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King County Metro looks to simplify transit fare

Metro is looking for feedback on how you ride transit

Blurry photo of a Number 3 bus at night Happy Hour Photography/Shutterstock

Since the ORCA card first debuted in 2009, we’ve used them a variety of ways We pay in advance to board the RapidRide buses. We tap before boarding a ferry. We buy monthly passes and daily passes and pay different fares for different rides.

With Sound Transit Link expanding and the RapidRide program growing, more and more riders will end up needing to pay fares on two different agencies.

This is why King County Metro wants to overhaul fares so they’re simpler to use across agencies—Sound Transit, King County Metro, Community Transit, Everett Transit, Pierce Transit, Kitsap Transit, and Washington State Ferries—in a way that’s both fast and equitable.

Because there are as many different commutes as there are commuters, the first phase of the project is conducting a survey detailing what your commute looks like and what transit agencies you use.

In the survey, Metro asks what agencies you use, where you’re going when you ride transit, how you pay, and how easy fare processes are to understand—and what potential changes to service are most important to you.

The survey is open until April 7. After the survey closes, King County’s advisory group on the fares will convene, and a second phase of public comment will open.

The advisory group is scheduled to have a package ready for the King County Executive and Council to review sometime in May, and are expecting some ideas for pilot projects and an updated project timeline in June.

It’s a pretty daunting task. As Zach Shaner at Seattle Transit Blog points out, matching up the fares means coordinating between three different types of fares. Some are flat rate, some are based on distance, and some are based on zones—in the case of King County Metro, whether a route leaves the Seattle City Limits or not.

Riding transit gets more complicated with affordability barriers to transit ridership—something Metro also hopes to address in the project.

We have a complex commute ecosystem that combines road, rail, and water, so aligning the routes is going to be complicated, too. Hopefully looking at the big picture will help bring out some simplified solutions without leaving anyone behind.