Intercity Transit rolls out fare freedom, and schools King County on performance metrics

Happy New Year!

Today, Thurston County Intercity Transit is embarking on a five-year pilot program to run without fares. That means both their fixed-route buses and paratransit (which, by federal law, cannot charge more than twice the fixed-route fare) will be free.

This experiment is not a dive off the ideological deep end, but, rather, the result of using proper performance metrics. From IT’s fare page:

Fares account for less than 2 percent of our net revenue. After considering the capital and operational costs of a new system, the difference is negligible. The opportunity to offer faster service, increase ridership, improved access and equity is a far better investment. 

It seems that Intercity Transit was following my advice to use the proper performance metric — net fare revenue — or that that performance metric is so obvious that many wise minds think alike. (I’m not necessarily counting myself as one of the wise guys.)

King County Metro continues to base fare policy on the much less useful datapoint of gross fare revenue.

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Free Metro rides New Years Eve / Holiday service changes / long-term Link pain

King County Metro and Seattle Streetcars will be allowing riders to ride for free from 7 pm on New Year’s Eve, 2019, to 4 am on New Year’s Day, 2020. This is just for King County Metro (including Via to Transit, Community Van, Community Ride, and Access) and the streetcars, not other agencies, nor for the King County water taxis. In particular, ST Express, Link Light Rail, Sounder, the ferries, and the monorail will be charging fare. However, the monorail now accepts ORCA, and honors ORCA transfers and passes.

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Improving 60/107 frequency to match Link, virtually for free

passengers leaving Beacon Hill Station / photo by SDOT

One of the best improvements in the recent Metro service change was the one that cost essentially nothing: re-timing route 60 and 107 schedules on evenings and weekends to create combined 15-minute headway on the 15th Ave S corridor between Beacon Hill Station and Georgetown.

There is more scheduling cleverness still to be milked out of scheduling inefficiency on this corridor.

The Georgetown diversion

The most obvious opportunity is to remove the Georgetown diversionary loop on route 107, which currently has the unfortunate effect of adding several minutes to the commutes of students going to and from school at Cleveland High School and Mercer Middle School. Even when Cleveland students get out at the stop before the Georgetown diversion and hike along the narrow sidewalk the last few blocks, it still adds a few minutes.

The Georgetown loop increases the total time it takes to drive each run by approximately 10%. In the process, it likely causes a non-trivial loss in ridership, for reasons similar to the old Veterans Administration Medical Center loop on route 60, but not quite as pronounced.

Weekday headway alignment

Continue reading “Improving 60/107 frequency to match Link, virtually for free”

How the County could reduce downtown gridlock and preserve more service

Author’s Note: SEPTA’s 50-cent electronic fare discount has been added since the original post, thanks to an observant commenter.

King County Metro is at the mercy of cities for giving right-of-way and signal priority to buses, at the mercy of the State (and Tim Eyman) for being allowed to ask for local tax revenue, at the mercy of a more generous federal government for subsidization, and at the mercy of thousands of daily riders to choose to put the speed of buses over their personal convenience when they choose which way to pay their fare.

A very direct way to reduce bus dwell time would be for King County Metro to finally incentivize non-cash payment on all trips, with a lower electronic (ORCA and smartphone) fare than the cash fare.

Louisville’s new MyTARC card, saving users 25 cents per ride over paying with cash

Thirteen other urban US bus agencies have figured this out:

Continue reading “How the County could reduce downtown gridlock and preserve more service”

First regular weekday of tolling in the Highway 99 tunnel

Tolling in the new Highway 99 tunnel has finally started. Today is the first regular weekday commute to feel the impacts (as yesterday was Veterans Day).

WSDOT is encouraging tunnel users to avail themselves of the Good-to-Go Pass, by giving pass users a $2 discount. (If only someone could explain this principle to King County Metro and/or the County Council…)

Tolls are as follows:

  • $1.00, weekends and 11 pm to 6 am
  • $1.25, 9 am to 3 pm and 6 pm to 11 pm
  • $1.50, 7 am to 9 am
  • $2.25, 3 pm – 6 pm
  • $2.00, for not using the Good-to-Go Pass

Let’s talk about what you see happening today. Are there any impacts to your bus route?

One thing that will impact bus routes today will be the Sounders’ MLS Cup Victory Parade, which will take over 4th Ave from sometime before noon, when the parade is scheduled to start at Westlake Plaza, until 1:30 pm, when the parade terminates at the Seattle Center.

If you haven’t already signed up for travel alerts specific to your route, now is a good time to do so.

This is an open thread.

Last call to mail or drop off ballots

Tomorrow is election day. If you haven’t mailed your ballot (making use of the free return postage) or a ballot drop box, do so right now. The deadline to drop ballots at the drop boxes is 8 pm Tuesday. Mailed ballots must be post-marked Tuesday. If you don’t mail it tonight, get thee to a ballot drop box.

Review the STB Editorial Board’s endorsements, if you like. You can also peruse King County’s online voter guide.

Chinook Building
Credit: King County

Accessible voting centers (which are open to all voters) will be open until 6 pm tonight and 8 pm Tuesday. Check the hours at each site. Seattle’s accessible voting center has moved to the Chinook Building at 401 5th Ave, room 124, between Terrace St and Jefferson St. It will open at 8:30 am today and tomorrow. If you aren’t already registered to vote, you can register in person at any of these voting centers, and then proceed to cast your ballot.

You can also make use of the online ballot marking program.

No excuses. No more poll tax. No more registration waiting period. Get it done.

Sound Transit still not tracking how many passengers with clear-and-obvious proof of payment are getting warnings and citations

Sound Transit is in the process of reviewing its fare enforcement policies, per a presentation last Thursday.

However, the single most impactful element of that process is still not on their radar. Sound Transit fare enforcement officers are directed to warn, and then fine (after repeat infractions) passengers who possess passes that cover the highest possible cost of a train trip for their payer category, or have tapped on to other services within the previous two hours that have at least as high a fare as the highest Link fare for their payer category, if the passenger failed to tap on for the ride.

Section 4.0 of Sound Transit’s Standard Operating Procedure for Fare Enforcement states:

This includes students who have received “free” passes from their school district. Students who got free passes from Seattle Public Schools who mess up once on tapping will be subject to the same treatment that students who tried to ride for free the first day of school before getting their passes issued. According to ST policy, it doesn’t matter that they have clear-and-obvious evidence with them that the trip is pre-paid.

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News Roundup: Ellen

Transit Service

Election Politics

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Requiem for a Streamline: Buses return to the TIBS loop today

This map was accidentally accurate for the past three months.

After over three months of pouring concrete along the bus loop at Tukwila International Boulevard Station, the project is complete, and buses have returned to the loop as of 4:30 am this morning.

Riders on Metro’s A Line and route 124 are likely rejoicing. Riders on the F Line and 128, not so much.

Route 124 and the A Line both terminate at TIBS, so stopping below the station makes sense, and provides off-street layover space.

The F Line would have originally had stops on Southcenter Blvd in front of the station lot, but the City of Tukwila wouldn’t allow them.

Continue reading “Requiem for a Streamline: Buses return to the TIBS loop today”

Monorail proposal raises fares to offset ORCA transfers, passes

Monorail ticket booth at Seattle Center Station Photo by Joe Mabel / wikicommons

As Martin pointed out Thursday, the Seattle Center will be holding a hearing on Wednesday, September 11, and taking email comments through September 18, on a proposal to raise monorail fares as part of the rollout of accepting the ORCA card, along with interagency transfers and passes.

The published proposal focuses on the fare increases. But, as part of joining the ORCA pod, transfer credit from other ORCA trips will be good on the monorail, and vice versa, according to Seattle Center Director of Communications Deborah Daoust. Likewise PugetPass, Business Passport, U-Pass, and the Regional Day Pass will also be good for covering part or all of monorail fare.

The regular fare is going from $2.50 to $3.00, while the youth, senior, and disability fares are going from $1.25 to $1.50.

At the same time, a new low-income fare category will be introduced, at $1.50, available only by using loaded fare product on the ORCA LIFT card.

The eligibility age for the youth fare will expand from ages 5-12 to ages 6-18. Five-year-olds, accompanied by an adult, will now get to ride for free.

US military personnel with ID can get the half fare, but not by using ORCA.

Monorail non-ORCA monthly passes will go up from $50 to $60, and the reduced fare non-ORCA passes will continue to be half the cost.

Daoust offered an explanation for the increase to $3.00:

The proposed adult fare considers many factors including the cost to Seattle Monorail Services of implementing changes in its ticket structure and the fact that it relies on ticket revenues to cover operating costs and some major maintenance. The increase also factors in increases in consumer price index (CPI). Other considerations include fare alignment with other ORCA providers and the acceptance of transfers when ORCA users combine a Monorail trip with other transit use.

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.

Everett Transit and Community Transit have also rolled out low-income fares this year. The last holdouts in the ORCA pod from having such a fare are Washington State Ferries — for which the Washington State Transportation Commission recently approved a pilot project to have a low-income fare, once funding is found — and Pierce Transit.

As at happens, the monorail would be the second entity for which ORCA LIFT would actually be a discount of 50% or more from the regular fare, joining Kitsap Transit.

ORCA acceptance on the monorail and the accompanying fare increases are set to commence October 7, assuming there is no public backlash in the comment period.

Inslee quits presidential race; DNC to vote on debating climate action plans today

Update: The DNC Resolutions Committee voted down a debate format for the climate forums 8-17. Protesters sung their displeasure.

Correction: The original version of this post stated that Sen. Elizabeth Warren had no climate statement on her campaign website. Actually, she has several, under “Latest Announcements”. The author apologizes for the error.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee withdrew from the race for President of the United States. His plan to campaign on his success in fighting climate change was a case of planting his flag in quicksand, given that Washington State’s carbon emissions continue to rise($) quickly.

Indeed, we continue to build more roads, while the state barely invests in transit, and invests almost nothing in bike or pedestrian infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee will be voting today on the format of a CNN forum and an MSNBC forum on climate change next month — primarily whether one of both of them will be debates or “town halls”, in which candidates address the audience separately, one by one. Inlee’s low polling kept him from getting to participate in the CNN forum.

Within the DNC, Washington State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski is leading the call for a debate. The Sunrise Movement has led the charge from the outside. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez is being blamed by various debate supporters as the leading opponent of the debate format.

Inside Climate News has analyzed the climate records and platforms of the major Democratic candidates.

Various candidates’ website statements on the climate crisis are linked below: