Community Transit is proposing reforms to fares on the agency’s commuter routes. Two options for fare simplification are proposed, each with their own benefits and tradeoffs. The effort is similar to those by King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit to create a more uniform fare structure. This is in preparation for a new electronic fare system that would replace ORCA and reduce cost and time in designing and implementing the new system.

In studying possible fare reform options, Community Transit has identified partial removal of zone fares. The current fare structure has three possible fares depending upon whether the route is local or commuter. If the route is a commuter route, then whether or not the trip crosses the King County line and the origin of the trip makes a difference in fare costs. In the Community Transit network, local routes are numbered under 300 whereas commuter routes are numbered in the 400 and 800 series, which makes it relatively easy to distinguish between local and commuter routes.

The current fare structure for adults (aged 19 to 64) is as follows:

  • Local fares: $2.25;
  • Commuter (terminal in South Snohomish County) fares: $4.25; and
  • Commuter (terminal in North and East Snohomish County) fares: $5.50.

There are some caveats to the fare structure though.

The North and East Snohomish County commuter fares apply to trips between Lake Stevens, Marysville, Stanwood, Monroe, and Snohomish when travelling to and from King County. In the case of intra-county trips on North and East Snohomish County commuter routes, the local fare applies, a significant cost saving for an express trip over a local trip. Riders can request a “fare override” on those types of trips. Another “fare override” for those commuter routes is when a rider boards or alights from a stop in South Snohomish County when travelling to or from a King County, in which case the lower South Snohomish County fare is charged at $4.25. This is demonstrated in the Route 421 scenarios in the following comparison chart:

Comparison chart of existing fare structure and proposed fare structure. (Community Transit)
Comparison chart of existing fare structure and proposed fare structure. (Community Transit)

The fare reform proposal would make fares uniform for travel on commuter routes whether travelling intra-county or across the county line. However, the geographical fare difference would remain for commuter routes.

Commuter route trips with terminals in North and East Snohomish County would continue to have $5.50 fares for adults while commuter route trips with terminals in South Snohomish County would have $4.25 fares for adults. Local fares would stay at $2.25 for adults. This reformed fare structure would mean that riders on intra-county commuter routes could not request reduced fares. Instead, riders who want cheaper fares within Snohomish County would need to choose a local route.

Community Transit’s analysis shows that very few passengers who use commuter routes as a local express within Snohomish County would be affected by the proposed fare change. Less than 2% of passengers who ride North and East Snohomish County routes would be impacted by elimination of the local fare override. However, a larger share of riders who use commuter routes with terminals in North and East Snohomish County but board in places like Lynnwood Transit Center and travel to King County would be affected by the fare reform proposal. A full 30% of passengers on those commuter routes use the South Snohomish County fare override.

The fare reform proposal could push more riders to local routes and South Snohomish County and Everett commuter routes to save on transportation costs or at least continue to pay the same level of fares. Community Transit’s analysis suggests that there is sufficient capacity to facilitate any self-sorting by riders, particularly given that there is extra redundancy on commuter route corridors with Sound Transit. For North and East Snohomish County commuter routes, the fare reform proposal would likely result in a temporary decline in ridership. However, it would also open up more seats for more super-commuters from places like Lake Stevens and Marysville and potentially lead to a more efficient system from a passenger load perspective.

Public comment on the proposal is open through Monday, September 11th. A public hearing will also be held by the Community Transit Board of Directors on Thursday, September 7th. The meetings starts at 3pm at the Community Transit’s Board Room, which is located in South Everett (7100 Hardeson Rd).

$2.75 Flat Fare Proposal Would Raise Off-Peak Bus Fare

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Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.