Passengers boarding the Seattle Center Monorail could use ORCA transit-fare cards as payment beginning Oct. 7 under a plan that also raises fares.
Fares would increase to $3 for one-way trips for adults aged 19 to 64 and to $1.50 for youth aged 6 to 18 and for people who qualify for the reduced rate. Monthly passes, which were $50, will increase to $60, while the reduced monthly pass rate will increase to $30.
Those who use ORCA LIFT and the regional Reduced Fare Permit, including people with disabilities, Medicare card holders, people over 65, and members of the U.S. military with a valid ID, qualify for the reduced rate.
The proposed fare increases triggered a comment period that ends Sept. 18 for the public to raise any concerns. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-615-0258. A public meeting will be held Sept. 11 at 5:30 p.m. in the Seattle Center Armory Loft.
The move to accept ORCA cards comes five years after the Seattle City Council first requested a study of integrating Monorail fare payment onto the ORCA system, as a condition in approving the 10-year agreement with its contractor that operates the Monorail.
The change was supposed to start in September, but it “took a little longer to finalize than we thought,” said Seattle Center spokeswoman Deborah Daoust.
The 1.2-mile Monorail line between Seattle Center and Westlake Center opened on March 24, 1962, just before the Seattle’s World Fair. It’s owned by the city and has been operated by the private Seattle Monorail Services company since 1994.
For most of its existence, the Monorail was viewed as a tourist attraction to get visitors to the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center and other parts of Seattle Center, Daoust said.
“Over the years, because of the changing demographic in Seattle and increasing density, the Monorail has become more of a transit system,” she said.
The Monorail, which receives funding from the Federal Transit Administration, carried about 2 million riders last year, down from 2.3 million in 2017. By comparison, passengers took about 1.7 million rides on the First Hill and South Lake Union streetcars combined last year.
Monorail supporters have long sought to incorporate the line into the region’s public transportation system.
Voters approved initiatives in 1997, 2000, 2002 and 2004 to expand the monorail system. At one point, a 14-mile Green Line was planned from Ballard to West Seattle. But those plans were scrapped in 2005. Voters that year rejected a proposition for a scaled-back line that was devised after the contractor team dropped out, saying the project was too financially risky and would take 50 years to pay off bonds.
The Monorail’s usefulness as a transit system will be tested when professional hockey returns to Seattle and fans crowd into KeyArena at Seattle Center in 2021. Projections estimate that 3 or 4 percent of the crowd would depart by Monorail.