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Tacoma Link light rail
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Tacoma Link light rail

Tacoma Link to remain fare free until Hilltop extension opens

Downtown Business Improvement Area to contribute to keeping service fare free until service begins on Tacoma Link Extension

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The Sound Transit Board of Directors today voted to defer charging fares on Tacoma Link until service on the 2.4-mile extension begins, currently planned for 2022.

“Tacoma Link is a unique and valuable service in the Sound Transit system,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. “Keeping it fare free until service reaches the Stadium and Hilltop neighborhoods will ensure it remains an attractive benefit to businesses, arts and cultural organizations and the people who live and work here.”

“Tacoma Link is incredibly valuable to downtown, so much so that the BIA has paid each year since 2014 to keep the system free,” said David Schroedel, Vice President for Policy & Entrepreneurship for the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. “Maintaining this support while Sound Transit works to extend the line will help hundreds of thousands of people take advantage of this popular service.”

In 1999, the Sound Transit Board designated Tacoma Link as fare-free service based on an analysis that showed fare collection costs would exceed the revenues that would be collected from charging fares. In 2013, after ridership had grown to the point that charging fares would generate enough revenue to cover fare collection costs, the Board approved implementing a two-step fare structure for Tacoma Link. The approval included charging $1 fares for adults, $0.75 for youth, and $0.50 for senior and disabled riders starting in September 2014. Fares would have increased to $1.50 for adults and to $0.75 for senior and disabled riders in September 2016.

The estimated net fare revenue that would be generated from riders paying $1 fare has instead been paid directly by the Downtown Business Improvement Area under an agreement with Sound Transit. This agreement enables the service to remain fare free. Postponing the change to a $1.50 fare will extend this agreement, keeping Tacoma Link fare free for riders.

Tacoma Link is the only free transit service in the region.