The youth fare is abolished effective Sept. 1st. This year’s transportation package in Olympia sends transit agencies a bunch of money in return for getting rid of the fare, neatly solving the dilemma of encouraging ridership by either cutting fares or using the money to improve service. Agencies across the state quickly fell into line.

Personally, I say good riddance. Youth ORCA is a pain to get, and if you have a few kids (as I do) round trips get expensive fast. There are also benefits to creating a broadly shared generational experience with transit, and in avoiding interactions with fare enforcement. With a state subsidy, there is no downside, unless it causes transit facilities to become (more of?) a place to hang out and behave anti-socially.

The main news is overwhelmingly positive. However, explanations of the formal policy are a confusing muddle.

If a kid is 12 or under, they just get on without any sort of fare. Riders 13 to 17 are “encouraged” to produce a Youth ORCA, which can be tapped without deducting a fare, or school ID. At some point, agencies will introduce a “Free Youth Transit Pass” to replace these, but in any case, these forms of proof aren’t required.

The ostensible reason for the cards is to help in state-mandated recordkeeping, but I can’t imagine this is going to turn out well. Kids don’t have incentives to get, or keep, these cards. One can see outlines of a policy to require proof of age, but as enforcement and verification are not in fashion, agencies are shying away from actually using them as such. What’s left is a system that neither verifies age nor reliably counts youths using transit.

100 Replies to “Youth fares almost gone”

  1. Abolish all fares on transit! Transit should be free to all. Make all transit lines 24/7 and free!

    1. Absolutely agree! Abolish all fares on all transit! Transit should be free to all. Make all transit lines 24/7 and freeeee!

      Kids are a great start. Over 65 should be next. Then EVERYONE.

      Fare box recovery should be the first thing to go. I have yet to see a rider search for money then feed their bills and coins into the bus fare box and think that was a good deal for taxpayers… or Metro. People who feed the fare box are often poor and I don’t want their money. It is yet another regressive tax and promotes car-dependency. Is the eye rolling commenter really concerned that a multi-millionaire is going to make-away with a free transit ride? Oh the pain that would cause you to witness! Count me as super-glad people are riding transit, no longer car-dependent, not screwing up the city, and not failing our planet. I hope that everyone enjoys many free rides on transit… the poor, the wealthy, residents, and visitors.

      Cities and counties pay untold millions to provide free parking and infrastructure for car-dependent residents and visitors. The average cost of keeping a car is over $10k/year so this free parking and infrastructure goes solely to support people with wealth, it is massive handouts to the wealthy. We can damn well afford to provide transit to everyone who lives in or visits here.

    2. Exactly, I’m all for increasing the Seattle property tax rate or increasing sales tax an extra one percent to make it free for everyone.

      1. Obviously you are not on a fixed income like I am being a senior citizen and where it is already difficult to make it in this current economy. So it is easy for you to say raise the property tax or increase the sales tax. And keep in mind that sometime in the future you will be a senior citizen and on a fixed income and find out what it is like and when it happens you will be changing your tune.

      2. Gotta love living in the state with the most regressive tax system in the nation! Maybe one day someone will have the unprecedented stroke of genius required to figure out a progressive way to fund social services…

      3. Obviously you are not on a fixed income like I am being a senior citizen and where it is already difficult to make it in this current economy.

        You speak as though the average younger person’s income is not “fixed,” that they have the ability to just go out and increase their income on a whim, and that the economy is treating the average younger person rather nicely. None of these things is really all that true. Meanwhile our state does have some pretty generous property tax breaks available for senior citizens with lower incomes, tax breaks that younger people with similar incomes are ineligible to receive.

        If we’re going to increase public services the funding needs to come from somewhere. The lower our taxes are, the more everyone has to fend for themselves, and it’s not the seniors subsisting off social security who win when that happens.

      4. The idea is not to increase the tax rates on low earners. The idea is to get fair market value from the “free” parking and services that are provided to car-dependent people right now. Every on-street parking place should have a cost to it. We should also be looking at ways to ride ridership even now. We should also look for ways to drive ridership now. Every time someone pays for their tabs, they should get an orca card with that amount on it. There are lots of solutions without relying on Washington State’s upside down tax code.

    3. I think it depends on the agency. I would definitely look into it for the smaller agencies, like Community Transit and Pierce Transit. My guess is the fare recovery is quite small. I think it could work with Metro. Part of the funding would come from taxing companies. In effect they do that now, as larger companies are expected to provide free transit for their employees. Then there is the savings that come from not collecting the fare. My guess is the county wouldn’t have to come up with that much extra money. At that point, I would pay for it with a gas tax. That would require state approval I assume.

      I would be less inclined with Sound Transit. At the very least I would charge for Link. Fare recovery is pretty good there. Unlike the buses, there aren’t any delays as people pay (whether it is with cash or with an ORCA card). Light rail charges for distance, which also makes sense, given the length of our system. ST also has longer bus routes, that are more heavily subsidized. Metro has plenty of heavily subsidized routes, but not to the level that ST does. A lot of the buses were initially designed and marketed as “premium” level, which means riders would be more willing to pay more.

      Unfortunately, that leads to riders moving to the bus and away from the train, which is less than ideal. It isn’t a simple situation, but I do think the various agencies should look at it. Unfortunately, it probably makes the most sense right now, when we are in a labor shortage. By the time they look at it seriously it will likely be too late. We will be back to where we need every dime to pay bus drivers to provide more service.

      1. Small agencies in particular are hampered by auditing and staffing requirements for working with cash receipts. It’s an unseen cost, added to buying and maintaining fare collecting equipment, licensing payment apps, etc.

        Federal operating grants apparently increase for agencies not charging a fare, and thus it actually is beneficial for the smaller operations to not charge a fare. The costs outweigh the added federal grants.

        The calculations become much different with a large agency where a few people dedicated to counting and auditing cash receiving isn’t a huge percentage of the total staff, and where a decrease in price may lead to increased service demand beyond what the federal operating grants cover.

        I’m not saying do or don’t, but only there are non-obvious reasons (such as the federal money, and behind the scenes money handling costs) that influence these decisions.

        As far as I know, every fare-free agency in Oregon that has studied charging one has decided it costs more to implement than they would gain in revenue. These are all small operations though, such as the City of Corvallis.


        Here is the link from Eric’s prior post. The summary of farebox recovery for each transit agency in WA is on page 28. Local tax rates are on page 11.

        As I posted yesterday, total statewide transit operational expenses for 2019 were $1,768,094,883 while total farebox recovery was $351,774,051, so there is your delta if you want to abolish transit fares. (I also posted the farebox recovery rate for each mode of transit). I don’t think the operational cost figure for 2019 includes amortized future maintenance and replacement costs.

        I don’t know how the pandemic has affected these figures since they are from 2019.

      3. @Eric,

        You are correct that young people are also on fixed incomes and are in the same situation as senior citizens. Thanks for bringing that up.

        As far as tax breaks for senior citizens. Not every senior citizen is eligible for those as you do have to meet certain income requirements and in my case I don’t. So it is not correct to say that every senior citizen can take advantage of these tax breaks. And yes young people are not eligible. It is not fun to get older but I don’t want to be a young person in their 20’s and trying to start their personal and professional life today as it is very difficult.

        And concerning our tax system I am not going there as that has been discussed and argued for years and it is not known if and when it might be changed.

      4. I’m tired of more concern for homeowners on fixed income than for renters on fixed income. Homeowners have a large asset, one that isn’t subject to arbitrary rent increases. If they bought the house after 2000 or so, they were clearly upper-income at some point or they couldn’t have bought it.

      5. Mike, you do realize taxes on property are passed onto renters. Same with levies. A $2000/mo. rent in Seattle probably includes $600/mo, in various property taxes. I really worry voters who rent don’t understand this.

      6. Daniel, of course taxes are included in rent. I think you’re off by roughly a factor of two in the amounts though. I just looked up the property tax records for the first two U District rental houses I saw on Craigslist. The first house rents for $3,700 and pays $567/month in property taxes. The second one rents for $4,800 and pays $635/month in property taxes. That’s the type of rent that pays $600/month property taxes.

    4. King County Metro has fares, but also a policy of lax enforcement. Usually if you step on the bus and tell them you have no money, or your pass doesn’t work, they let you on anyway.

      State law requires larger employers to encourage workers to use transit, and often the easiest way to do this is to buy transit passes for everyone. This is a huge source of revenue for transit agencies, and free fares would mean losing this revenue and needing to cut service, by a lot

      So the policy is that there are fares, but if you can’t afford it, meh whatever. It seems like a good middle ground between fares and free to me.

      1. King County Metro has fares, but also a policy of lax enforcement

        Yeah, which is why worrying about those just a bit over 18 scamming the system is silly. The bus drivers aren’t supposed to police the fares.

        State law requires larger employers to encourage workers to use transit, and often the easiest way to do this is to buy transit passes for everyone. This is a huge source of revenue for transit agencies, and free fares would mean losing this revenue and needing to cut service, by a lot.

        Not necessarily. Instead of having the companies buy the passes and each agency getting a cut, you simply tax the companies and have each agency get a cut. I think this would be a starting position for any new proposal. It is why the money needed to make up the difference is not necessarily huge (although I would like to see a study on it). But this rests on several assumptions:

        1) We can simply tax these companies in this manner. I believe so, based on previous taxes in Seattle.
        2) We can make up the difference with other taxes. This is where I get worried. I would pay for it with gas taxes. But I’m not sure that is allowed (by the state). Other taxes might not be either, and those taxes would likely be worse.
        3) It doesn’t lead to unexpected, negative consequences. This is where ST comes in. If Link and long distance express service is free, then running outside the city becomes an even bigger money loser. This could easily lead to big cutbacks. If you do continue with fares on ST, then you shift service from Link to Metro. This would also cut revenue for ST, while making for a less efficient system. The biggest rate of fare recovery for Link is in the core of the city. If those riders take the bus it means cost for Metro go up, and ST has one more disincentive to run the trains often.

        I think the idea should be studied, but I wouldn’t be surprised if based on the research we are better off not changing things.

    5. Thank you for this! By ensuring free transit, our beloved houseless neighbors will have both reliable transit and safe shelter during heat and cold waves. Run the buses at night to keep our neighbors safe!

  2. Makes sense to me that kids should be able to get where they want to go for free, since they have few other options for realistic long-distance travel, and being able to experience a diversity of neighborhoods and be exposed to a diversity of people (as taking transit tends to do) leads to a more holistic understand of society and community.

    Cue another suburbanite crank think-piece reply about how simultaneously no kids ride the bus (except big yellow ones) because it’s unsafe or not useful, and yet this will somehow be a critical blow to operations budgets.

    I’d be curious if there have been any measured effects of free youth fares on youth ridership, and if bus-riding youths tend to become bus-comfortable adults. I’d assume so, but this blog isn’t about supposition, but about observation and application.

  3. A toy ORCA card for teenagers, I can’t believe it. It reminds me of Schroeder on his toy piano playing Beethoven.

    When I was younger, kids under 5 rode free with a fare-paying adult, and on weekends Metro let youth under 17 ride free with a fare-paying adult. There was also an inexpensive weekend pass anybody could buy from the driver. I used that when I didn’t have a monthly pass.

    Somehow I remember buying Metro ticket books to get to school and for other trips. I don’t know why I didn’t get a monthly pass. Maybe they didn’t exist then. At some point I started buying monthly passes but I don’t remember when.

    One Saturday morning when I was riding the 268 to the end to monitor the ridership/walkability/housing situation in Kent, Covington, and Maple Valley, a father and 10-year-old son got on westbound, I think from one of those 2000s housing developments between Lake Meridian and the Wax Road Fred Meyer, or maybe it was in 1970s Timberlane. The boy was excited to be on a bus trip to Seattle, the city his father commuted to. We were about the only people on the bus, but then it was a Saturday morning.

    1. I remember those special Weekend Family Fare deals and Sunday $1 all-day passes, we used them a lot to become familiar with the area local attractions and hiking trails when we first moved here in the late ’80s.
      Then these fares were discontinued with the arrival of the ‘Farebox Recovery’ emphasis.
      I like the idea that youth ride free, but the scenario somehow reminds me of the saying about ‘when some people want to avoid evil they go to the oppisite extreme….’

      1. I agree Laila.

        What is the purpose of free transit fares?

        If it is to increase transit ridership I really doubt it will do that. Ridership was declining on transit from 2018 to 2019, and has declined even further post pandemic. The issues when it comes to ridership are much more complex than just the cost of fares, which are very heavily subsidized. Free fares for youth won’t move the needle on ridership, especially since there are already 77,000 youth cards out there, most of them probably paid for by someone else.

        If the purpose is some kind of wealth equity then why abolish all fares? How does abolishing fares for large employers, or me, make sense if wealth equity is the purpose. Does it help if the U-Pass is free because all transit is free (although I think the UW could negotiate a better fare deal for its students). No, of course not.

        The fact is transit advocates THINK abolishing fares will somehow give transit the advantage it needs to reach a ridership level that will change society and how we live. That just is not going to happen, and ridership has declined and will likely continue to decline despite huge subsidies for transit. Commuters are not going to rush back to transit because fares are suddenly free because most had employer paid for fares. They left transit for entirely different reasons (like they hated commuting on transit, even for free).

        Base fares not on age but on wealth. Amazon and I don’t need free fares, and Seattle can’t afford to levy more taxes on businesses with so many moving out of Seattle. Achieve fare equity with programs that subsidize fares (that already are subsidized 80% for buses, and pretty much 80% for Link today although the target is 60%), because we already know there are big operations funding shortfalls coming up based on declining ridership, and hoping “businesses” or the state or federal government will pay for the “optimistic” ridership projections and future operations costs projections is very risky when the more likely alternative is deep cuts to service.

        There is no inherent good in transit. It is simply another mode to get from A to B, and most if they can afford to choose a different mode for entirely different reasons than the cost of the fare.

        There is an inherent good in making sure poor folks who can’t afford other modes can afford transit (or Uber as Metro provides in certain situations) but use the fare revenue from those who can afford to pay to subsidize those who cannot without cutting service to the bone.

  4. Nathan, I started riding Metro in 7th or 8th grade, to get to a small junior high school on the other side of Bellevue that didn’t have school buses. I’d read children’s books of kids who lived in walkable towns, and there was always a bus or streetcar or subway within walking distance. So different from my experience. I lived in a single-family only area east of Crossroads. I was lucky enough to be on the Eastside’s best bus route, an hourly milk run that took half an hour to get to downtown Bellevue and another half hour to get to downtown Seattle. That enabled me start using transit to get around. In 1980 the fare was a measly 40 cents one zone, 60 cents two zones, so easily affordable. In any case, my parents gave me money to buy Metro ticket books.

    I was fascinated by subways, but the first one I ever saw was around my last year of high school, my dad and I drove down to Nevada to spend Christmas, and we stopped in San Jose where we’d lived before my kindergarten. I got the opportunty to ride BART from Fremont to San Francisco on my own. I was impressed by the 85 mph speed and 10-minute frequency. The second subway I saw (but didn’t have time to ride) was in college, the Chicago El at the airport. We’d gone to a conference in Urbana, and my friends stayed on a week to visit an urban mission commune in Chicago’s Uptown, so they saw a big northeastern city and I didn’t. In the following two years i got to ride the San Diego Trolley, MAX, and LA’s Blue Line. They all seemed slow and infrequent compared to BART. I couldn’t believe LA, with several times more people than the Bay Area, had a lower-capacity rail line. In the 1990s I got to experience the Moscow, St Petersburg, Duesseldorf, and London transit networks. In 2002 the UK and Ireleand (Britrail pass, Dublin-Belfast train, Dublin-Carlow train, Belfast-Bangor train. In 2003 I finally got to visit Chicago, and went on to see New York and DC for the first time and other cites on a Greyhound 28-day pass.

    And all that started by riding Metro in 7th or 8th grade.

    1. No, Dublin-Carlow was by bus. I assumed Carlow was too small to have a train station, thinking of similar cities in the US. But when I got there, it did have a train station, so I could have taken it.

      Another surprise in that 2002 era, we were going through an empty woodland, and seatmate took out his cell phone and called the people he was going to meet. “There’s cell service out here?!” Because my cell phone didn’t work in parts of Eastern Washington, or for long stretches between Spokane and Minneapolis, even in the towns. So I assumed it was like that everywhere, but it wasn’t in Ireland.

      1. Thanks for sharing, Mike! I see a lot of kids riding the RapidRide D line to Ballard High during the school year and in addition to hopes that those kids grow up to transit-comfortable adults, it also makes me wonder how much money SPS saves by not having to run as many yellow buses around.

  5. This policy makes sense and it doesn’t make sense (and before any eye rolls on free transit fares for everyone remember many on this blog in the past have advocated for free fares for everyone, and some transit agencies do provide free fares for everyone, including ST if you don’t want to pay).

    1. Currently we have a bifurcated system for youths. There are 77,000 youth passes. I am not sure if they are subsidized by school districts or employers. Kids like my 21-year-old son at UW get free Orca cards as part of their student fees, and I assume colleges have the same program. My daughter got a free Orca as a HS student on Mercer Island because there are no school buses for HS students, although ironically MI has no Metro coverage for the HS. I don’t know if the school dist. pays for this. Of course if parents had to pay a fee for an Orca card for non-existent transit I doubt most would. Big difference between east and west King Co.

    2. Kids 18 and under ride transit for the same reason adults do: they can’t afford a car, parking or gas, or there is no parking at their domicile or destination (at least safe to park a car). Any time you can get benefits directly to poor kids without having to go through their parents more of the benefit gets to the kid (free school breakfasts and lunches are a good example, and probably the best tax money of all the government spends). This program will help bridge the gap for poorer kids who don’t have school issued Orca cards (although some of these could be the 23% of kids in Seattle who go to private school).

    3. Many parents can afford an Orca card for their kids. Ideally they should pay for it. It should be wealth, not age, that determines subsidies, young and old. After all, should I get a subsidized Orca card because of my age? ST’s excuse that it is too hard to administer youth Orca cards is not a good reason. I never understood why my daughter got a free Orca pass (except she never used it).

    4. It will be hard to enforce fares on anyone 21 or under with this policy because of “equity” concerns, and the fact it will be very hard for fare ambassadors to distinguish between someone 18 (who does not need any Orca card) and those 21 or even older. My guess is few kids will get a Youth Orca Card which will result in lower ridership numbers, but really ridership numbers are about farebox recovery so only those who pay should be counted. This is only going to further inculcate the belief fares are not required on Link. For anyone. Simply don’t bring ID with you, or refuse to show it, and claim you are 18. Basically we really are moving to a free fare on Link, but ST just won’t admit it.

    5. ST claims this program will help educate youth on how to use Orca. Maybe ST does not have kids. They are way smarter than adults on anything like this. It took my kids about 2 seconds to figure out how to use Orca. Ideally ST would not have come up with a system as complicated as Orca and tap on and tap off that it believes requires free cards to learn to use, although ironically few kids will go to the hassle of getting a youth card so what they are really learning is don’t pay.

    6. Will this create a new generation of kids who come to love transit over cars, and be a great mixer of rich and poor? No. Transit’s issues for adults are the same as for kids. Based on my kids experience they are pretty savvy transportation shoppers. They don’t like the bus for obvious reasons and because it has a stigma (that is well documented in the literature) but will use light rail say to go downtown or Capitol Hill to party or a sporting event because Link does well in the (very small) very dense areas if you can walk to it like my son, but they take Uber home because late night — according to my son — it gets pretty sketchy on Link (they are big athletic males, but still crazy scares everyone). They also have cars but don’t like to drink and drive, or try to park in very urban places like Capitol Hill when Uber shared among several is cheap. Light rail is the choice when it is the best option. Kids these days are very sophisticated shoppers.

    7. My daughter (and wife) do not use transit. The front-page article in today’s and yesterday’s Seattle Times is about Harrell appealing for more police in Seattle and all the shootings over the weekend. She is back from college for summer and specifically chose a job on the eastside. Parents should be very careful about where and when their kids take transit depending on neighborhood. Safety is ALWAYS a deal breaker on transit, whether free or not, for the discretionary rider, and that goes double for kids.

    I think this free fare program will have minimal effect on most youths and ST but still is a good program depending on how good transit is compared to other forms of transportation. After all most of the kids who will now have free fares have been riding transit for free anyway, although that does not mean they like riding transit.

    Whether Link succeeds for kids or is competitive with other forms of transportation depends on the same factors for adults, even if free. If transit is bad when you are young that is not going to encourage you take it when you are an adult. If it is good then it will likely do well when it has advantages over other forms of transportation, at least for the discretionary rider.

    1. Kids under 16 have another use case for transit that doesn’t apply to adults – they are too young to get a driver’s license.

      For them, the car option requires parents to chauffeur them around. This places a significant burden on the parents, as they must drive twice the distance the kids are riding, and they are also left with short, awkward gaps between dropping kids off at activities and leaving to pick them up.

      When parents are busy, and need another way to move their older kids around, being able to tell them to ride the bus is extremely useful, and the parents do not need to be poor or carless for this to be the case.

      Also, in some cases, when parents have busy schedules, transit can be more convenient for the kids too. I had numerous times growing up when my parents’ work schedule meant I needed to arrive at school a full hour before school started or leave school a full hour after school ended. With transit, the kid can sleep later, go on their own, and arrive on time – even if the bus ride takes 15, 20, 30 minutes longer than driving, they still come out ahead.

      Sometimes, public transit can also be faster and more reliable than yellow school buses. It was often the case for me going to high school in Houston, so it’s probably true here too. A bus that goes straight down an arterial street, even with a bunch of stops, will always be faster than a bus which constantly zigzags around to drop people off.

      So no, transit for kids is not just for families in poverty, and nothing close to that.

      1. “So no, transit for kids is not just for families in poverty, and nothing close to that.”

        We are talking about FREE transit asdf2, not transit in general. What is the point of providing any class free transit (or free school lunches and breakfast) if not because of wealth and/or income?

      2. What is the point of providing any class free transit (or free school lunches and breakfast) if not because of wealth and/or income?

        One very big reason to subsidize something is to change incentives. Transit use is better for traffic and the climate than driving. People should do it more. The massive subsidies we already put into car infrastructure (irrespective of class!) make driving cheaper in many instances, especially with a bigger family.

        Letting kids ride fare-free helps correct this imbalance. Right now an in-city bus trip for a family of four (two adults and two youth) costs $17. Next month it will cost $11. That $6 difference expands the number of places where transit is price-competitive with driving and parking, which will change behavior from time to time. That’s a good thing.

      3. UW students pay for U-Pass through student fees, and they pay a significantly discounted rate ($86/quarter, or up to $344/year; compared to the highest-value equivalent PugetPass, at $189/month or $2,268/year)

        UW students of all ages are well-covered by this pass.

      4. What if a student does not use transit? The UW could still subsidize those who do want a U-Pass without charging everyone up to $344/year for something they don’t use. It would be like charging students for parking who don’t use parking. Or the UW could use its political clout to make transit free for UW students like it is for youths under 18 and use that money for education and other UW needs. Many students don’t have a lot of money, and $344/year is a lot after tuition and books and labs and so on. It is crazy UW students are paying full fare (especially when around 30% of deadbeats are paying nothing).

        Or tailor the pass and costs. How many students need unlimited water taxis. Why not have students decide on the transit they need — which I imagine is mostly bus or light rail — and pay for that with the UW paying a portion, unless transit is made free for UW students. For example an unlimited Orca is $99/month.

        My feeling is since the students are paying the UW is not doing a very good job negotiating the best deal for them, but obligating all students to pay for a service many don’t use, or use less than the cost to them. It might be an excellent business school exercise to form a student group with the UW to negotiate a much better deal with transit that allows students to select and pay for the transit they need. We shouldn’t be using poor students to subsidize transit.

      5. Eric, so do you support free fares for UW students?

        Yes, absolutely.

        Our state transportation budget has some very backwards priorities. We’re currently spending at a rate of over $2 billion per year on highway “improvements” (expansions). We already have more highway lane-miles than we can properly maintain. From the perspective of long-term fiscal liabilities, and also from the perspective of long-term climate change, there’s zero excuse to continue building more highway lane-miles at this point. Enough already.

        Meanwhile in the last pre-pandemic year all the transit agencies in the whole state brought in a combined total of $332 million from fares (see page 32 of the report). We could use state money to pay all the transit agencies to drop all their fares and all we’d need to do is divert about 15% of the highway expansion budget, minus whatever we’re already spending to drop youth fares.

        So yes, if our transportation budget made any sense at all, UW students wouldn’t be paying transit fares, nor would anyone else for that matter.

      6. Eric, my reading of the linked report is total statewide farebox recovery was $351,774,051 for all transit including ferries. Total statewide operating expenses for all modes was $1,768,094,883 billion. The difference is made up from general fund taxes such as MVET, sales and business taxes and so on, plus grants and SR 99 mitigation funds. Although operating expenses went up total passenger trips from 2018 to 2019 declined: for areas serving more than 1 million citizens total transit trips declined 0.49%; for areas serving less than 1 million trips declined 0.56%. In 2019.

        Of course, capital expenditures were dominated by light rail. Total capital transit investments for areas serving over 1 million residents increased 38.7 % from 2018 to 2019, from $2 billion to $2.9 billion, a very healthy increase.

        Farebox recovery rates were:

        Light rail: 30.3%, down 2.41% from 2018.

        Commuter rail: 30.22%.

        Ferries: 65.81%.

        Buses: 20.44%.

        Operating costs per hour were:

        Commuter rail: $751.87/hr.

        Light rail: $465.64/hr.

        Bus: $175.29/hr.

        Since this report is only through 2019 I don’t know how things have changed post pandemic but can’t imagine it has gotten better.

        The gas tax is dedicated to roads, and of course buses run on roads and make up the lion’s share of all transit, as well as bridges. As far as the state transportation budget that is a political process, although I do think post pandemic we may need less road capacity than we currently have just like we will need less transit capacity (especially compared to ST’s future ridership estimates), although I am not sure that means abandoning existing roads but not building more roads unless capacity demands. Same with light rail: I would not recommend abandoning certain lines that do poorly, but think it is time to pause on more light rail construction. I am not a big fan of the “induced demand, build and it and they will come” approach.

        But the “transportation” budget does not mean the “transit” budget, and if 90% of regional trips pre-pandemic were by car then that is where the funding should go proportionally (and luckily most roads are bridges are built although aging). A transportation budget should not be some kind of morality exercise. Just figure out how people prefer to get from A to B and then fund that. Don’t try and change their preference is my belief. Transportation should not be ideological.

        But I agree UW student transit fares should be free if they are free for those under 18, or at the very least UW negotiate a better deal and allow students to choose a la carte the transit they need. I don’t think we need to raid the highway fund or amend the constitution when it comes to gas taxes to do that, and IMO funding on transit is if anything too high, especially post pandemic. Getting UW students a fairer deal on transit fares and costs shouldn’t always come down to eliminating cars because that is never going to happen because…. 90% of regional trips in this area are by car which means more voters drive than take transit.

      7. “Don’t try and change their preference is my belief. Transportation should not be ideological.”

        … you understand that maintaining the status quo is, in itself, an ideology, right?

        Do you understand the ideology that build the freeway system? You want transit to pay for itself instead of being subsidized by non-users; have you ever looked up how freeways were paid for in the first place?

      8. My university in Denver is supposedly giving a free RTD CollegePass this fall semester for all students with all the colleges on campus (as we’re a tri-institutional campus with two universities and a community college) footing the bill for it. In my opinion, even subsidized passes even if not everyone uses them all the same benefits everyone in a way. You have less people parking on campus and it is an option if someone doesn’t want to use the car that day.

      9. But the “transportation” budget does not mean the “transit” budget…

        Clearly not. The vast majority of it goes to highways. That is not an immutable fact of life, but a political decision that can and should change as we learn how destructive and inefficient this highway spending is.

        …and if 90% of regional trips pre-pandemic were by car then that is where the funding should go proportionally…

        That presumes the current mode share is somehow the “correct” mode share that we should perpetuate into the future. Back up a century and you’d find a lot more people getting around in streetcars and horses than is the case today. At some point, those in power made the conscious decision to stop maintaining horse and streetcar infrastructure, in favor of investing in highways in a manner highly disproportionate to the number of trips that were taken by car at the time. The goal was to make car travel easier and more popular. It worked!

        Unfortunately the mid-20th century’s unprecedented experiment with auto-oriented suburban development came with a number of bad side effects, including unsustainable levels of carbon emissions. We need to change course. We can’t afford to continue to invest in highways 90% just because that’s what people are using today. We need to invest in infrastructure that our climate and our wallets can sustain over the next century and beyond. Highways aren’t that.

        A transportation budget should not be some kind of morality exercise.

        Every government spending program helps to set the overall incentive structure of our society, and therefore nudges human behavior in one direction or another. Every single one.

        There’s nothing morally neutral about spending 80% of our transportation budget on automobile infrastructure. Instead that’s an explicit endorsement of automobiles over other modes of transport. Spending 80% of our transportation budget on mass transit would similarly be an explicit endorsement of transit over automobiles. Politicians need to choose one way or the other. Even if they split the difference and fund each thing 50/50 that’s also an expression of their priorities and goals for the future. Your goal of a budget that doesn’t pick any winners or losers is simply impossible.

        Just figure out how people prefer to get from A to B and then fund that.

        “How people prefer to get from A to B” depends very, very much on the cost in time and money of making that journey by different modes. If I can drive somewhere in ten minutes and park for free, compared to a 45-minute $3 bus trip, I’ll probably drive. If the car trip is going to take 30 minutes due to traffic and parking costs $10 at the other end, that bus trip is looking like a better choice. If the car trip takes two hours with $30 parking I think maybe even you would choose the bus.

        Funny enough, all three of these scenarios are very possible depending on where we allocate our transportation investments over time. Spend decades putting almost the whole transportation into highways, require private development to build such a glut of parking that nobody can possibly charge for it, run buses in infrequent circuitous routings as an afterthought mostly for the disabled and very poor, and it’s no surprise that people prefer driving over transit in that environment. Invest in regular transit service, paint bus lanes everywhere, allow developers to not build unprofitable parking, and you end up with a situation where more people prefer transit or biking. Again, there’s nothing morally neutral about investing most of our funds in cars just because that’s what most people use today.

      10. “That is not an immutable fact of life, but a political decision that can and should change as we learn how destructive and inefficient this highway spending is.”
        People love to praise the Dutch for their bike and transit friendly infrastructure as if it comes naturally to them culturally, but was never always like that. Amsterdam was fairly car centric in light of the post war boom like many cities around the world at the time. What did change the attitude to bikes and transit, a policy change on vehicle deaths and cyclist protections. In 1972, there were 3200+ car related deaths on Dutch roads with 450 being children. There was a protest movement of concerned citizens called “Stop de Kindermoord” or “Stop the child murder” that pushed the Dutch Government to change course on highway and road expansion and to separate and protect cyclists with their own set of paths. Now Netherlands is seen as a bike and pedestrian friendly place to live and some would argue that they have some of the happiest children in the world due to the amount of independence and freedom they have with being able to ride their bike or take the bus to school instead of being shuttled in a car by a parent.

    2. A free youth fare is a great idea.

      However, the UW Orca pass is not free. It costs hundreds of dollars a year as a mandatory fee. The UW is advising students to lobby for either a student fare or to be allowed to use the LIFT program as costs are rising because of Link expansion.

      The rising costs are troubling because the UW Orca pass is already heavily cross-subsidized by non-users, since the fee is charged to all students, even those who may have an Orca pass already through another program. The assertion that Link expansion causes costs to rise is puzzling to say the least.

      1. Good post JS. I agree. Since students are charged a full fare it would be better to have students individually purchase their Orca cards based on their use. Right now my son pays $84/quarter for his U-Pass although the cost is buried in the student fee that includes many different services, but since he lives within walking distance of the campus and also has a car he subsidizes someone who takes transit every day to and from school, and for private trips.

        My guess is if the UW threatened to go to individual U-Passes it could negotiate steep fare discounts for students which it really has a fiduciary duty to do.

      2. The university as a whole benefits from students taking transit, as it reduces traffic and parking congestion around the campus If they dropped the UPass program and made everyone pay for their own full priced pass separately, you would have a lot more driving and a lot more congestion.

        Of course, some of this could be mitigated by simultaneously raising the parking fees, but then people who drive to campus wouldn’t actually be saving the money in net that they think they would.

      3. I thought the UW transit passes was primarily funded by UW parking fees, not the student fee?

      4. Also, dropping UPass would add to the upward pressure on rents anywhere within walking distance of campus (especially if combined with parking fee increases to prevent a traffic disaster), so much of the money your son would be saving off the UPass fee would just end up going to the landlord.

      5. The cost of the pass is based on how many trips all students in aggregate take. If only a few students use transit, the quarterly fee is low. If all students use it five days a week, the fee would approach a full-price pass.

        The $99 full-price pass covers a $2.75 fare. That’s enough for Metro, and for Link trips up to the distance of Westlake-Rainier Beach., and CT, PT, and ET local trips. ST Express is $3.25 so you have to pay a 50c surcharge. Sounder and the water taxi and ferries (if the latter is included) are even higher. So a pass that covers all those would be higher than $99.

        So if only students who use transit get the U-Pass, the cost would be higher for them, potentially two or three times higher.

        U-Pass is part of a general university goal of reducing car bottlecks in and around campus (as required by law for a large institution), and promoting transit mobility for general-use trips, even those that aren’t commuting to campus for classes. Dorm students don’t need to commute to campus, but they still get a U-Pass for their off-campus trips.

      6. The UW student UPASS is funded via fees, but as of July 1 the staff/faculty UPASS is funded as a fully-subsidized benefit. Previously the staff/faculty UPASS was funded via a $50/mo payroll deduction per participant with a substantial parking revenue subsidy (55% of total program costs).

        It’s important to keep in mind that despite UW’s seemingly-huge budget, it’s almost entirely restricted with very little that can actually be spent on a discretionary basis. UW Transportation Services is an auxiliary unit, which means it has to be entirely self-sustaining. Benefits are one of the few places where UW can actually raise revenue enterprise-wide without needing to do budgetary gymnastics, and by moving the UPASS out of Transportation Services, they’re able to free up revenue for deferred maintenance on their many parking facilities. Fortunately, the medium-term goal is still a big reduction in parking, and making the UPASS fully-subsidized makes it easier to justify those reductions.

        More details are here:

      7. It’s good to hear that UW is long term wanting to reduce parking. It’s one thing I’ve disliked about my current college campus, Auraria Campus in Denver, CO which has an abyss of parking on the West and Southwest part of the campus including 2 large parking garages. Which is sorta exacerbated by the campus being next door to Ball Arena and Mile High, though redevelopment is supposed to be happening soon there.. On some level it feels like overkill for the amount of people who work or go to school on campus which is a lot of people but we probably don’t need the amount of parking that we think we need.

      8. Zach,

        For all its flaws, UW is definitely ahead of many universities on the transportation front. It still has a huge amount of parking, though, in their defense, the SOV rate is very low at 17% as of 2019. UW also has already committed to reducing parking spaces from 12,300 to 9,000 and presumably even lower over the years – this might sound large but that’s for 35,000 faculty and staff, and another 35,000 students on top of that.

        Another benefit to consider for decoupling transit from what is basically a vice tax (subsidies from parking) is that it makes it easier to decrease parking without destabilizing the UPASS program. This will be a problem for other transit programs that depend on “vice” revenue, whether it’s parking, gas, congestion, or something else entirely. UW has a pretty detailed campus master plan here if folks are interested:

        I’ve only been to Denver a couple times, and it definitely reminds me a lot of Seattle when it comes to transit. It looks like you’ve got access to a transit pass though maybe not as cheap as the UPASS. Hopefully you can convince the students/administration of the benefits of a collective subsidy!

      9. UW’s master plan calls for converting the Montlake parking lots into classrooms one by one.

  6. “Also, dropping UPass would add to the upward pressure on rents anywhere within walking distance of campus (especially if combined with parking fee increases to prevent a traffic disaster), so much of the money your son would be saving off the UPass fee would just end up going to the landlord.”

    You are clutching at straws asdf2.

    If the UW believes transit benefits the campus and UW it should subsidize it, not other students of every economic level. U Village does not subsidize transit. God knows the UW has the money. And it should negotiate with each of the transit providers for discounted fares. In this case the UW is basically representing ALL students for transit while requiring them to pay a fee but paying full fare and then raising student costs. In reality, the UW should be pushing for free fares for UW students just like the free fare program for those under 18.

    1. The UW’s income ultimately comes from tuition. I suppose they could drop the U-pass fee, pay for the transit passes out of the general fund, and raise tuition slightly to cover it, but it all amounts to the same thing.

      Of course, the UW would prefer if the fares could be paid for out of somebody else’s budget, but the state does not appear to be willing to do that.

      In any case, a student fee of few hundred dollars per year out of a $20k-40k tuition (or whatever it is these days) does not seem worth griping about. When I was a university student in Houston, of all cities, the university gave all students free transit passes (I don’t remember how much the university paid for it), and it was not controversial. Obviously, some used it, some didn’t, and there many, I’m sure, that used it only a couple times per year. But, I don’t recall anybody making a big stink about it and demanding that the university make each person who does ride transit pay their own way, in order to ever-so-slightly lower tuition.

      And, again, this was Houston, of all cities. Transit ridership in general is considerably stronger here in Seattle.

      1. Don’t forget about the UW’s massive endowment in the form of retained ownership of six blocks of the downtown core.

    2. In state undergraduate tuition is $12,000/year. I guess I don’t understand why eliminating youth fares that were discounted and in most cases subsidized was so important but a $344/year mandatory transit fee whether you use transit or not is no big deal.

      If anything I just think a student should be allowed the transit option — if any — they want and UW should do a better job negotiating on their behalf. This method seems regressive to me where the rich adults on this blog pay the same fare as a student, and many students subsidize others when the UW should do more to lower fares for students. There isn’t a big difference between a 17 year old student and an 18 year old UW student in my opinion except one is likely taking out student loans.

      1. “I guess I don’t understand…”

        Because going to UW is a choice, whereas being a child isn’t. It’s great that UW can get their students a super-cheap all-access pass to transit in the region. The students that would feel the hit of the $84/quarter fee are (probably) the ones most likely to use the U-Pass most frequently, and so they are progressively subsidized by students who can afford late-night Ubers and a campus parking pass.

  7. Regardless of whether the youth fare is free or not, it’s valuable to train children how to pay a fare. All youth should get one.

    I compare it to flushing the toilet. If you are brought up to not flush the toilet until you are 18, you’ll be prone to not doing it afterwards — possibly a lifetime. Societal etiquette is basic to humanity and must be taught.

    ORCA cards are the same way. The earlier the training the better. Even a child of 4 or 5 should have access to a toy ORCA card so they can tap just like Mommy or Daddy. Maybe it can play a song line?

    1. If no fare is required, issuing Orca cards to minors as some form of fare payment cosplay is an absurd waste of money. There are numerous other priorities that don’t involve printing and administering worthless cards.

      1. Not a waste of money I think. I’m with Al on this.

        What I’m thinking of is a lesson for a child that even if something is free there can be a social contract component that, in this case, requires the action of the tap. In other words it could be a way of teaching a child that things aren’t entirely free, or a way to keep them from feeling entitled.

        There is also the idea that child transit statistics should be tracked. If lots of kids are riding transit at certain times, or riding it to certain locations the agency should know that to better plan services.

        Plus I think kids, especially little ones, would get a kick out of it.

      2. I disagree.

        Training riders to tap and Orca card should reduce fare evasion in the long-term because they will be less likely to forget to tap later in life. Plus, training children to keep track of their Orca card is teaching them responsibility, and that will reduce the likelihood that they will lose a card in their lifetime. I think the cost would thus eventually be recovered over a period of years.

    2. My grand kids like using their ORCA cards. They enjoy the beep. This is common for kids — they like to do things adults are doing. They are little kids, so their parents are supervising them. They don’t ride transit by themselves (yet). I don’t think it is that important that kids learn how to pay the fare. It has changed over the years, and yet people got the hang of it very quickly. It also changes city to city, but people ride transit when they get to the new city and figure it out. By the time kids grow up, it is likely the default will be to pay with a phone.

      A toy ORCA card could be cute, but I’m not sure if it will catch on. I think a lot of parents are just happy they don’t have to deal with it (even if their kids miss using it). It is just one more thing they don’t have to worry about losing. There is nothing stopping the parent from handing the ORCA card to their kid and having them tap it.

      I do think it is worthwhile to get kids to use the bus (and train). Since this is America, we treat driving as the default (in most cities). Biking makes sense for kids, but so many of the roads are ridiculously dangerous. So taking the bus (and train) is a good way to teach kids that it isn’t that difficult, and can be fun. Teenagers shouldn’t be shuttled around in a car, nor should their parents give them a car (or let them use the car for free). If they want to get a job and buy a car, fine. But otherwise they should learn how to take the bus. Its not that hard.

  8. What happens if small kids tap on or off a hundred times to hear the beep and treat the reader like a toy?

    1. Daniel’s imagined incompetent transit data analyst: “wow, this one youth ORCA card boarded and deboard transit a hundred times in 5 minutes, what a power user! This is going right on the front page of the ridership update!”

      You must honestly believe everyone involved in transit planning and management is a moron.

      Obviously, the onus is on the parent to teach their child to respect their surroundings – but the parent doesn’t care and youth fares are free, why not let them beep-boop as much as they like?

    2. Daniel, ORCA taps will register only once in a given period of time. It’s somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes. (I am not sure what it’s set for since the new readers started working.)

      I guess you’ve never regularly used an ORCA card, huh?

      1. Al, I used my Orca card on the 7 this afternoon to get to my mechanic to pick up my car. Sure I have taken Link, but I only tap once before boarding and once when I get off (if I remember). I am not sure what happens if I tapped a dozen times. Do I get charged 12 fares?

        In any case small kids are not advised to get a pretend Orca card and I have a hard time believing teens will get a toy Orca card and use it having two kids just past 18. Do you have kids Al? Easier to understand how Orca works than how teens think.

      2. I am not sure what happens if I tapped a dozen times. Do I get charged 12 fares?


        You just responded to a comment by asking a question that was clearly explained in the original comment. [ad hom]

  9. The UW receives more federal grants than any other public university. As Nathan notes it has fabulous real estate holdings in downtown Seattle. I don’t think the UW is subsidizing the U-Pass: instead it charges all students $84/quarter and uses those funds to pay full fare, which is why it now wants to raise the amount it charges students. I think the UW could negotiate a much better deal for its students if it gave a damn.

    When it comes to youth Orca cards I really can’t imagine any teen taking the time to obtain a pretend teen Orca card. Their friends would be merciless if they saw you tapping on and off with a toy card. Bad enough you are on transit.

    The reality is fare enforcement on Link for anyone 21 or under just went away, especially if you are a minority. Fare Ambassadors won’t be able to tell age and all anyone up to age 21 or 22 will have to say is I am 18 and have no ID or a toy Orca card. End of enforcement.

    So maybe that is the solution to UW’s U-Pass: tell students to claim they are 18.

    And to think some rolled their eyes at a sardonic post starting this thread stating all fares should be free because that is exactly where we are going.

    Although I think free youth fares are inconsequential, and others think the U-Pass costs are inconsequential, farebox recovery is not unless the state wants to fully subsidize operations for ST.

    1. “And to think some rolled their eyes at a sardonic post…”

      Do you not roll your eyes at sardonic posts?

      “… stating all fares should be free because that is exactly where we are going.”

      “…farebox recovery is not [inconsequential] unless the state wants to fully subsidize operations for ST.”

      These statements are in direct opposition – unless you would like the state to fully subsidize ST’s operations? Unless you agree that transit should be well-funded and free for all users?

    2. “When it comes to youth Orca cards I really can’t imagine any teen taking the time to obtain a pretend teen Orca card. Their friends would be merciless if they saw you tapping on and off with a toy card. Bad enough you are on transit.”
      So teens should ridicule other teens riding the bus and live in fear of an imaginary transit monster. I have never heard of such a thing in all in my life. Teens have other things to really worry about like acne, tests, friendships, getting ready for college, etc. Not making fun of someone for riding the bus. And if you’re making fun of someone riding the bus then your just a terrible person in my view.

      1. Beat me too it. Daniel obviously lives in a very different world than me. Most of the kids at my school took the bus regularly. The idea that they would be ridiculed for taking the bus is bizarre. That is like saying that kids are ridiculed for eating lunch.


        Zach, the stigma of riding a bus is a well-known issue for transit planners, for adults and teens. It begins in H.S. when at age 16 your friends and classmates are driving to school and you are on a yellow bus with the younger kids.

        Teens go through a difficult time. They are not terrible people (well, they can be, but they grow out of it many years later They desperately want to belong and so conform, and are hypersensitive to ridicule (I still have a teen left).

        First I doubt any teen will take the time to obtain a pretend Orca card when it is not required (especially if you have ID and really do qualify as a youth). After all, why? Teens are also fairly lazy, and many like my kids had punishing schedules with sports, schools, clubs, charity and so on.

        But yes, especially with boys who want to pretend they are men I can see a lot of ridicule for someone tapping a pretend Orca card on Link. You would look like a dweeb, or worse a tweener (a term much preferred than “pre-teen”).

        Before getting too righteous over teen behavior have one or two of your own. It is a right of passage every adult should have to go through to reach heaven.

      3. You say there is a stigma associated with taking the bus by citing a story about racial and class issues in Charlotte. Basically, you suggest that rich white kids won’t take the bus because they consider it beneath them. Pardon my French, but who gives a fu**. That hardly describes this area. There is a strong middle-class ethic in the Northwest, yet you seem to think that everyone is a rich, entitled, racist snob.

        Look at that picture if you want to see what real teenagers look like. That is Chief Sealth, one of the many fine high schools in Seattle. Do they all look like white, entitled jerks to you? Of course not. They look like ordinary teenagers. I have no idea how much money their parents have, but being Sealth, I can only assume they are middle class (unlike, say, Mercer Island).

        Look, dude, you live in a little privileged bubble. I get it. I grew up in Magnolia. Western Magnolia at that. But I was fortunate enough to go to school in the Central Area, where I actually saw how the real world works. People living in the projects rode the bus with the sons and daughters of UW professors. For the vast majority of people in this region, there is no stigma with taking the bus.


        I could go on, but Ross wouldn’t read the articles anyway, and simply can’t see outside his ideology. I never said the stigma was just race related. Poor people of color don’t like riding the bus either, but often have to, same as poor white people.

        The stigma with riding a bus I and many others have is due to safety, lack of convenience, it is slow, poor first/last mile access, transfers, it often is stuck in the same traffic congestion as cars. Seattle is just about the whitest city in America, much whiter than Bellevue, so I wouldn’t resort to race if I were a white dude living in Pinehurst. I think Betty called Ross out on that.

      5. When you are under 16.5, you literally cannot drive alone. Any teen under 16.5 will use the bus to get around — unless his parents have trained the child to fear buses. For anyone to find “stigma” in that says more about the narrow-minded parents preferring to isolate their teens and be their chauffeur than it does about riding transit — and trying to normalize the warped, fear-driven elitist behavior.

      6. “Zach, the stigma of riding a bus is a well-known issue for transit planners, for adults and teens. It begins in H.S. when at age 16 your friends and classmates are driving to school and you are on a yellow bus with the younger kids.”
        It’s really only a stigma amongst some in the upper class of the US. Who view it through a lens of classism and superiority. But for most teens they could give less of a damm as to whether their friend rides the bus or not in my experience. I knew plenty of HS classmates who owned cars but they never teased someone for riding the bus or being taken to school by their mom or dad. It’s just not a thing you did.

        “But yes, especially with boys who want to pretend they are men I can see a lot of ridicule for someone tapping a pretend Orca card on Link. You would look like a dweeb, or worse a tweener (a term much preferred than “pre-teen”).”
        Are we really gonna be encouraging toxic masculinity in that case and adults perpetuating that as well as if we’re in an 80s movie in calling someone a dweeb for using a piece of plastic. That’s a pretty sad hill to die on from my view.

        “Before getting too righteous over teen behavior have one or two of your own. It is a right of passage every adult should have to go through to reach heaven.”
        I’m very unlikely to have children due to being gay and not really interested in adoption. I’m still fairly young enough to remember my HS years at the private school I went to in Tacoma and never once did I see someone be ridiculed for riding the bus. It just isn’t in our region’s culture to do such a thing for the most part.


        Al, from 16 to 18 there are restrictions on passengers, not driving alone. The first 6 months no passengers under age 20 except immediate family. The next 6 months no more than 3 passengers under 20 who are not immediate family members. No driving from 1 am to 5 am. All good restrictions IMO.

        The reason many school districts eliminated school buses for high school students like MI is because the number of students who take the school bus drops dramatically after age 16, and many who drive pick up their friends (of course some urban public HS may not have parking). For example, my son started getting rides to school with friends before he was 16, and after he got his license he drove his sister who is two years younger (of course there is no Metro service to the H.S. so it is drive, walk, get dropped off, or bike). There is a lottery for coveted parking spaces, although there is street parking around the HS.

      8. Daniel, it takes some really wealthy parents to buy a car for a 16 year old, even when legally permitted to drive. Plus, those 13-15 are still teenagers too. And finally, there are many places where a team can walk to a bus running at a decent frequency across the County.

        I talk to many even in their 20’s and 30’s that don’t own a car because they don’t want the hassle — as they eagerly await to upgrade to the newest iPhone.

        Clearly, your secluded MI life and fear-driven transit-stigma fantasies are not the norm for most King County residents. It’s just you and your ilk.

      9. “Clearly, your secluded MI life and fear-driven transit-stigma fantasies are not the norm for most King County residents. It’s just you and your ilk.”

        Come on Al, you are better than that. I work downtown and no doubt spend way more time here then you do.

        Obviously, car ownership is the norm. Seattle alone has 460,000 cars and every street is packed with parked cars, and 90% of all trips pre-pandemic were by car. King Co. is a big place and I think it is the urbanists on this blog who are a little out of touch with the common citizen.

        If you want to take transit take transit. I think that is great. If kids want to take transit, or have to, great. But don’t gloss over the structural deficits transit has which is the real point of the stigma I was getting at: poor first/last mile access if you don’t live in a very urban area (and very, very little of King Co. is that urban), transfers, lack of safety in a city in which the mayor is on the front-page confronting crime and shootings, driver shortages, lack of frequency, you can’t carry anything, difficult with kids, slow, crummy frequency, weather and so on. Plus waiting for the 7 at 5th and Jackson to go to 12th and Jackson yesterday wasn’t exactly the Tennis Club. I just wish transit advocates would take off the rose-colored glasses sometimes.

        Car ownership is not that costly depending on the car and insurance. Lots and lots of cars in the RV, Auburn, Kent, Renton, Tacoma, Black Diamond, Ravensdale, Capitol Hill, White Center, Puyallup, Lynnwood, Everett, Federal Way, Fall City, Ballard, Wallingford, Magnolia, and so on. Do all these people have really wealthy parents?

        My son worked summers and bought a $3000 Hyundai Tucson. It was a primary goal of his. He will take Link at the UW, and Uber, and drives, depending which is the best mode because he has absolutely zero ideology when it comes to mode except time of trip, convenience, safety, etc. Transit from the UW to his job making pizzas in Freemont takes hours, and so does a trip back home to MI. So he drives. He works for what he gets, just like you do. His taxes go to subsidizing your transit despite his modest wage, and so does his U-Pass. You owe him.

        Don’t call my son spoiled when you don’t know him, the charity work he does, how hard he works at school, and the shit service jobs kids his age get, or the car he worked to buy.

        Focus on making transit more competitive with driving and Uber if you want more people to ride transit. Transit advocates have to stop blaming everyone else, and demanding more and more free stuff because it is kids like my son paying for your free stuff, and guess what: he is pretty right wing, and so are a lot of males his age. They just hate the sense of entitlement of so many in this area, and then turning around and calling him spoiled.


        More than half those in this country have no savings at all. Taking the money you spend on a car and investing it in the stock market instead would work out to 6.8 million dollars over your lifetime.

        Giving people no legitimate and usable way to get to places they need to go, beyond owning a car is one of the main reasons people are broke, bankrupt, homeless. Car ownership is a crushing cost, even after taking into account the massive subsidies we provide to entice people to make the catastrophic mistake of buying a car.


        I would go with AAA although $648/mo for the car payment is a very high end car. So a little over $9000/year total. I pay around $36,000/year for health and dental insurance for my family, and for the first time my monthly property tax bill is more than my mortgage. New King Co. property assessments are going to hit renters hard.

        Over 50% of those over 50 have no retirement savings at all. Talk about a ticking time bomb.

        If you don’t want a car don’t buy one. This region spends billions providing excellent public transit with around an 80% subsidy for fares. Can’t complain about that. I agree: put the rest in the market, although hopefully not all at once in January 2022, and choose stocks carefully and remember taxes on the gains or dividends.

      12. I forgot the dirty secret: the business mileage deduction which I think is up to 62/cents per mile. If just half the miles are “business related (based on the assumed 1250 miles/month in this scenario) that is $387.50/month. I know several people who deduct 1000 miles/month because they drive a lot which is cost of the monthly car payment. Of course transit fares can be deducted too if business related.

      13. “Lots and lots of cars in the RV, Auburn, Kent, Renton, Tacoma, Black Diamond, Ravensdale, Capitol Hill, White Center, Puyallup, Lynnwood, Everett, Federal Way, Fall City, Ballard, Wallingford, Magnolia, and so on. Do all these people have really wealthy parents?”

        The point is that lower-income people often have cars because they have no other choice: they can’t take transit to work and other errands because it doesn’t go there, is too infrequent, or takes an hour or two to go five/ten/fifteen miles and they just can’t fit that into their day. In other countries transit is comprehensive so this dilemma doesn’t come up: people take transit if they don’t want the cost of owning a car, and the transit is good so it gets them there reasonably conveniently.

        This gets into walkability and land use too, because the more walkable neighborhoods, workplaces, and shopping/cultural destinations are, the less people feel a need to have a car.

        I’ve heard it costs on average $7000/year to feed and maintain a car. That’s $583 a month. Compare that to a $99 transit pass. Now imagine the transit were comprehensive like in Europe or Asia, so you could really go everwhere you need to go on that $99 pass. Further imagine that you could walk from a station/stop to where you live, work, and shop. That is normal in other countries, and they’d think it’s insane to do anything else. But in the US, people think of cars as symbols of American freedom and success, so even the poor want them, and transit is so skeletal that they can’t do their necessary trips on it, so then they have to have an expensive car to get around, and that’s a drag on their financial resources. And somehow Americans think that’s normal.

        If you work at a Kent warehouse, or live in East Hill or further east, or that lower-income single-family area on 132nd going south to Green River Community College in Auburn, you can get around on transit sort of, but it isn’t as easy as it should be. And heaven forbid that you don’t go just between these places but you go somewhere beyond. Again, it would be easier if transit were more compehensive and neighborhoods were more walkable.

      14. “although hopefully not all at once in January 2022, and choose stocks carefully and remember taxes on the gains or dividends.”

        Lol. Getting investment advice from somone who has repeatedly demonstrated a near-total ignorance of risk, and value of long -term investment.

        Thats like taking betting tips at the track from my friend the horse vet.

      15. I am not offering investment advice Cam.

        For a simple investor like you pick a basket of Vanguard Index funds, begin dollar cost average investing when very young, avoid the temptation to raid your 401k, and buy a SFH home when young and don’t get divorced.

        Have a daughter for when you get old because after age 2 no one changes diapers for free. Work as long as you can and NEVER take early social security. Buy a 20 year term life insurance policy around age 45 if you have a spouse.

        Buy what appreciates (houses) and lease what depreciates (cars).

        Most of all don’t smoke, manage blood pressure and insulin levels. Get a colonoscopy every five years and PSA test/mammogram every year. EXERCISE. Obesity and smoking guarantee a horrible end of life.

        Do these things and you should be ok. Don’t do these things and you will die sick, poor and alone, and will find out people who don’t love you and think you were a great father/husband hate sick, old men. Visit a Medicaid nursing home if you don’t believe me. Wards and wards of shitty dads.

        Don’t worry about me. I will be fine.

      16. “If you want to take transit take transit. I think that is great. If kids want to take transit, or have to, great. But don’t gloss over the structural deficits transit has which is the real point of the stigma I was getting at: ”

        You may have missed this, but the whole point of this web site is to make transit in the Puget Sound region better quality, so that it is more useful to more people.

        This year, San Diego recorded a 50% increase in transit use.

        Obviously some places are doing vastly better than others.

        If you want to continue to pay transit taxes to get awful service, then you do you. Some of us would prefer to see quality of life improvements.

      17. Daniel Thompson doesn’t appear to understand why anyone would advocate for something that doesn’t benefit the advocate directly.

        Since he thinks there are no transit improvements that would benefit him directly, he’s moved from a place of apparent ambivalence regarding transit to engaging in anti-advocacy because he thinks the money could and should be better spent (or not spent at all). While that may be the only semi-worthwhile debate he engages in (and he restarts it in nearly every comment section), he doesn’t propose an practical solutions except to put ‘Cancel ST3’ on the ballot – which is about as unlikely as him commuting to Pioneer Square via Link when it the Mercer Island station opens in 2024.

        Daniel is a man who understands that there’s a stigma amongst upper-class suburbanites against taking the bus, but claims there is no Eastsider who would ride a train who don’t already take the bus. He claims to support subsidizing transit for low-class folk, but consistently rebukes discussion of class when it comes to taxation.

        While it’s not unprecedented or unwanted to have opposing voices here, the sheer volume of his commentary just serves to pollute and dilute the discourse which used to be quite balanced.

    3. Teens?

      I’ve seen some fairly young grade schoolers riding TriMet to get to school or after-school activities or friends houses or whatever.

      In groups, Portland Parks will take groups of 20 or so low income kids that are quite young on outings during the summer, with the 3-5 chaperones being high schoolers. They always keep to low ridership times and trips but they can easily take 3/4 of a bus.

      It’s how kids that can’t drive yet get around, if their families can’t afford to hire a limousine for each trip. If they are too young to drive or even have employment, why should they pay full fare?

    4. The amount of federal *research* grants have nothing to do with subsidizing/the cost of any kind of transit pass… seriously, bro? You’re treading into waters that are way too deep for your swimming ability. Head back to shore.

      Research grants have nothing to do with transit fares.

  10. Here’s another reason for free youth fares. There’s a lot of kids out there that ride transit a few times a year, but not on a regular basis. The hassles of getting a youth Orca to be used 5 times per year are typically not worth it, so taking the whole family on transit effectively requires paying the full adult fare for each child. $2.75 * 4 *2 is $22, and which point, you are probably paying considerably more to rider the bus than to drive and park, even if the parking costs $10-15 or so.

    If the children ride free, family trips on the bus become much more economical, and if Metro collects fares from adults that it otherwise wouldn’t (because the family would be driving instead), it actually comes out financially ahead, given that the marginal cost of 4 seats being taken up on the bus is essentially zero.

    1. I researched this yesterday asdf2. An Orca card holder can pay for another with the same card on the bus, but must pay by a separate paper ticket if riding Link (which I did not know, and so presumably whenever I have paid for another on Link I have paid nothing, but then is there is virtually no fare enforcement on Link).

      This includes if the trip includes a transfer from a bus to Link: the Orca card holder must obtain a separate paper ticket for the other rider(s). Since the bus driver resets the fare machine when paying for more than one with an Orca card I presume the child would be charged the youth fare, and a paper ticket to transfer to Link would also reflect a youth fare.

      Obviously, the elimination of fares for all “youths” will cause a reduction in farebox recovery or the state would not be subsidizing it. My guess is with 77,000 ST youth Orca cards already in existence in this region the change in ridership won’t change much, and the state will simply pick up the lost fares paid by either the youth or their school district or employer or some other agency.

      1. With ORCA 1, you could ask the driver to put multiple people on your card and pay them all at once, and the driver would give the other people paper transfers. Often drivers were unfamiliar with which screen to go to for this, since requests were so rare. Or they’d had training on it and forgotten.

        The ORCA 2 announcements said this multiple-person alternative no longer exists, and every passenger needs their own ORCA card or to pay another way (cash, mobile app).

      2. Yeah, I discovered this when trying to pay for my son on ST a couple weeks ago. The point was moot because the reader was broken. I feel like the readers have been broken on nearly half the transit trips I’ve taken this summer. Maybe it’s a Pierce County thing.

    2. Yeah, what Mike said. The ability to pay for more than one person with an ORCA card was always a big hassle.

      Your point about youth fares is a good one. It is common for businesses to not charge for kids (with an adult who pays). Using the same approach for transit make sense. An additional rider hardly ever costs the agency money. The one exception is when buses are crowded, and they increase frequency not to make the system better, but to deal with the crowding. That is not when families typically ride. The exception is for big events, when transit is subsidized anyway (e. g. your ticket to the game works for transit).

  11. This is convenient, but not really a big deal. My kids are very familiar with the bus, but avoid it, because it is slow and unreliable. The fare ($1.50) was already trivial.

  12. including unsustainable levels of carbon emissions.

    This is such an awesome comment. It neatly encapsulates the “first world problems” of abundance + intellectual laziness that defines too many cities.

    The belief that Seattle transit decisions will make one iota of difference on the climate is hilarious. Might as well protest against the Chinese burning coal by holding your breath to prevent CO2 emissions. Not just quixotic but anti-human.

    There are many aphorisms that come to mind when following along with transit development in this region; these 2 resonate most: “Measure twice, cut once” and “Better faster cheaper pick two.” Apparently no one with decision-making authority has ever heard these. Have you been reading about the months- and now years-long delays due to the 4 miles of plinths across Lake Washington being the wrong size and or made of substandard concrete?! They’ve known this since 2019.

    Emissions. Ha.

  13. Actually, there doesn’t seem to be confirmation for about half the transit agencies in the state that they have approved youth fare freedom in order to take up the state’s generous offer.

    That includes C-Tran and Spokane Transit. Spokane still seems to be in process, so likely to happen. C-Tran has its own web of agreements with TriMet, including defining youth as 17 or under.

    It also includes the monorail. Seattle Center seems of the opinion that the monorail does not qualify as a transit agency, so no incentive to join the party. SDoT washes its hands of any decisions made by the Seattle Center over the City’s by-far highest ridership transit line owned by the City, The City Council does not seem to have monorail fares on its radar.

    And so, the monorail, while accepting ORCA, will revert back to incidental transit serving as tourist trap, and likely see a huge non-pandemic-related drop in ridership starting September 1.

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