Metro says 65 percent of riders, including thousands who now pay discounted fares, will see no change or a 50-cent savings. Midday and late-night riders would pay 25 cents more. The change awaits a County Council vote.
King County Metro Transit plans to change to a single all-day, all-zone $2.75 basic fare in July 2018, to replace the multiple prices that have appeared on bus fareboxes for decades.
When the agency announced its simplification options this spring, four of five people responding to surveys preferred the single fare.
Metro says 65 percent of riders, including thousands who now pay discounted fares, will see no change or a 50-cent savings. Midday and late-night riders would pay 25 cents more.
“As our cities and towns have grown into a true metropolitan region, and our economy has become truly regional, the time for change has come,” County Executive Dow Constantine announced Thursday at International District/Chinatown Station.
The change awaits a County Council vote.
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The agency would gain about $2 million a year in operating income compared with current fares, a relatively small amount, said agency spokesman Scott Gutierrez.
The total yearly operating fund is roughly $800 million. With a price change, fares would cover about 26 percent of operating costs, he said. The rest is covered mainly by sales taxes and a Seattle-only car-tab fee for extra bus service.
Elected officials touted the benefits for South King County residents, who would no longer have to pay extra to cross the city limits into Seattle. And at Southcenter in Tukwila, retail workers who live in Seattle could likewise save a couple of hundred dollars yearly, said Tukwila City Councilmember Kathy Hougardy.
“As our cities in the South End continue to grow, and people move south in search of affordable housing, these fare changes will become more important,” Hougardy said.
The changes wouldn’t apply to people who already pay lower fares in low-income, youth, senior and disabled categories. And they would have only a slight effect on the cost of employer-sponsored and other monthly passes.
Currently, adult riders who cross zones between the suburbs and Seattle pay $3.25 in a “two-zone peak” fare, compared with $2.75 for one zone at peak, and $2.50 for all zones at off-peak hours.
Besides the base adult fare, more than 40,000 people are enrolled in the ORCA Lift program that charges a flat $1.50 fare to people from low-income households. Youths pay $1.50 and seniors or riders with disabilities $1. A special summer program charged youths with ORCA cards 50 cents.
Along with new fares in 2018, Metro intends to distribute through human-service agencies more discount tickets to the very poor; enroll more students in discount programs; and eliminate the $3 fee for seniors and disabled riders to acquire ORCA fare cards.
Besides easier payment, a flat fare would likely help buses run more quickly and improve safety by reducing a cause of disputes between customers and bus drivers, said Metro General Manager Rob Gannon.
Metro is the nation’s seventh-busiest public bus agency. It’s on track to surpass last year’s total 120 million passenger boardings, Gannon said.