Table of proposed fare increases

Seattle Monorail Services, the private operator of the Seattle Center Monorail, has proposed a pair of 25 cent fare increases to take effect this year and next. The increases are “to keep up with rising costs and our commitment to preserving this historic system”. Three years ago the one-way fare was only $2.50 but was raised to offset the cost of accepting ORCA. Depending on how transfer credit is apportioned the $3.00 fare may have been less than half of what the Monorail would have received per ticket before its acceptance of ORCA.

Cash payments are currently “temporarily” suspended as a COVID-19 safety measure. ORCA cards are accepted at turnstiles and credit cards can be used to purcahse tickets at a self-service kiosk. ORCA cards can be purchased from TVMs in the DSTT, but no TVM exists (yet) at Seattle Center.

The $3.50 mark would put fares above all bus fares in the county, even with the longest (currently) possible Link fare, at the lower end of distance-based Sounder fares, but still cheaper than all ferry fares.

The public is invited to comment on the proposed fare increases via email: or by phone: 206-615-0258 through Monday, June 27. 2022.

Comments will also be accepted at a Public Meeting online via Webex on Wednesday, June 22, 2022 4:30 pm, details here.

68 Replies to “Monorail proposes another fare increase”

  1. The monorail is owned by the city, but operated by the contractor Seattle Monorail Services. The city should go back to having Metro operate it, and set the fare as the same as bus fares. At worst this means that monorail fares are more subsidized than some bus routes (but I doubt it would be the most subsidized). Just like we got ride of the two-zone system, we shouldn’t charge more for this service.

    1. The Space Needle gives discounts to Washington residents. I feel the same could be done for the monorail. Or, simply raise the cash fare as tourists would be much less likely to use ORCA.

      1. Cash is currently not accepted at the monorail stations, but debit cards are. Tapping ORCA is much faster than paying with a debit card at the cashier window. It is just a matter of time before NG-ORCA switches on the ability to tap smartphones to the new ORCA readers, so it will be mostly tourists paying the full bake-sale fare, which will hopefully be higher than the ORCA fare, though that is not what is proposed.

        SMS is aware of the state’s availability of grants to transit agencies that eliminate youth (6-18) fares, but hasn’t proffered a proposal to take up the state’s offer to potentially partially offset lost fare revenue, with no guarantee that SMS has any chance to win such a grant even if they eliminate youth fares.

        I’ll take the small upcharge on regular fares over the monorail ditching accepting ORCA transfers and passes, but raising the RRFP and ORCA LIFT fare to $1.75 does not sit well with me, especially as Sound Transit is moving in the other direction to reduce ORCA LIFT fares to $1, including on Sounder. Everett Transit is also proposing to drop its ORCA LIFT fare to $1.

        All that said, the monorail is participating in the annual free pass program for very-low-income riders.

        As a matter of practicality, it would be really cool for game-day transit passes, or at least monorail passes, be part of Storm, Kraken, and Bumbershoot ticket purchases.

    2. I agree that it would be both fair and simple to set the Monorail fare the same as a bus fare. By the same logic, the in-county Sound Transit buses should charge the same as Metro buses. For example Bellevue-Seattle should be $2.75 like it is on routes like 271 or 216, and not $3.25 like it is ST 550 and 554.

      1. Carl, it may be that the ultimate resolution is for all transit fares rise to $3.25 or $3.50 one way within the next two years, rather than maintaining the Monorail at $3 one way. I think it has been over a decade since fares were raised. Lower ridership, lower fare paying percentages, the exhaustion of federal Covid aid, rising inflation mean either more general fund public subsidies or more farebox recovery through higher fares, or cuts to service, even though the general fund tax subsidies will remain the same. Stuff like transit just costs more and more.

        If fare consistency is that important then yes, the 550 and 554 should not cost a premium, and there should be one fare county wide. If free transfers are that important across all forms of transit (except Sounder and Ferries) then raise the base rate for all transit to cover the extra costs of truncation.

        According to the linked article on the D.C. metro I think many cities and transit agencies will be having this discussion in 2023 when Covid aid runs out, and ridership remains depressed on many systems.

        I don’t think whether the operator of the Monorail is Metro or a private operator, or their respective efficiency, is the main issue. ST and Metro operations funding assumptions assume much higher farebox recovery, unless somehow each becomes much more efficient than they are today.

        It isn’t that $3.50 is too high for the Monorail; it is $2.75–$3.25 is too low for ST and Metro.

      2. Daniel: bus and streetcar riders transfer to/from Sounder, both north and south and at both the downtown Seattle and outer markets. ORCA makes transfers easier.

    3. I haven’t seen any negative news stories about the monorail lately. I have about Metro. I don’t think the agency that isn’t having any problems should be taken over by the agency that is. “That’s because they have two very different types of ridership, Sam!” I know that. Still, don’t fix what isn’t broken. Metro running the monorail will only make things worse.

      1. I’m pretty sure a larger chunk of monorail riders are also taking other transit to get to and from the Westlake Monorail Station. The question of overlap is sideways to the real reasons to keep the monorail independent (and public):

        (1) SMS staff have unique knowledge of how to maintain and operate this relatively unique technology.

        (2) SMS can operate the monorail much more cheaply than Metro can.

        (3) If driving the monorail is put in the Metro pick, consistency of who drives the monorail will be lost, and the result could be less-safe operation.

        (4) The monorail turns over some of its operating profit to other Seattle Center programs as well as some outside charities. Metro won’t do that.

        (5) The monorail is owned by the City, not the County.

  2. I imagine that a lot of this increase in fares will be borne by tourists and the owners of the Kraken as I suspect the majority of riders are tourists or people going to and from Kraken games with the Kraken go-ers getting a free ride on the Monorail.

    I actually live in LQA and likely one of the few people that actually uses the monorail as transit, so not the best for me and my wife, but I imagine few transit users will actually feel the cost increases. It sucks that it’s more than just about any other transit in the city, but I understand cost increases. They might as well try and get some money now as only tourists will use it once the Seattle Center Light rail station opens up.

  3. The article implies that forcing the Monorail to become part of Orca cut its farebox recovery by half on those tickets (which goes to show truncation is not cost neutral). Someone using transit to get to the Monorail, or a monthly ORCA pass, already gets a huge subsidy on the Monorail (as in free). As Scott notes, the two groups who will pay the higher fare are tourists (or those who walk to the stations) and those who drive and take the Monorail.

    It costs me $3.25 to take a two-stop bus from Mercer Island to Pioneer Square (and Kraken tickets are quite expensive and so is parking near the arena) so I don’t think $3.50 each way on the Monorail is that much of a burden.

    With the labor shortage, Seattle moving towards a $20/hour minimum wage, and a real inflation rate of around 10%/year everything is going up, and that will include transit fares. Pretty soon these inflation rates will start to be incorporated into CBA’s.

    Dan Ryan is probably correct that some of that cost increase may be offset by higher sales taxes and vehicle taxes, at least for ST, but the likelihood is we will see a pullback in consumer spending as cost rise, especially if we enter a recession. Still ST assumes a 40% farebox recovery rate and Metro 20%, and with declining ridership (well below the pre-pandemic assumptions used to sell the levies), and declining fare paying riders, fares are going to have to go up (for those who pay fares) to cover rising costs and new subsidies for transit users on the Monorail, unless there is some levy or general fund subsidy now that federal stimulus funds are running out (which is explained well in the linked article on the D.C. Metro system).

    I am not sure having Metro take over running the Monorail would save any money. Metro has huge labor costs, and is a fairly cumbersome agency. Either way, forcing the Monorail to participate in ORCA reduced farebox recovery, and that operations funding has to be made up no matter who is running the Monorail, especially a private vendor without the ability to raise tax subsidies. On the whole private businesses are more cost efficient than government agencies, although that is not always true. But switching operators for the Monorail will not eliminate the lost revenue from the huge subsidy transit users get from having the Monorail join ORCA.

    I full expect East Link to cost $4 one way either way when it opens, if it opens, for one or six stops. The hope on the eastside was the cost of the fare from Seattle and fare enforcement would limit riders on East Link to the intended beneficiaries of the massive subsidies, mostly peak work commuters, but now it looks like the peak commuter will not be a rider on East Link and there will be no fare enforcement. Not exactly how East Link was sold in 2008.

    1. I am not sure having Metro take over running the Monorail would save any money.

      You don’t get it. The monorail makes money. It is operated by a private company. Read Wikipedia: The city owns it, but they let a private company run it. Half the profit goes to the city, half goes to the private company.

      That isn’t how transit should work. Otherwise, Metro would charge a lot more for suburban routes, especially routes to the south end. Or Metro would simply get rid of those routes, as it focused on fare recovery. There is no fundamental difference between the monorail and the best routes that Metro operates. The only reason that they charge so much for the monorail is because the city decided in 1994 to have a private company run it, instead of Metro.

      1. I think I get it. The Monorail makes a profit, and my guess is the contract between the city and contractor required some kind of fare increase when the Monorail was forced to adopt ORCA and the fare apportionment from truncation did not cover the lost fares. But I don’t assume Metro will be able to run the Monorail with the same efficiency or cost, and so doubt hiring Metro will result in half the profit flowing to the city or magically lower fares.

        I also understand transit is subsidized, in part to create coverage, although I think there is a limit to that. The Monorail operations are not subsidized. IF Metro assumed operating the Monorail the real question is whether fares would drop (at least for those not using ORCA who get to ride free) or stay the same because Metro would have the same cost efficiency as the private contractor and pass those savings along to non-ORCA riders, like tourists, those riding to Kraken games, and those driving to catch the Monorail, because those are the groups who will pay an extra 50 cents each way when a Kraken ticket generally costs $100.

        I don’t know. Obviously with the Monorail now part of ORCA a large segment of transit riders now pay nothing to ride, a very generous subsidy, that lost farebox recovery is going to be made up from tourists and folks driving to the monorail, and I have my doubts Metro could run the Monorail with the same efficiency and would need the fare increase anyway.

        I don’t ride the Monorail, but don’t know if I would switch from the private contractor at this point.

      2. If Metro assumed operating the Monorail, the real question is whether fares would drop

        Of course they would. For the same reason ALL buses cost the same. If Metro wanted to, they could charge more for peak express buses. These are especially costly, and especially popular. Ridership wouldn’t likely drop much, and often times they could just run fewer buses if it did.

        Or how about the RapidRide system. They are often better than regular buses — that is the point. Paying a premium sounds quite reasonable. Or consider the streetcar. It too is obviously different, and appeals to tourists like the monorail. Should Metro charge more for riding that as well?

        NO! The streetcar, for all of its flaws, “is an integral part of the overall transit and mobility network for Seattle.” The same thing is true for the monorail. The only reason they want to charge more for the monorail is because it is run by a for-profit company. If it was run by the county, they would charge the same as riding a bus. Doing otherwise is very bad transit policy.

      3. I would agree that if Metro took over operating the monorail, the fares would likely be set at the regular bus fares (though no guarantee, as the King County Water Taxis, which are now part of Metro, still charge a lot more than buses). And Metro would not upcharge the tourists.

        However, the public would not get a windfall from capturing all the fare revenue. The operating cost would actually go up as the SMS crew get let go, and then rehired on contract once Metro realizes they need them to know how to operate the monorail.

        The City would need to find replacement funding for the Seattle Center programs the monorail subsidizes, or just cut programming.

        So, not a windfall. But a transfer of revenue stream from the City to the County. And then the transferred revenue stream probably won’t cover the operating cost, nor the capital costs that are coming totally from the City.

    2. The ultimate issue is whether the monorail should be positioned as transit for everyday trips or as a tourist amenity and game-congestion relief. If it’s transit, the fare should be similar to local buses and subsidized as much as necessary. If it’s a tourist amenity, tourists can pay $3.25 or even $5. If it’s game-congestion relief (which it is because large venues are legally obligated to reduce SOV trips). the Kraken can subsidize it.

      To me it’s not transit enough to justify a large subsidy. It only serves two neighborhoods, few people live around either station or go to the other regularly, and it’s so short there’s no reason to transfer to it at the north end.

      For years I never rode the monorail because buses were less expensive and I could use my pass on then. Then I became YOLO and stopped begrudging taking it a couple times a year. Then with covid my activities reduced and I’ve only been to Seattle Center maybe once.

      No bus routes were truncated at the Monorail so I don’t know what Daniel is talking about. The 3/4 still go to 5th Ave N, one block from the northern station. The D/1/2/13 still go to Uptown, next to the Kraken stadium. All of Metro’s long-range plans continue these corridors.

      Mercer Island Link, under the current fare structure, will be $2.50 to Westlake or Bellevue Downtown. The distance is six miles, so shorter than Westlake-Othello, which is $2.50. That’s less than Metro or ST Express.

      Of course there could be a fare increase in the next year or two, on both Link and Metro. I don’t think either has had a fare increase since 2009, so they’re probably due for one. ST Express has increased, but that won’t be relevant to Mercer Island anymore. And both Metro and ST Express have consolidated their fare zones into a flat fare, so that might look like an increase if you paid one-zone, but in aggregate it’s revenue-neutral. Fare increases have been traditionally been 25 cents, so I assume the next one will whenever it occurs.

      Seattle Center Link is at least sixteen years away, so there’s little point in assuming now what bus routes or monorail fares will be then. The D will probably be replaced by Link, but there will still be other routes on Queen Anne Ave N and 5th Ave N to downtown.

      1. To me it’s not transit enough to justify a large subsidy.

        The monorail is not subsidized! It makes a profit, for a private company.

        It is also public transit. So what if it only serves two neighborhoods. It does so very well. It is fast, frequent and high capacity. It is likely the most cost effective transit system in our network. This whole idea that the only people who use it are tourists and people attending hockey games is ridiculous. As already mentioned, people in Uptown use it. Locals attending Seattle Center events use it. People who work in the Seattle Center, or attend school there use it. Treating it like something other than transit is unfounded, and merely the result of history. For years the city treated it like an amusement ride, ignoring the obvious value as transit. Thus people ignore it as an option for getting there.

        I’ll admit I was the same way. Years ago someone mentioned that they attended an event at the center, and took the monorail after riding the bus downtown. That never occurred to me. Now, of course, this is the fastest way for lots of people to get to various places in the Uptown neighborhood ( Notice that the destination is not inside the center, but well outside it. But if you are coming from the north end, this is the fastest way to get there, even when there is little traffic.

        Anyway you cut it, this is transit. If anything, since it is so cost effective, prices should be lower than regular buses. The only reason they are charging more for this is because a private company is running it.

      2. “The monorail is not subsidized!”

        It would be subsidized if the fare is reduced to match buses. I don’t want less frequency on another route to pay for reducing the monorail fare. If the monorail had four or five stations and went all the way through downtown, then it would be more of a real subway and we could treat it as one, because it would be useful to a wider variety of people and trips. If it were a nonstop express between downtown and the U-District then it would serve the two largest transit markets and could be justified that way. But as an add-on to a tourist destination, I don’t see it. Even if a few Lower Queen Anne residents use it, that doesn’t seem enough, because it raises the question of, “Why one neighborhood and not any others? Is this really the most important neighborhood?”

      3. It would be subsidized if the fare is reduced to match buses.

        Nonsense. It is making a profit. It would simply make less of a profit. If anything, it would help subsidize lower bus prices if it became part of Metro.

        Look, I’m not a big fan of the streetcar. I think it is silly and the routes are very poorly designed. But it most certainly is transit, and should be treated that way. If the city decided to suddenly bump up the price — to make it more expensive to ride than buses — it would be big mistake. You would hurt the handful of riders who prefer it over the alternative.

        The monorail is way down the list of services that should charge extra, given its value to riders and cost efficiency. It makes way more sense to charge extra for express service, given that it costs more, but provides those riders with extra benefit. The monorail is high capacity transit, that scales extremely well, and costs very little per rider.

        But as an add-on to a tourist destination, I don’t see it.

        It isn’t just a tourist destination! Holy shit, man, how many times do I have to explain that? Look, it is a destination for much of the city. There is a public school there (the Center School). There are performances there. There are people employed there. It is basically like Capitol Hill (a theater district) but with a different crowd. Should we charge more for Capitol Hill because it is a tourist destination, too? Of course not. Just because a place attracts people from all over doesn’t mean we should charge more to visit it — that is ridiculous. You are stereotyping the ridership. You are dismissing the riders who live in surrounding neighborhoods, as if they aren’t important.

        Why one neighborhood and not any others? Is this really the most important neighborhood?

        You have it backwards! The monorail is already built. It is very cheap to operate. On a per rider basis, it is probably the cheapest line in our entire network. So why tell this one neighborhood that they should pay more? Is this really the least important neighborhood?

      4. Why is it that so many “transt advocates” want to fix something that isn’t broken? All I come up with is transit==progressive.
        That’s going to kill votes on future measures. Although it’s not like ST needs any help in doing that!

    3. “On the whole private businesses are more cost efficient than government agencies”

      Even if they’re more efficient, they want to take the difference as profit rather than lowering prices, so the consumer is no better off, and sometimes worse off.

      1. On the whole private businesses are more cost efficient than government agencies

        The person who wrote that is conflating a competitive marketplace with a monopoly. In a normal marketplace, prices tend to be lower. In a monopoly, they are the opposite. When the government contracts out work, the work is often way more expensive than if a government agency ran it. The website was originally supposed to cost $93.7 million. It ended up costing $2.1 billion. A government run agency — producing open source software — would have done it for much cheaper, and probably much higher quality (being open source).

        There wasn’t a lot of competition when it came to the contract for the monorail. Only one company made a bid. There is no reason to assume they could do a better job than Metro, given Metro runs buses and trains, and thus has better economies of scale. For example, it is quite possible that the ORCA readers are handled by the agency, when Metro has a team that handles them all over the city.

      2. Does anyone know what the profit split has been between the city and the operator of the Monorail over the years, and how much it dropped — for both — when the Monorail had to accept ORCA but presumably received some kind of transit allocation from other transit for each transfer?

        According to Wiki, in 2018 the Monorail carried 2.022 million riders, although some fares were discounted for age, youth (five or under ride free), disability, and since 2017 a transfer from other transit.

        According to the Monorail website fares are:

        All prices are one-way:

        $3.00 Adult (age 19-64)

        $1.50 Youth (age 6-18)

        $1.50 for Reduced Rate (Seniors 65+, disabled, persons with Medicare cards, U.S. military with ID, ORCA LIFT cards accepted)

        Children 5 and under ride free

        If one assumed 100% full paying riders at $3, that would be a little over $6 million annually (2.022 million riders X $3/fare) each way. If however the average fare for all riders was closer to 2.022 million riders X $1.50 on average that is only $3.033 million one way.

        Then one has to deduct transfers or ORCA monthly pass holders who ride for free, at least one way.

        Each 25 cent increase in fares would raise somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000 one way depending how many ride free or discounted, and how much revenue the Monorail gets from transit that truncates at it.

        Considering the ST Board just raised tax revenue by around $48 billion through 2044, and Metro has a $1.9 billion operations budget (plus $2 billion six year capital budget), $500,000 to $1 million in additional Monorail farebox revenue from a 50-cent increase in fares does not seem like a big deal for regional transit overall.

        Based on these revenue numbers, and deducting costs, I can’t imagine the private operators of the Monorail are getting rich.

    4. The article implies that forcing the Monorail to become part of Orca cut its farebox recovery by half on those tickets

      I’m not implying. It’s literally the reason that SMS gave, which is quoted in the linked article:
      The increase to $3 helps the Monorail to offset losses it will incur by participating in One Regional Card for All, since only =/-$2 will come back to the Monorail under the ORCA program.

    5. What is this “if it opens”? Of course it’s going to open. There may be some small delays, but Sound Transit is not going to just abandon East Link after spending billions of dollars and building highly visible tracks and stations. Sound Transit has a lot of revenue coming in, and finishing projects where construction has already started is always higher priority than starting construction on new projects. East Link will absolutely open. It’s just a matter of when.

      1. I was being facetious, although there doesn’t seem to be any concern over the delays on the Eastside.

        Maybe I should have said it is opens in my lifetime.

        Still there are some concerns about the bridge deck and span for those of us who have been through the post tensioning history, magic deck hinge, and recent problems that will require much of the concrete to be redone. The first engineers ST hired said the train dropping from the deck to span would cause micro fractures in the concrete, so ST hired another engineering firm. This is the same agency that detailed a train on its maiden run.

      2. “there doesn’t seem to be any concern over the delays on the Eastside.”

        Maybe not on Nextdoor or in your circle, but not all of the hundreds of thousands of people on the Eastside are on Nextdoor or in your circle. If the Eastside didn’t want East Link, it wouldn’t have spent decades pushing it and saying it’s important. It’s the next level of Eastside transportation.

      3. Yeah, it will open. Probably after it’s any use to me (years late). And as I posted years ago the sink bridge it’s on has less than 20 years of useful life. The big screw up was not using 520 when they finally realized that sinking bridge (520) was failing fast and had to be replaced. Best scenario was a real bridge with rail and hwy. But no, we got rail on a sinking bridge that when it opens will have frequent closures and ~20 year lifespan at best.

      4. According to Wikipedia, the Lacy V Morrow is a bit longer than 6,600 feet. The main span of the Mackinac Straits bridge is only about 100 feet shorter so it should be possible to build a suspension bridge. There is a cable-stayed span in China that is almost 9,000 feet (8,792).

        But it might cost $100 billion these days.

        The depth of the channel in the middle of the lake is too great for a supported bridge. Such a bridge would have to be a suspension or cable-stayed span.

  4. I suspect the majority of riders are tourists or people going to and from Kraken games

    Even if that is true, it becomes a self-fulfilling proposition with moves like this. Simply put, the *private* company running this has no interest in improving transit. They treat it like an amusement ride, and are focused on making a profit. They have to be forced by the city to make simple improvements that help the typical transit public. It was like pulling teeth just to get them to accept ORCA cards in the first place. As a result, people view it as a novelty ride, not good transit.

    Besides, it is grossly unfair to stereotype riders, and say it is OK to jack up the prices for them. Imagine if we did that with other routes. The E is one of the most cost effective routes, so let’s charge less. The 214 is not especially profitable, and serves mostly wealthy Issaquah riders, so we should charge more for that one. The streetcar is mostly used by tourists, so charge more so we can make a profit. The whole thing is ridiculous.

    Metro buses are subsidized. Fares account for around 20% of the funding. In this case, the monorail is designed to make money, with half of that money going to this company, and the other half going to the city. It shouldn’t. Fares should be the same as on other bus lines. If it makes money as a result, great. If not, it will be like the vast majority of routes (if not all of them).

    The monorail should be like the streetcars — owned by the city, but operated by Metro. Like the streetcars, they should charge the same price as the buses. All buses.

  5. The grade separation of the monorail makes it worthwhile for trips during congested times. I had Sonics tickets and used bike or transit (The OKC robber barons took them away in 2008, thanks to Schultz). On transit nights, I often used the monorail even though I paid extra cash. On event nights, the surface streets were jammed. It was worst between fall 2005 and fall 2007 when the DSTT was closed. The trolley bus routes through routed between First Hill and Queen Anne would often get stuck on their east-west streets and not show at all. Over time, Seattle has provided more transit priority on 3rd Avenue and it probably works better now. Another memory is skipping down the stairs beneath the monorail station between the 5th Avenue street level and the DSTT to transfer to use its grade separation through downtown for southbound trips. The vertical circulation between the DSTT and the monorail platform requires a transfer. A hassle of the eight agency ORCA is splitting the pennies in the backroom.

    1. I think it is common for folks to focus on the big events at the Seattle Center when it comes to the monorail. If the Sonics came back, I would certainly use the monorail. But as the center and the area surrounding it has grown, the monorail provides more than that. For example, consider this trip: The monorail is the fastest way to get there, despite being well outside the center. There are trips on the other side that are similar. This is an apartment that didn’t exist that long ago. At the same time, folks who live downtown and take the monorail as a one-seat ride to the Seattle Center has increased. Link has grown as well. All of these will continue to grow in the future, making the monorail an increasingly important part of our transit system.

  6. I used the monorail to get to about a dozen Kraken games this year — unfortunately one of the trains was broken on several occasions, which resulted in long lines after the game. I also found bus service to be abysmal after hockey games because there is not a bus lane on Queen Anne Ave or on Denny. And to top it off, the C-line only runs every 30 minutes in the late evenings. So it’s not exactly easy or reliable to use transit to get to/from hockey games.

    The Kraken subsidizing the price is likely the main reason why the monorail is such a popular option. Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth it, especially since the city/state is basically begging us to drive with the billions of dollars they have invested in SR-99 car infrastructure and the relative ease of finding parking in LQA or in one of the Amazon buildings.

    1. I also found bus service to be abysmal after hockey games because there is not a bus lane on Queen Anne Ave or on Denny.

      Queen Anne Ave (and its couplet on 1st Ave N) has one. There are even queue jumps at the intersections between (but not including) Denny and Mercer. Denny doesn’t have a bus lane yet but with the removal of a lane just west of Eastlake there’s at least precedent that the world won’t end.

    2. You people said you wanted an arena in LQA instead of SODO. You forfeit the right to complain about transit in the area.

      1. SODO has the exact same problem with buses. It’s a pain in the rear to get to/from Mariners games on the 21. The C/120 stop on Jackson is a big improvement though.

  7. Comments are due by June 27, 2022. The first fare increase is July 1, 2022. 4 days later. In what way is this a meaningful public comment rather than a legally required pantomime?

  8. I’ve learned the hard way that bus service to Seattle Center is terrible – slow, infrequent, and unreliable (like all bus service in America). So the small premium that the rickety monorail charges is worth it, on the infrequent occasions I go to Seattle Center.

    I don’t really care how the price compares to other modes of transit (which may be cheaper, but are mostly inferior), or that the company that runs it turns a profit.

    1. I can get the “slow”, but not “infrequent”. There are so many routes that go between downtown and Seattle Center, it’s just a matter of waiting at 3rd and taking the first that shows up.

      Let’s see if I can name all of the all-day route (I will probably forget some):
      1, 2, 3, 4, 13, 24, 33, D, plus 62 and E if you are willing to walk a few blocks.

      The only way I can see frequency being an issue is if you use trip plan software that tells you to wait for one specific bus route, and let tons of other buses to the Seattle Center go by waiting for that one route. But, people who know what they are doing won’t ride that way.

    2. I’ll bite–what makes the service to Seattle Center terrible? You say the routes are

      slow: scheduled time is 10-12 minutes from Westlake to the Center during peak times, off peak about 9. That’s admittedly 5 times slower than the monorail, but the buses are operating in mixed traffic for most, but not all of the route.

      infrequent: 6 routes serve the Center directly. There are 21 buses per hour weekdays during peak times (that’s a bus on average every 3 minutes). Off peak is about half that, so an average of every 6 minutes. Still significantly more frequent than the “every 10 or so minutes” monorail.

      unreliable: nothing to substantiate your claim. It is mixed traffic, so when drivers do something stupid, the bus suffers. But don’t forget the monorail has both caught fire and got stuck.

  9. This is from the Monorail Report (p. 4):

    “The team presented station concepts and collected
    feedback at two open houses sponsored respectively by
    the Uptown Alliance and Belltown Community Council.
    Public engagement consultant, enviroIssues, aided the
    team in collecting widespread survey response, both
    on site at the Monorail stations and through an online
    portal. Survey results and conclusions were presented
    with the station concepts at a public open house held at
    the Seattle Center Armory.”

    “The team experienced almost uniform support and
    excitement for the proposed station upgrade strategies.
    Particular interest and support was given to improved
    connections to Link Light Rail and better integration with
    regional transit. An outline of the scope and results of
    the public outreach can be found in Appendix C.”

    Obviously the public support was not as “uniform” as the report suggested, and the “stakeholders” not as “excited” as the agency proposing the Monorail project.

    This is the fundamental flaw in nearly every DEIS or scoping report: the agency is an interested party. If the project gets the go ahead agency staff have years of job security and tens of millions or billions of dollars to play with, so suddenly they are very important. The agency staff are the real “stakeholders”.

    I am not saying public projects are not good, I am saying that the findings for public support, project cost estimates, ridership estimates, ROW costs, future general fund tax revenue, and farebox recovery will be manipulated by the agency because it/they have a very vested personal interest to seeing the project approved, and virtually no risk if the assumptions or representations in the DEIS or scoping report turn out to be wrong, or even intentionally false.

    Very good lesson for the DEIS for WSBLE. The difference this time is the history of Link, this is not funded by general government tax revenue but by subarea specific levies, and this is a DEIS and the stakeholders got there first when it came to design, which is now probably fixed so the funding and cost estimates have to be manipulated if the project is to commence.

    Look, if the design for the Monorail project had been a $20 billion underground line I am sure there would have been very little stakeholder objection, which is exactly the lesson ST learned from the history of the Monorail project.

    Without any risk to agency staff for wrong or intentionally false assumptions for the project the key for them is to get it started, because then the citizens will be forced to complete it no matter the cost. I think that is exactly the thinking among many transit advocates when it comes to any transit project — anything is better than nothing no matter the cost per rider mile — except the rub for WSBLE is one subarea is on the hook if the assumptions turn out wrong or deceitful.

    So if you pay taxes in N. King Co. be skeptical.

    1. There are many people with vested economic interests in rail capital investments besides just the staff.

      1. Property owners. This group stands to directly gain or lose depending on even minor choices like which corner to put a station entrance. The public does not see how many owners work behind the scenes to create financial advantages for them. They often have paid advocates working at multiple levels. They can bankroll local campaigns for favorable board members.

      2. National engineering companies. Pretty much every big firm has an ST contract by now. Their bread and better is in designing things rather than assessing their feasibility. They enjoy multi-year contracts with guaranteed profit. The quid pro quo is that they agree to never question the project’s justification or the client’s project manager — and instead merely design what is put on their task list. There are many more people employed by ST in private firms than there is ST staff. These firms also contribute to various campaigns.

      Sadly, the rider wants and needs are not given a seat at the table. The tacit logic is “everyone will be a rider” but clearly that is not made important enough.

      Imagine any other public captal investment that doesn’t focus on users. Designing parks without listening to users? Never. Designing schools without listening to teachers and parents? Doubtful.

      I don’t see the issue as much about who is directing the decisions as much as who is omitted from the process.

      The proliferation of “public involvement” consultants is to me a sure sign that they don’t want public input. These firms are usually glorified hired salespeople. Putting a pretty face with a calm voice who has no authority or skill to change a design is akin to hiring a human model in a sexy outfit to present a vehicle at a car show. They see their goal to “sell the project” rather than make it better through design changes. A good way to tell when this is happening is to look at how much time is spent presenting versus listening, and whether the listening is treated as “taking feedback” without any discussion or is a forum to actually debate a choice. It blows me away when ST would limit public discussion to 45 minutes on how to spend tens of billions of dollars, for example.

  10. Unless it’s too steep they ought to extend the monorail to the top of queen anne.

      1. I have to say I really hated going down the hill on a bus during the time when Metro rebuilt the overhead. During that time they had some old 700-series coaches — the “GM Transit Buses” that were bought for the Blue-Streak project — on the 2. They were the only thing that would make the hill.

        At least with an ETB the motor-generators are going to keep you from running away as long as the poles are connected, but with a diesel its brakes only. Yuk!

    1. The monorail is really old technology, and I’m not even sure it’s possible to extend. At a minimum, extending the monorail any distance would require procuring more trains to maintain current frequency of service. But, nobody makes monorail trains anymore, so it would have to be a custom order.

      And that’s on top of all the issues involved with building the tracks and finding right-of-way to put them, overcoming NIMBY neighbors who will blast the looks of the support columns as “out of character”, etc.

    2. The first extension should be to the south end of downtown because that’s where the most riders are. Queen Anne Hill would require a gondola or cable car to go up. But the top of Queen Anne is less dense than anywhere in Center City (bounded by Valley/Roy, 12th, Weller, and the waterfront). It doesn’t want any more density, thank you. It had an opportunity with Ballard Link to get an underground station, and it didn’t pursue it at all. That was before or right during the Expedia move, before the Kraken, before the SLU concept. If Queen Anne and Fremont had pushed hard for stations (Alternative D in the Alternatives Analysis), they might have convinced ST to move it from the 15th Ave W default. Because that would solve the Queen Anne transit-access problem once and for all. But Queen Anne has made its bed and now it must lie in it.

  11. I see debating minor fare changes for the monorail as a silly topic. I suspect that fare changes give the operator more leverage to negotiate better terms for subsidies from groups like the Kraken. Still, it’s not a huge fare increase and likely will barely affect demand.

    The question in my mind is the long-term sustainability of the monorail. Is the fare increase to merely cover riding labor costs, or is there a substantial capital investment being made with the extra funds, or is this a simple attempt to grow profit?

    1. We can only assume they’re telling the truth, that operational costs are increasing (labor and parts/materials), so they need to boost income by ~8% in 6 months, and again in 12 months.

    2. They said the reason was to compensate for the loss of revenue when it started accepting ORCA transfers. Previously the rider paid $3. With a transfer it’s effectively $1.50, or even down to $1 if it was a 3+ seat ride, particularly if another seat was more expensive (long Link trip, Sounder, ST Express, CT express). Normally we let local buses get the short end of the stick, because there’s so many of them one fare discount is a drop in the bucket, and they’re subsidized as much as necessary as an essential service. It’s not the same when there’s only one short line, and it was built to get visitors to the World’s Fair and as a fair exhibit, not for everyday transit.

    3. The City, not fare revenue, pays for capital investments in the monorail.

  12. Since going on the ORCA platform,
    We now take the Mono to SC rather than walking or take a transfer to a metro bus. Mono ticketing is a pain especially when you see a tourists/krakens line . senior.

  13. Pretty funny that cheapskate Orca cheerleaders took the only transit in the region that was self supported…..and Orca’ed away their revenue.

    1. Pretty funny that we keep ignoring the City paying the capital costs of the monorail. I’m tired of the claim that the monorail turns a profit (which is actually just a profit on operations). Nobody cares, certainly not the riders.

      The monorail appears to have transitioned from a tourist bake-sale to fund Seattle Center programs to a transit line that locals and tourists alike enjoy taking to the Center. We won’t know by how much until after the pandemic is actually over (which it is not, so stop whining and keep wearing your mask around strangers in public settings if you don’t want to get COVID). Not to get too far OT, but the ability of the monorail to turn a profit depends to some extent on public health officials getting back to doing their jobs, and explaining to the public why masklessness has led to increased spread. Once the virus is actually under control, the Seattle Center can transition back to more in-person programs, and monorail ridership will probably go way up.

      One little thing the monorail has the power to do, that would help bump up ridership a little in the short term, is to require mask wearing on board. Do that, and more people will feel comfortable riding. I believe the City and SMS have the power to make that happen.

      I also believe the City can require masking at Kraken games, since the arena is the City’s property. A friend of mine had season tickets to the Kraken. When the mask requirement was removed, she had to give away all her remaining tickets.

    2. Let me do a little more ORCA cheerleading:

      (1) If ORCA had not been set up for the monorail by the time the pandemic hit, they might have been in a situation of only taking cash. (Granted, there still is no evidence, and possibly little effort to collect evidence, that the virus could spread on coins or paper dollars, but a faretaker for Washington State Ferries was one of the transit employees who succumbed to COVID back at the outset.)

      (2) ORCA is the fastest way to pay to get on the monorail, which, in practice, only matters if standing in the debit-card processing queue causes one to have to wait for the next monorail car 10 minutes later. If payment queues caused people to regularly miss a monorail car, it would impact the calculations of whether they should have just caught a bus in the 3rd Ave River of Frequency.

      (3) Pre-ORCA, there was a lot of fare evasion in the form of getting free replacement for monthly passes, with no ability to cancel the “lost” or “stolen” passes being replaced. Granted, we still have the immortal paper transfers.

      (4) Without a system in which riders can tap a single reader while boarding a bus, the added dwell time for fare payment would probably wipe out most of the fare revenue.

      I’m guessing what you are really complaining about is the revenue-split among ORCA/Pugetpass/transfer-accepting agencies. Good luck trying to make a transit system work if everybody has to pay an extra full fare every time they transfer buses/trains.

      If you want the monorail to be an exception to revenue-sharing, then by all means, say you think the monorail’s purpose is to raise revenue for the Seattle Center and SMS’ owner, not to transport people. It’s a perfectly valid argument to make.

      1. Blah blah.

        The monorail is never going to ‘generate revenue’ but it was doing just fine paying for itself – and you really want to argue about capital costs mostly from the 1950s?

        Unlike Metro and ST, monorail doesn’t have a constant flow of regressive sales tax flowing into them for their bloated administrations and spotty service. The solution we have is more regressive sales tax instead of users paying for a service. Congrats.on expanding that.

        Not giving free transfers on Orca is working just fine for WS Ferries.

      2. Not accepting transfers is working just fine to keep pedestrian traffic on WSF low. Keeping car tolls relatively low is causing problems for WSF, given the queues of cars that have to wait for the next ferry. It would cost a lot less to incentivize pedestrian traffic and add more life rafts and life vests than to build more ferries to handle the ever-growing car traffic. Never mind the carbon footprint and increased loss of marine mammals.

        Can we agree to put “user fees” on the freeways? That seems the only fair thing to do, but we can’t, for political reasons.

        There is no proposal to raise sales tax to fund monorail operations. But capital improvements have been (I believe) and will probably be funded that way, regardless of the fares.

        Plus, fares are more regressive, and require an inefficient “bloated administration” to collect. The most efficient way to raise revenue for transit is through taxes, but, as you demonstrate so aptly, the non-riding public will not stomach fare-free transit. And so, there have to be fares, mostly for political theater.

      3. I took the ferry to Bainbridge Island yesterday to spend the weekend at the in-laws. Round trip for car and one passenger was $51. So I don’t know how reasonable that is.

        There was a birthday party. Most were retired. I asked how they deal with the cost of the ferry. Most said they don’t go into Seattle, many who work now WFH, and the high cost of the ferry was seen positively as an effective way to screen those come to the peninsula.

        They just don’t see this part of the region as connected to Seattle. I asked about Kitsap Transit and either I got blank stares or folks said it doesn’t serve where they live since it overall is a very undense area, which is not surprising.

      4. “They just don’t see this part of the region as connected to Seattle. I asked about Kitsap Transit and either I got blank stares or folks said it doesn’t serve where they live since it overall is a very undense area, which is not surprising.”

        Of course they don’t know about Kitsap Transit, that’s for the common folk off island. “Just passing through”

        Maybe they’ll ask for a lid over the highway.

      5. Jim, why do you assume you know the backgrounds or financial status of an entire group of people from Port Hadlock? Most were business owners, or had been. My in-laws ran a tavern for 40 years after my father in law’s tour in Vietnam. I wish so many progressives on this blog were not always so smug and superior about people they don’t know (although to be fair these folks have some pretty harsh opinions of Seattle progressives in general).

        The reality is Kitsap Transit can’t possibly serve Kitsap County, and as usual first/last mile access is the rub, just like East King Co. The other point was the low subsidies for ferries compared to buses and trains make it very expensive to travel to Seattle, and Kitsap Co. is part of the PSRC’s future population growth estimates, but in effect they are isolated by the cost of the ferry, although they see some benefit is being isolated from Seattle. Maybe a toll on I-90 isn’t such a bad idea.

      6. Because the whole peninsula isn’t Bainbridge Island.

        They’ll do what they can to make sure the “character” of the island doesn’t change.

        At least the Silverdale commuters won’t be bothering them.

        Just the old folks in Poulsbo.

      7. I’m failing at figuring out how a round-trip toll plus one passenger could cost $51 on the Bainbridge ferry.

        The standard vehicle toll is $20.90. The passenger, $9.25. Toll and fare are only charged one way. That passenger fare is much steeper than a seat on South Sounder. The car toll doesn’t provide much incentive for your friends to drive to the ferry dock and pick both of you up.

        Granted, fare/toll recovery rate is higher on WSF (by law) than on all the other transit services except the monorail. I believe that is on operations, not the huge capital cost of fleet replacement.

      8. My understanding is a passenger is free going west. A car pays both ways.

      9. “ Unlike Metro and ST, monorail doesn’t have a constant flow of regressive sales tax flowing into them for their bloated administrations and spotty service.”

        The monorail runs 1.8 miles. Metro or ST could make a profit too if it charged $25 to get from SeaTac to downtown Seattle ($1.67 per mile of travel), but only a fraction of the current passengers would ride it, making traffic congestion all the worse.

  14. King County Metro is having a difficult time hiring enough employees to run their current fleet. Even if they wanted to put in a bid to run the Monorail, they couldn’t do it. Can you imagine getting cancel run notifications from the Monorail on your phone? I get them all the time for bus routes. Plus the Metro employees from the 1980’s and 90’s who used to run it are long retired. They would have to train all employees as if they were brand new drivers or mechanics. Another major cost and time hurdle. I just don’t see it.

    1. Indeed, Metro could have put in a bid to operate the monorail, if they thought they could run it profitably. They chose not to.

  15. I would like to see $4 or higher cash/card/TVM fares, and an ORCA fare of $3. Something like this seems like a nice compromise that uses dollars from tourists, who came here to spend their money on a tourist attraction, to subsidize locals, who are here to use the monorail as actual public transit.

    I fairly frequently will take an evening or weekend trip where I take a 3-seat bus-Link-monorail ride to Seattle Center, go for a walk, and then take the 3-seat ride back home, all on the same transfer. The monorail isn’t making $3/leg off this trip, but if I wouldn’t have taken the trip, they would have just been running a mostly empty train anyway and not collecting any of my money. If they increase the fare too much, I’d probably consider doing something else instead. When I take this trip, especially in bad weather or off-season, there are always quite a few locals on the monorail using it to get from Westlake to LQA, or to get to work in Seattle Center itself.

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