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ST Express Fare Change

ST Express fare change logo

What's happening?

Sound Transit is reviewing ST Express bus fares with the goal to simplify and make fares easier for customers to use. Simplified fares will:

  • Be easier to understand
  • Speed up boarding
  • Better align fares with other transit agencies

Two options are being considered: 1) an adult flat fare of $3.25 and 2) a route-based fare that eliminates the one-zone fare on routes that serve two counties.  Both options would reduce fares for ORCA LIFT, Youth, Senior, and Disabled riders making two-county trips.

Pending Board approval, Sound Transit expects to implement any fare changes in July 2018, when King County Metro applies its new $2.75 flat fare.

Fare option comparison chart

Benefits of a flat fare:

  • Simplest option for customers, reducing fare disputes and improving the safety of bus operators.

Benefits of route-based fare:

  • Similar to what ST Express has today, this option impacts the fewest passengers and aligns fare levels with King County Metro fares for all riders on one-county routes. 

 

Current fares

Option 1 – Flat fare

Option 2 -  Route-based fares a

 

1-zone trips

2-zone trips

All trips on all routes

1-county routes b

2-county routes c

Adult (age 19-64)

$2.75

$3.75

$3.25

$2.75

$3.75

ORCA LIFT (low-income)

$1.50

$2.75

$1.50

$1.50

Youth (age 6-18)

$1.50

$2.75

$1.50

$1.50

Senior/Disabled (RRFP)

$1.00

$1.75

$1.00

$1.00


a Under Option 2, all trips within one county on a two-county route would be charged the full two-county fare. For example, Everett to Lynnwood on Route 512, or Lakewood to Tacoma on Route 594.
b One-county routes: 522, 540, 541, 542, 545, 550, 554, 555, 556, 560, 566, 567, 577, 580, 596
c Two-county routes: 510, 511, 512, 513, 532, 535, 574, 578, 586, 590, 592, 594, 595

Current ST Express fares

Sound Transit Express buses currently use a two-zone fare structure.  Each county represents a separate zone, with the zone boundary at county lines. Trips within one county are charged a one-zone fare, while trips crossing a county line are charged a higher, two-zone fare. Routes that travel across county lines are preset to charge a two-zone fare, and riders making one-zone trips on two-zone routes must request a fare override from the bus operator.

Map of ST Express fare zones 2018

Will my fare change?

 

Option 1 – Flat fare

Option 2 – Route-based fare

I’m an adult making a 1-county trip on a 1-county route

Your fare will increase by $0.50

Your fare will not change

I’m an adult making a 1-county trip on a 2-county route

Your fare will increase by $0.50

Your fare will increase by $1.00

I’m an adult making a 2-county trip on a 2-county route

Your fare will be reduced by $0.50

Your fare will not change

I’m a reduced fare (ORCA LIFT, Youth, Senior or Disabled) rider making a 1-county trip

Your fare will not change

Your fare will not change

I’m a reduced fare (ORCA LIFT, Youth, Senior or Disabled) rider making a 2-county trip

Your fare will be reduced:

  • ORCA LIFT/Youth by $1.25
  • Senior or Disabled by $0.75

Your fare will be reduced:

  • ORCA LIFT/Youth by $1.25
  • Senior or Disabled by $0.75

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between zone-based fares and route-based fares?

For Sound Transit, county lines currently represent fare zone boundaries, and fares are charged based on whether a rider travels across a county line rather than the distance their route travels.  The route-based fare option would set a single fare for each route. Under this scenario, fares would remain unchanged for 93 percent of adult trips. For seven percent of adult trips within one county on a two-county route, fares would rise by $1.00.

How would this help simplify fares between agencies?

Option 1 would align fare levels for reduced fare riders with King County Metro, and align the fare structure with flat fare structures adopted by King County Metro, Pierce Transit, Everett Transit and Kitsap Transit. 

Option 2 would align fare levels with King County Metro for adult riders on one-county routes and for all reduced fare riders.

Both options would simplify the design of the next generation ORCA system.

When reviewing the fare simplification options, what other factors did staff consider?

  • Fares must be set in $0.25 increments following our agreement with other transit agencies in the region.
  • Options proposed should keep overall ST Express system revenue as close to revenue neutral as possible.