Sound Transit Considers Implementing Link Fares

How much would you pay to ride the Link? That's a question that Sound Transit is apparently giving some serious thought to.

With Link ridership consistently increasing and activity in downtown Tacoma on the upswing again, Sound Transit is considering implementing fare collection. According to The News Tribune, numbers being discussed are between $1 and $2 for adults, with reduced fares for children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.

The 10 year-old Link line only covers the 1.6 miles between the Tacoma Dome and the Theater District currently, but with the downtown-Stadium-MLK route selected as Tacoma's official preferred route for the next step, at least the possibility of growth is on the table, albeit not for a decade or more.

The Sound Transit Board is expected to decide by late September whether and how much to charge. If they do decide a fare makes sense, the changes would most likely not go into effect until next summer.

So, how much would you pay?

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Erik B.

According to the Sound Transit’s own numbers, ridership would plummet if ST started charging:

_At a rate of 75 cents, analysts say, annual ridership would drop from 1 million to 760,000, and it would take almost five years to pay back capital costs. If tickets cost $2, ridership would drop about one-third – from 1 million to 674,000 – but capital costs would be met in 11 months._

Harmful to Tacoma with no upside whatsoever to the City.

The Link is more than half empty most of the time.  The problem is that until LINK gets extended, it doesn’t really go anywhere unless it is used as an extension of the ST trains.  Perhaps then would be the right time to start charging something.

August 13, 2013 at 11:22 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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My call:
1. Fares go into effect.  Conservatives celebrate.
2. Ridership falls. 
3. Link loses more money.
4. Expansion gets postponed.
5. ST3 has no rail in it for Tacoma.  Sites lower trending ridership.
6. Sound Transit uses more of the remaining $50 million (already down $29 million from promised) left for link for more “studies”
7. It is announced that link will not be expanded to MLK because all the money is gone.
8. Tacoma ultimately gets nothing, rail-wise, from ST2 or ST3.

This cost to ride bit has nothing to do with collecting revenue.  It’s about getting he money spent where Sound Transit wants it spent: Seattle and Bellevue.

August 13, 2013 at 11:48 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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This cost to ride bit has nothing to do with collecting revenue.  It’s about getting he money spent where Sound Transit wants it spent: Seattle and Bellevue.

Money collected in Pierce County cannot be spent in Bellevue or Seattle due to Sub Area Equity.  ST3 will almost definitely extend Tacoma Link, it may even extend Central Link to Tacoma.

August 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I am indeed cynical about Sound Transit. 

They used $179m a mile to install light rail while basically hiding it in tunnels and elevated track/platforms.  They completely ignore the fact that rails in the ground, in a place that can be seen by all, is the very reason to build rail over bus.  That rail, seen by all, reminds everyone where the train goes and that the route will always be there.  Businesses can be confident about building near the line, and residents can be confident living along it, knowing it’s a priority route that won’t ever change.  They screwed that up.

The Tacoma Link has been studied something like four times.  One addition to the line every 17 years is not success.  It’s really low standards and total failure.

Already, there was $79m allocated toward Link expansion in ST2.  Now they’re saying it’s $50m.  Where did the $29m go?  Nobody seems to be able to answer this except for saying it was an “estimate.”  The estimated revenue decreased 30 some-odd percent?  Wow.

“Studying” at Sound Transit can be anything.  It can be money just diverted into operational funding over time as they subtract any myriad of costs into that pot.  I’ve worked non-profit.  I know how that works.  It’s often a shell game with funding.

They have no plan for serious, long range expansion of Link.  Although, the City is currently taking that up, you’d think the original Link would have a master plan before they built it.  Nope.  That’s because it wasn’t slated to be a “transportation system” but rather a shuttle from the business district to a gigantic parking garage.

They have also shut down any attempt by citizens to put any ballot or measure to expand the Link.  It’s literally been fought by gov’t attorneys.  Would they fight this if they were actually very interested in expanding the system?

So, I hope you can understand my cynicism on this matter.  I do indeed post many positive comments on Exit133 so I’m not just one of those negative Joe’s you find in the TNT comments section.  I just know what I’ve seen.  So, I’ll believe the expansion plans when there are people in hard hats out laying rail.

August 15, 2013 at 10:53 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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It needs to go somewhere first before you can charge for it.  Invest into a couple arms then go from there.

August 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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With the current setup, it’s not worth it for me to pay anything to ride the Link. I can walk the 1.6 miles almost as fast as I can ride it with the Link.

Like the others said above, as soon as it actually goes somewhere, then you can start charging a fare.

August 13, 2013 at 1:25 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I think it’s a great idea to start charging. Without additional revenue, it’ll never get extended.

It seems to be used primarily by homeless people, and also downtown commuters who drive in, park for free at the T-dome lot, and take the free lift to their office.

The homeless will mostly stop riding if the had to pay, and some of the commuters will opt to pay for parking closer to their office, some will still ride link and pay, and some will leave their cars at home and take transit door to door


August 13, 2013 at 2:06 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Dan H

They shouldn’t charge for the 1.6 mile route.  When it is extended to Stadium and Hilltop that would be fine, but a free ride zone might still make sense then. I think that charging for the parking ramps would make a lot more sense. The parking fee could then be transferred to a bus fare so as not to discourage the transit use that the ramps were built for.  It would simply force those who drive to the ramp and ride the link to the office to consider different price vs. convenience points. 

Some might opt to pay more for a city owned or privately owned spot closer to their office.  Many would still pay the lower Sound Transit fee and continue to park at the ramps. Some might start using transit for additional legs of the trip, freeing up space at the ramp for other paying customers.

Ramp fees would not discourage use of the link to get from one end of Downtown to the other without re-parking as often done now. I think it would have a minimal impact on ridership and would generate a bit of revenue from a heavily utilized resource.  The machines could be calibrated to automatically charge more during events at the Tacoma Dome. Parking spots aren’t free.  That is where they should begin looking for money.

August 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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fred davie

A token payment of $1 should probably be charged.  I don’t think the intention was to create a 100% subsidized transit system for all time.  However, I’m a little concerned that the fare would not be easy to collect/enforce. There are lots of entrance and exit doors on the link unlike the bus which has one entrance door next to the driver. The people who use this for work aren’t going to mind paying $2 per day and it might keep some of the riff raff off the conveyance.

August 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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There is a security guard inside the train car almost always. Having them spot check for fare payment shouldn’t be too hard to do.

Repeat non payers would be pretty easy to spot, it’s a really small system.

August 14, 2013 at 7:01 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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The Jinxmedic

Twenty-five cents. Drop a quarter in the bin at any of the doors, and you’re good.

More than that? No.

A Quarter is easy to collect, no paper money or plastic accepted, no change given. This “quarter only” keeps collection costs down, which allows a smaller fare to be as effective as a much larger fare.

For two dollars, I’ll walk the mile-and-a-half.

August 14, 2013 at 10:11 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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You apparently haven’t heard about ORCA. No paper, no coin, no collection hassles, and automatic 2hr transfers between PT ST and Metro

For everyone that is already on transit, it’ll just be a free transfer anyway. Only those that are driving to the TDome “free” parking and the “free” link ride will have to pony up fare.

August 14, 2013 at 10:52 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Published Author RR AndersonRegistered

it’s faster to walk than wait for the dumb link.  Also I witnessed one of the link nazi guards shout at a young person “EXCUSE ME SIR, NO SLEEPING ON THE LINK!”  jesus christ almighty, resting your eyes is what transit is all about.  Can’t even bloody relax with out some tin-pot fascist screaming in your face. 

August 15, 2013 at 7:38 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Ha, who’s gonna be sleeping on a 10 min ride?  If that was allowed, no one would get off. Certainly not the homeless riders, then there wouldn’t be any seats left.

August 15, 2013 at 9:47 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I don’t think I would ever use the Link if a fare was implemented; I would opt for a walk.

August 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Walking is to be encouraged, it is excellent exercise.

August 15, 2013 at 3:06 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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There was to be a fare box cost on Link when Sound Move passed in ‘96. John Ladenburg got it taken off as a way to benefit his supporters who were invested in Tacoma’s condo scheme wherein sellers could offer freeloaders ten year tax abatements on their property as well as free light rail as an incentive to buy.

August 17, 2013 at 9:23 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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