FLAT FARE: Ready to pay $2.75 per Metro trip?

Last spring, Metro launched two surveys about simplifying fares. The second one asked about two options. Today, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the County Council will be asked to approve one of those options – a $2.75 flat fare. That would be a fare reduction for some riders. Otherwise, the announcement notes:

An estimated 35 percent of Metro boardings take place during off-peak hours, and those passengers would pay 25 cents more.

21 percent of off-peak riders pay full adult fares without any subsidy or employer-sponsored pass.
14 percent of off-peak riders use employer or organization-sponsored transit passes.
About 31 percent of Metro riders qualify for ORCA Lift, youth, senior and disabled fares. They would see no change.

The ordinance would include additional funding to help passengers who earn very low incomes not covered by ORCA Lift and passengers least able to pay during off-peak hours:

-Increased funding for the Human Services Ticket Program, from $3.6 million to $4 million, to offset higher cost for social service agencies that distribute discount tickets. Forty-four percent of tickets sold through the program are for off-peak trips.

-Working with ORCA partners to reduce fees for adult and youth ORCA cards and eliminate the $3 card fee for seniors and people with disabilities.

-Continuing to work with schools, colleges and universities to enhance fare programs for students.

The announcement says the soonest this could take effect is July of next year. Here’s more background on the process that led up to this proposal.

26 Replies to "FLAT FARE: Ready to pay $2.75 per Metro trip?"

  • boredinws August 24, 2017 (2:01 pm)

    I’m happy to see this change is the one respondents preferred. Keep it simple, keep it easy. Load exact amounts on your ORCA card and never worry about being 25 cents short because of that one time you got on the bus 15 minutes earlier than usual. No need to explain transit calculus to out-of-town visitors trying to figure out how much change they need to bus downtown. This is the right approach to take.

    The peak surcharge never made much sense to me anyway: With more riders on those buses, if anything they cost less per passenger to operate. And don’t we want to incentivize people to take transit during the worst commute hours? I assume the original intent was to try and convince people to travel earlier or later in the day, but who’s actually motivated to change their schedule for 25 to 50 cents a day?

  • Rick August 24, 2017 (2:44 pm)

    Sounds simple but does it increase or decrease their revenue?

    If it decreases it will they simply charge home owners more taxes and drivers more fees to make up the gap?

    • WSB August 24, 2017 (2:58 pm)

      Revenue effects are described in #6 on the FAQ that’s accessible from the “more info” link at the end of the story. Direct link to FAQ:

      • boredinws August 25, 2017 (11:29 am)

        For the lazy:

        • The $2.75 flat fare would increase 2020 revenue by an estimated $3.5 million.
        • Altogether the fare proposals would result in an estimated net revenue gain of $2.3 million in 2020, and an estimated farebox
          recovery rate of 26.2%, above the required 25% minimum established by King County policy.
        • Eliminating the $3 card fee for seniors and people with disabilities, reducing adult and youth ORCA card fees from $5 to $3,
          and increasing the Human Services Ticket Program subsidy would result in an estimated 2020 revenue loss
          of $1.2 million.
  • Mike August 24, 2017 (4:13 pm)

    They will ultimately make more money off of this, because the majority of people who pay with cash will have dollar bills and not quarters with them.  So they will effectively be paying an extra 25 cents each time they ride, because they will not get the change.   I am assuming the county knows that and is the primary reason they are choosing the flat rate charge.

    • newnative August 24, 2017 (11:11 pm)

      The fare has been in quarter increments already so that doesn’t wash. 

      • Mike August 25, 2017 (7:21 am)

        The bean counters do know this and that IS the reason.  It’s the same as the water taxi, people come up with a $5 bill not realizing they can’t get change, $$$$$ you just paid a LOT more for your trip because you didn’t go get a ticket or Orca pass.  All of this is calculated based on statistics and budget reports.  

  • Kelly B August 24, 2017 (5:52 pm)

    If I vote for this can I stop paying the 20 dollar transit tax on my tabs?

    • WSB August 24, 2017 (6:20 pm)

      This is not going to a public vote. The county council decides.

    • Mike August 25, 2017 (7:23 am)

      Nope, you still have to pay that.  I just paid $240 for my tabs last night on our 12 year old vehicle.  Granted that included a $30 Discovery Pass, but I denied the state parks any donations this year because the costs are ridiculous.

  • WSJoe August 24, 2017 (6:34 pm)

    I wish the local sports teams would allow a game ticket as fares.  Husky football used to do that on game days. 

    • Mike August 25, 2017 (7:25 am)

      No thanks, as a Coug I want all Husky fans to pay back that new entrance to Husky Stadium that was heavily funded by transit dollars.

  • Nochole August 24, 2017 (11:16 pm)

    So they are raising the fees to offset the increased amount of money going to low income, youth, and seniors? Is this Sawants doing? We are going to make riders who do not fit into one of the 3 buckets pay for all?

    • WSB August 25, 2017 (1:10 am)

      (a) I assume you are referring to City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. She is a Seattle *city* councilmember. Metro is a *county* agency.

      (b) From the announcement, “About 65 percent of Metro customers will see no change or a fare reduction, according to boarding data.”

  • AIDM August 25, 2017 (5:08 am)

    Does this include the water taxi or are we still going to pay $5.25 to go 200 yards while others in King County pay $4.00 to commute all the way in from Edmonds?

    I understand that the boats are expensive to operate, but a uniform or distance based fare structure is what makes sense regardless of the modality.

    • WSB August 25, 2017 (7:32 am)

      This is a Metro bus proposal currently. The Water Taxi is also under King County DOT but is not part of Metro.

    • newnative August 25, 2017 (10:30 am)

      If you have an Orca card, the Water Taxi fare drops to $4.50. If you have an Orca pass you only pay the difference from your pass amount. I have a peak pass ($2.75/trip) so I only pay an extra $1.75 per trip. 

      • Diane August 25, 2017 (2:01 pm)

        yeh, for those of us without employer provided Orca cards, the water taxi is insanely expensive for a very short trip; because of this high fare, I haven’t used the water taxi in years

        • newnative August 25, 2017 (3:32 pm)

          I pay for my own monthly pass and I take the water taxi only on occasion. You don’t need the pass for the fare reduction. 

  • Neighbor August 25, 2017 (7:05 am)

    I support assistance for those with very low income but I consider riding transit at all times and take my family with me even though they don’t have a subsidized bus pass. Also, aren’t we subsidizing people who make the choice to live farther? There is a cost to everything and transportation is a big one for time and money. Reducing fare box revenue and subsidizing those that chose to live very far away doesn’t seem right. They also get subsides by way of bus pass through employers in effect giving them more money than those who chose to live closer in.  

    • West Seattle since 1979 August 25, 2017 (7:48 am)

      Neighbor, I would’ve agreed with you ten or so years ago. Nowadays though, not everyone who lives far away wants to. They may not be able to afford housing costs in Seattle. 

    • Bus August 25, 2017 (8:08 am)

      I wouldn’t assume people who live farther are doing so out of choice.  Housing is more affordable the farther you get from the city center.

      Cars coming from Federal Way take up just as much space on the road as ones coming from Delridge (arguably more).  Metro’s aim is to get as many cars off the road as they can,  period.  This proposal is not reducing fare box revenue (it’s reducing the farebox recovery rate slightly, which is different).

      Most people don’t get ORCA subsidies from their employer, by the way.  And is it really a big deal if some people get more use out of it than others?  Every bus rider gets more benefit from an ORCA subsidy than someone who walks or bikes to work.  No one is moving to Covington so they can steeple their fingers and say “mwahaha…  my employer ORCA card saved me $3.50 today but Bob over there only saved $3.00!  The plan is working!”

      I’m glad they simplified things.  I just had family in from the east coast and trying to wrangle change for them via guessing what time we’d get on the bus and whether or not the bus driver at 15th & Roxbury would charge us extra money or not (it’s technically in the second zone, but most do treat it as zone 1 since it’s literally feet from the line) was ridiculous.

  • Spooled August 25, 2017 (7:44 am)

    After reading item 6 of the FAQ (linked above) I’d like to see the Farebox Recovery rate set closer to 50%.  I can’t ride the bus to get to work on time and have no desire to ride it at any other times.  We all have to pay for some of it but I’m sick of paying for so much of it.  Also transit is not removing cars from my 4:00am commute so any argument that I’m helped indirectly by a clearer freeway also does not apply.

    Make the fare $4.  All those transit riders who are saving on fuel, insurance, upkeep, and initial vehicle purchase can pay closer to what it really costs to operate transit.

    • KBear August 25, 2017 (9:23 am)

      Spooled, you may not benefit from transit as much as others, but I’m sure you benefit greatly from other government services. And there may be benefits to transit that you haven’t considered. Cleaner air, for example. Also, I think you’re wrong about what the 4 a.m. traffic would look like without transit. ALL public transit is heavily subsidized, because it provides a tremendous public benefit. Pay your taxes and get over it.

    • newnative August 25, 2017 (10:21 am)

      This is a tired complaint, Spooled. We pay taxes for roads and the consequences of those roads. All transit is subsidized to some extent. Just because you think you live in a bubble, doesn’t make it so. 

  • trickycoolj August 25, 2017 (12:07 pm)

    I always consider taking transit to big events downtown or when I have visiting relatives/friends that would like to do the tourist thing.  But as it is, the $2.50 fare round trip for 2-4 people is $10-20 that I have to foot on my Orca card so it’s almost a wash with parking if you know where to go.

Sorry, comment time is over.