Friday, August 25, 2017

What is Fare Simplification, and Why Now?

Moving toward “One Bus, One Fare”

Community Transit is proposing a fare policy change as part of an effort to simplify the regional fare structure for customers. The proposal would eliminate fare zones, resulting in each bus route having one fare.

The proposal is part of a regional agreement for the Next Generation ORCA project. ORCA is the regional fare system that allows riders to pay their fare on multiple Puget Sound transit agencies using one smartcard. The current ORCA system is reaching its end of life, so development is underway on the next generation of ORCA.

Before ORCA was launched in 2009, there were more than 300 regional fare options. ORCA streamlined those to 85. One goal with Next Generation ORCA is to further simplify the regional fare structure, as well as offer new ways to pay your fare.

For Community Transit riders, this proposal means there would be only one fare option on the bus you board. Local buses have always had only one fare option. However, riders now boarding commuter buses have two fare options.

People now boarding any commuter bus can request to pay local fare if they are only traveling within Snohomish County. Also, people now boarding a north county commuter bus in Lynnwood can request to pay a south county fare going to Seattle.

Under the proposed policy change, those options would go away. Simply put, this means “one bus, one fare.” The bus you board has only one fare.

Systemwide, about two percent of Community Transit riders now request a lower fare on commuter buses. Those riders would have the same choice of buses available, but the decision they might face is whether they want to pay a higher fare in order to catch the next bus going their direction.

Regionally, fare simplification makes it easier for new and existing riders to know exactly what fare is required on each bus. King County Metro has announced its plan to move toward a flat fare, eliminating both zone and peak/non-peak fares.

Why now?
The fare simplification policy is proposed to go into effect region-wide in mid-2018, although Next Generation ORCA will not go live for several years. This was a regional decision as agencies are hoping to simplify their fare structures sooner, rather than having large-scale changes when the ORCA system switches over.

Public comment is being accepted on Community Transit’s proposed policy change through September 11. Information about how to comment, and the actual policy is available at

What’s next?
Fare simplification is one change coming to Community Transit. Over the next few years, the Swift bus rapid transit network will be built out, offering more frequent buses and easier connections throughout the county.

Other route changes will take place to connect with Link Light Rail, which is now scheduled to start serving Snohomish County in 2024. At that time, Community Transit plans to stop serving downtown Seattle and UW as Link will offer a quicker commute.

Community Transit is updating its 20-year Long Range Transit Plan this coming year; you can review the current 20-year plan at