Sound Transit seeks public input on proposed changes to Sounder fare structure

Publish Date

Sound Transit is asking the public to comment on two proposed changes to the fare structure for its popular Sounder commuter rail service. The first is to change from the current zone-based structure to a distance based fare structure. The second is to increase Sounder fare revenues by either 10 or 20 percent - the first fare increase since Sounder started running in 2000.

The agency will be seeking public comment on these changes through the month of February, including a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 22.

“The proposed changes will improve our fare structure while helping to provide the funds we need to operate our popular Sounder service,” said Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl. “We do not take fare increases lightly. However, since the time we started our Sounder service the cost of living has risen more than 21 percent and the price of Sounder’s diesel fuel by more than 300 percent!

Distance-based fares are based on miles traveled. The price of a ticket starts with a base fare and a per-mile charge is added and rounded to the nearest 25 cents to determine the final cost of the trip.

By going to a distance-based fare structure, Sounder falls in line with other systems around the country such as Los Angeles, Chicago, and the bay area’s BART system. Taxis, airplanes and Amtrak also base their fares on distance.

A distance-based fare structure will be more equitable for Sounder commuters. Under the current system, the fare between Sumner and Auburn is $3 for a two-zone ride of 7.5-miles but riders between Tukwila and Auburn pay a lower $2 fare for a longer one-zone ride of 10.7 miles. Another example exists between Tacoma – Seattle and Everett – Seattle trips. Riders who come from Tacoma pay $1 more than those coming from Everett, even though they are only traveling five miles farther.

Adult riders currently pay $2.00 for a one-zone Sounder ride, $3.00 for a two-zone ride and $4.00 for a three-zone ride. Under the proposed 10% option, riders would pay a $2.55 base fare and an additional 5.5 cents per mile traveled. Under the 20% option, riders would pay a $2.70 base fare and an additional 7.5 cents per mile traveled.

Sounder currently provides daily weekday service with four round-trip trains between Tacoma and Seattle and two round-trips between Seattle and Everett. In the coming months, five more round-trips, including a reverse commute, will be added between Tacoma and Seattle and two more round trips between Everett and Seattle. In 2006, Sounder carried nearly 1.7 million passengers.

The Feb. 22 public hearing on the proposed changes will take place from 12-1 p.m. at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle. Citizens can also send comments to by Feb. 28.

More information on proposed fare changes >>>


# # #

Sound Transit’s regional network of express buses, commuter rail, light rail and transit facilities connects communities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.