if you do it like Nashville. Bills go in and change comes out in the format of a printed magnetic “token”. Yeah, I know, Nashville is way more tech savvy than Seattle. Take credit cards like Portland and most other cities I’ve been in. I hear from the same people that credit cards are too expensive but at the same time transit is a service that has to be subsidized and made easy to use. Which is it? Managing your own proprietary system doesn’t save money and it’s a PITA!

        What metro areas in the US are more user hostile than the Seattle Tacoma metro?

      3. San Jose has fareboxes like you describe, where you insert money and it prints a ticket with a magnetic stripe. Or at least it does if you get a day pass, as I always did. It takes several seconds to print the ticket, so it’s even slower than Metro.

  6. One advantage of those $2.25 and $2.50 fares is that it makes it visible that Link has lower operating costs than Metro for short-distance trips.

    1. Yes, and charging for ORCA cards makes it visible that paying with cash has a lower operating cost for Metro.

      Charging 50 cents more for the train than the bus between Federal Way and downtown makes it visible that ST Express has a lower operating cost for Sound Transit than a train ride between the two. The bus will also be about 20 minutes faster off-peak, not counting wait time.

      Charging to ride the train between Westlake and the I-District while buses travelling through the tunnel were free made it visible that riding the bus for that trip had a lower operating cost than riding the train for that trip.

      In other words, fares signal nothing about operating costs. (Imagine if we charged the actually operating cost as the fare. How would that work out?) But they do have some ability to incentivize choices, e.g. fumbling cash and change while boarding, and taking an express bus to save money over riding the train.

      If having lower train fares than bus fares were being used as a virtue signal to say “We encourage you to choose the train over the bus for similar trips, for the greater good,” why $2.25? Why not have all those $2.25 rides be $2.50? That would at least be closer to the actual operating cost, while still achieving the same virtue signal.

      1. My insight from reading these comments as a new Seattle resident is that I didn’t even realize I was supposed to “tap off”! If there are signs anywhere telling you to do so, I completely missed them. I’ve relied on transit in cities all over North America, and the only places with distance-based fares I can think of all also have fare gates so that it’s clear you need to tap (and sometime pay additional fare) to exit.

        One thing I really love about TriMet in Portland is the way it rewards ridership and fare payment. If you are using a Hop card or the transit app, once you reach the $ equal to the cost of a daily pass, the rest of your travel that day is free. Same thing for monthly passes. I feel like all systems, especially those without fare gates, should operate this way to encourage tapping!

      2. Thanks for pointing that out, Sarah! There remains a few signage and announcement problems with Link and this is one. Supposedly, ST is going to better demarcate paid fare areas in the next year but I’m not sure if that includes tap off instructions.

        If it’s any consolation, Link Stations originally had only a few small signs identifying train directions until just two or three years ago. I had to sometimes console and help many people afraid that they were on the wrong platform as I waited for a train. It’s actually better than it was!

  7. It’s time to charge a flat fare. The larger the system, the more difficult and confusing fares become.

    By 2024, we’ll have rail expanding from Lynnwood to Federal Way and to Redmond. That replaces many heavy-hitting bus corridors where customers will have a difficult time keeping track of how much they’ll have to pay every time they travel to a new destination.

    Even today, some people (especially those with set monthly passes) are caught off guard when they venture outside of King County and have to pay extra. There’s so much discombobulation in fares between CT, ST, MT & PT – it’s hard to keep track of.

    Some cities with flat fares (excluding region/commuter lines)
    LA, Pittsburgh, Miami, Boston, SD, Houston, Chicago…

    1. Cities that have flat fares don’t include trains or express buses to thirty-mile-away suburbs in the flat fare or in unlimited bus passes. In New York the subway stays within the city. In Chicago Metra is not included in the flat fare. In San Francisco, BART, SamTrans, and Golden Gate Transit is not included in the flat fare. In Germany S-Bahns nationwide have a fare structure similar to Link.
      It’s because long-distance Link and Sounder and express buses are included that the daily unlimited fare is so high, and that Link and Sounder charge distance-based fares.

      1. But that doesn’t negate the fact that some of the above cities have rail systems (again not including reginal rail) with broad coverage and is larger than ours (BOS, SD, NYC, LA). And in Berlin, the S-Bhan is a flat rate. So is Muni in SF (although MUNI is much smaller).

        When I visit LA, it’s easy to use both bus and rail without having to figure out a fare chart before boarding. Unfortunately, this is something I have to do in DC because there’s not a single fare.

        A complicated, distance-based fare structure that varies per destination is simply an overall bad customer experience.

      2. Chicago Metra wants to go to a flat fare but is blocked by Chicago city, which doesn’t want Metra to cannibalize fare revenue from the CTA (i.e. Chicago puts CTA’s finances above rider experience).

        I would never point to the Bay Area as an example of what to do with regional fares. LA has commuter rail and express bus network as geographically extensive as Seattle, so if they do a flat fare, no reason Orca can’t be the same.

      3. Maybe it’s just the Rhein-Ruhr and Rhein-Sieg regions where the S-Bahns have a per-kilometer fare and a surcharge for short-distance trips. I thought it was nationwide, that all trains had a common per-km charge and surcharges for trips under 5 km or faster trains. Or maybe the system has changed.

      4. If it makes you feel any better, you can think of it this way: It costs $3.50 to ride Link. However, you get money back — a discount — if you take a trip that isn’t that long and remember to tap off.

        There are three reasons a regional fare makes sense for Link:

        1) We require riders to have proof of payment. Thus it is quite reasonable to assume that riders are able to take advantage of the discount by tapping off.

        2) It is very long. It over 15 miles from downtown to SeaTac. The longest trip from downtown in the MBTA system is less than 12 miles. For New York, it is about 15.

        3) Our system is very linear, with relatively few stops inside the city. This means it spends a huge amount of its time serving more distant stops. The New York City Subway system has a few long trips, but they make up a tiny portion of the overall network. The same is true for Boston, and most mass transit systems. In contrast, we only have one line, and that line goes all the way out to Angle Lake every time.

        Assigning one fare would amount to a huge subsidy for the more distant parts of the system. We have a hybrid system, that is a cross between commuter rail and a metro. At times there is a large distance between stops, more typical of commuter rail systems. Other times (like downtown) it looks more like a typical subway line. (Worth noting: Link didn’t add the stops for downtown.) Most of the time it looks like a hybrid — not quite the stop spacing you would have for a subway line, but not the stop spacing for commuter rail either.

        Just about every regional or commuter rail system charges a different fare based on distance. The Needham Line in Boston is only 13.7 miles long — making it *shorter* than Link — and yet it charges a distance based fare.

        If Link was more like the subway systems in Boston or New York, then it would make sense to have just one fare. There would be a lot more stops in Rainier Valley, and the train would end there. SeaTac would be served with regional buses, or commuter rail. There would be multiple lines in the city before we even thought about going to the airport. By then people would be used to paying one fare, and not worry about the fact that a small portion of the trips — or more importantly, a small portion of the service — goes so far away from the core. It would still be a subsidy, but a relatively tiny one.

        We aren’t building that kind of system (much to the real, honest to goodness consternation of many). But you can think of it that way. Every trip in the city costs $3 or less. So just assume it is 3$. That makes it only a tiny bit more than the bus. If the trip is short, you get a nice discount. I don’t think anyone minds a discount.

      5. Another alternative is to charge zone fares, which is what Boston does for their commuter lines. This would work out fairly well for the current system. Inside Seattle, the fare is $2.75 (the same as the bus). Outside Seattle would be another zone and cost the same (e. g. Tukwila to Angle Lake would cost $2.75). Crossing a zone would cost $3.50. When East Link is built, it would be similar (Redmond to Mercer Island is $2.75, but Bellevue to downtown Seattle is $3.50). You essentially pay extra for that big gap of nothingness that both lines have, coming into the city.

        The problem occurs as it gets bigger. To the the north, there is no big gap. If you include 145th in the Seattle zone, it is not that far from the station outside it (185th). It would mean a trip within Shoreline would cost more than from one end of Seattle to the other. If you didn’t include 145th in the Seattle area, then a trip from 145th to 135th would cost more than a trip from Rainier Beach to 135th. Meanwhile, a bus from 145th to Northgate would be significantly cheaper.

        Eventually we will build an extremely long system, which again, does not come anywhere near covering the urban core. This means that much of the service time will be spent going all the way out to Everett, or down to Tacoma. You could add additional zones, but that creates more problems. The system we have — as complicated at it is — is fine. It could be simplified a bit (maybe set the base far at $2.50, which means that a lot more trips are within that range) but the overall framework is a good balance.

      6. Oh, and Berlin has fare zones. To quote the Wikipedia page for the U-Bahn:

        Berlin is divided into three fare zones, known as A, B, and C. Zone A is the area in the centre of Berlin and is demarcated by the S-Bahn urban rail ring line. Zone B covers the rest of the area within the city borders, and Zone C includes the immediate surroundings of Berlin.

        There are various maps showing the zones. I like this one: https://sbahn.berlin/en/tickets/the-vbb-fare-explained/fare-zones/. Basically if you thought the S-Bahn only has one fare, you never left the ring.

      7. Rhein-Ruhr passes have zones A, B, and C, a being Duesseldorf, B the suburbs immediately around it, and C the entire transit region. I had a C pass, but when I took the S-Bahn to Cologne it wouldn’t cover the part in Rhein-Sieg so I had to get an individual ticket, and I remember the sign saying the fare is distance-based and you had to choose a destination to get the fare quote.

      8. A simple variation on zone-based fares is not to charge for the first zone crossing, or maybe even first two zone crossings. But then, the system can easily be defeated by tapping off and back on along the way, just like with distance-based fares.

        Nor do any of these approaches, short of a flat fare, do much to quell the queues at the SeaTac Airport Station ORCA/ticket vending machines.

        When the 1 Line reaches 40 stations long from Tacoma Dome to Everett, that will be one unwieldy chart. Of course, that chart only exists online or by special order any more.

      9. When Metro had fare zones it unfairly penalized people who lived just across the city boundary, especially if they were only traveling a couple miles across the boundary. It cost more to go from 155th to 130th or White Center to downtown than Bothell to Renton.

  8. When Metro had fare zones it unfairly penalized people who lived just across the city boundary, especially if they were only traveling a couple miles across the boundary. It cost more to go from 155th to 130th or White Center to downtown than Bothell to Renton.

    Yeah, Metro had a very crude implementation of two-zone fairs. Not only that, but they routinely charged the wrong amount. If you started outside the city (heading towards Seattle) and then got off before you got to Seattle, how could they charge you properly? I forgot how that worked. For me, I would often be charged incorrectly, just because the driver forget to reset things. Then you have the peak fare thing …

    Anyway, that is why almost all “zone” systems have several zones, and charge the same inside one zone as two. This system is similar — I think we could come up with six zones, and different rates for how many zones you go through.

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