Starting Monday, June 1, Sound Transit will reintroduce fares — at a reduced rate — on its Link light rail and Sounder service, and Community Transit will begin collecting fares for its Swift Blue and Green bus rapid transit lines.
Community Transit also said that fares on its other buses will remain suspended for the month of June, with a plan to restore fare collection in the coming months based on updated safety measures. Sound Transit is offering a Recovery Fare of $1 on Link and $2 on Sounder that will be available from ticket vending machines through June 30.
Community Transit temporarily suspended the collection of fares as of March 20 to allow riders to board and exit buses through the middle and rear doors. This allows for increased physical distance between riders and bus drivers. The agency also blocked off the front section of its buses for the protection of drivers. Only ADA customers are allowed to use the front door and sit in the front section. Unlike other Community Transit bus routes, Swift riders pay fares at Swift stations, not at the front of the bus.
Sound Transit stopped fare collection on March 21.
Beginning Monday, June 1, Swift riders will be able to pay for rides at Swift stations with an ORCA fare card or by using cash or credit card at the ticket vending machines. Ticket vending machines and ORCA readers will be disinfected regularly and ORCA cards are available for purchase online.
Sound Transit said that for now, its ST Express buses will continue to remain fare-free on a temporary basis to enable rear-door boarding to protect bus operators. By contrast, rail operators are protected in their own compartments. Even so, seats outside those enclosed compartments will continue to be cordoned off as an extra safety measure.
As Link light rail fares are reintroduced, service on Link will also increase at the same time, with trains running every 20 minutes during the day until after the p.m. peak. Link will continue to run every 30 minutes during evenings and on weekends.
The Sounder train reductions that have been in effect will continue at this time. Sounder North weekday service remains reduced from four round trips to two round trips, with cancellation of the 1701 and 1705 departures from Everett and the 1700 and 1704 departures from Seattle.
Sound Transit’s Recovery Fare tickets will be available on a contact-free basis through ticket vending machines and the Transit GO Ticket app. ORCA cards will continue to be charged full fare and can be used for transfers, while Recovery Fare paper tickets and Transit GO tickets cannot be used for transfers.
Both agencies also remind riders of ORCA Lift, a reduced-fare program that gives income-qualified riders discounts of up to 66% on transportation services. Passengers can now apply for ORCA Lift online or over the phone without having to visit a processing site.
Sound Transit and Community Transit said that all staff are wearing face masks and they are also requiring passengers to wear face coverings. Both agencies have increased disinfection of buses and facilities and have closed some seats to allow for increased physical distance between riders. Under current health directives customers are reminded to limit travel to essential trips. Riders should also follow social distancing and other critical health guidelines to protect the community.
Sound Transit said that beyond providing money to support transit operations, the resumption of fares will also allow the agency to increase safety and security for essential riders. The agency saw a dramatic increase in unsanitary conditions, rider complaints and incidents of vandalism after fares were temporarily suspended in March. The issues have been associated in part with riders taking repetitive trips without apparent destinations.
Beginning Tuesday, May 19, Sound Transit fare enforcement officers will begin educating riders about the resumption of fares, including the Temporary Recovery Fare, and providing information about ORCA Lift. Once fares resume, fare enforcement officers will follow social distancing guidelines and request that riders show an ORCA card, a Transit GO Ticket app activated ticket, or a ticket as proof of payment