Constantine Pitches Plan for Single, Countywide Metro Fare; Murray Wants ORCA Cards to Work on the Monorail

News from the transit desk!

Courtesy of Metro

All King County Metro rides will cost a flat rate of $2.75 under a proposal by County Executive Dow Constantine.

That would be a far simpler plan than the current set-up, which has different “zones” for Seattle and the outlying areas, as well as different peak and off-peak rates; riders now pay at least $2.50 (all zones, off-peak) and as much as $3.25 (two zones during peak hours) for a ride. In a press release, Metro calls the current fare structure “one of the most complex… in the nation,” and says surveys show customers want a simpler system.

The new system would make bus rides cheaper for those who now, say, commute into Seattle from Bellevue during rush hour and pay $3.25 for the privilege. About 65 percent of Metro customers will see no change or a fare reduction, according to boarding data.

Meanwhile, an estimated 35 percent of Metro boardings take place during off-peak hours, and those passengers would pay 25 cents more ($2.75 instead of $2.50).

All told, the county expects fare structure to actually make it a little bit of money. But managers at Metro say that was not the motivation for the change.

“The goal of this is not to raise revenue….It’s more about simplified fares,” says Tessa McClellan, fares program manager.

By 2020, the flat-fee is expected to bring in $3.5 million more than the current system would, McClellan says. $775,000 of that is earmarked to expand programs for low-income riders and other efforts, bringing the net to $2.3 million. The agency expects to bring in $170 million in fares in 2020. “In the context of all the fare revenue we get, [$2.3 million] is really not very much.”

The change must be approved by the King County Council. In the news release, Councilmember Claudia Balducci says she supports the change. “The result will be no change or a fare decrease for most riders and will make transit more attractive for thousands of daily riders on the Eastside and all over King County,” she says.

If approved by council, the flat fare could be in place by July of next year.

In other transit news, Mayor Ed Murray Thursday announced a new effort to get the Monorail to accept ORCA cards for payment. Right now the city-owned Monorail only accepts cash. Murray says that allowing ORCA cards would make Seattle Center more accessible. While his announcement doesn’t mention KeyArena, an effort to renovate the Seattle Center landmark for more events has billed the Monorail as a vital transit link for the area. A study of enabling ORCA on Monorail suggests that ridership would grow “seven to 16 percent over the first three years,” the mayor’s offices says.

The city’s plan calls for Seattle Center and the Seattle Department of Transportation—which is oversees the Monorail—to work with Metro to bring the Monorail into the ORCA fold.

dperson@seattleweekly.com

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