Fares now are three-tiered: $3.25 for a two-zone, peak trip that crosses between Seattle and suburbs; a $2.75 rate for peak trips in one zone; or $2.50 for off-peak travel.
King County Metro Transit will simplify its fares next year, when a flat $2.75 takes effect July 1.
The new fare applies to all standard adult trips, including the use of multiple buses within two hours.
The Metropolitan King County Council voted Monday to enact the proposal that Executive Dow Constantine announced in August, with minor tweaks.
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Fares now are three-tiered: a $3.25 for a two-zone, peak trip that crosses between Seattle and suburbs; a $2.75 rate for peak trips in one zone; or $2.50 for off-peak travel.
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Monday’s vote doesn’t affect the ORCA LIFT program, in which about 56,000 low-income adults are now registered to use fare cards for $1.50 a trip. Nor will senior/disabled or youth fares change. It also doesn’t affect Access minibus service for people unable to ride regular transit routes.
Altogether, an estimated 59 percent of all bus riders should see no difference in cost per trip, while 35 percent will pay 25 cents more and 6 percent will pay 50 cents less.
There should be little or no impact on costs for commuters who get partly or fully subsidized monthly passes through employers — who buy ORCA credits from Metro in volume discounts. Those commuters account for 32 percent of the average 420,000 daily boardings.
The new basic fare, combined with a small increase in subsidy programs, is expected to increase Metro’s operating revenues by a net $2.3 million in 2020, a small proportion of the operating budget. Fares now cover 31 percent of operating costs, which average just over $200 per hour per bus.
Also, Metro estimated that scrapping zone- and time-based fares will save between $1.5 million and $2.7 million in design or software overruns for “Next Generation ORCA,” a $94 million fare-card update due in 2022.
Metro hopes simpler fares aid civility. In the first eight months of 2017, there were 11 assaults on bus drivers during fare disputes, and an additional 125 reported incidents of threats and verbal abuse, according to a county report. It’s unclear how many involve specific payment amounts.
The downside of $2.75 fares is higher cost for off-peak trips, including for low-income and minority communities, “potentially affecting the affordability for the non-subsidized adult riders who are most price-sensitive,” the report cautions.