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Sound Transit: Proposed $1 fare for Tacoma Link probably won’t happen after all

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Oct. 19, 2010 at 2:59 pm with 8 Comments »
October 19, 2010 4:19 pm

The proposed buck stops here — or, it likely will.

A Sound Transit proposal to start charging a $1 per-trip fare on Tacoma Link riders likely won’t happen after all, officials said today.

Sound Transit Chief Executive Joni Earl agreed this morning with a contingent of Pierce County officials on the transit agency’s board of directors that the idea needs more study.

“We raised our concerns that the study (to support the new Link fare) was not deep enough,” Tacoma City Councilman Jake Fey said today. “Joni was of a similar mind. She’s going to recommend the change (for no fare) in the (proposed Sound Transit) budget.”

The idea for the new fare for the 1.6-mile light rail system in Tacoma was among a host of recommendations floated last month as part of Earl’s budget proposal for the regional transit authority, which is now grappling with a widening budget hole amid the tough economy.

Facing a $3.9 billion budget shortfall over the next 13 years, Earl proposed a $1.1 billion budget for next year that, while actually higher than the current budget, jettisons some key plans of the voter-approved “Sound Transit 2” program.

That initiative seeks to establish a high-capacity transportation system throughout central Puget Sound within the next two decades. But, as the recession has cut into Sound Transit’s projected revenues by 25 percent through an initially planned 2023 completion date, delivering all elements of the so-called ST2 program is no longer an option, Earl has said.

Officials for the regional transit authority have said that an underlying policy enacted in 1999 entitles the agency to charge Link riders for fares, but only after it’s determined that the revenues gleaned from charging riders would cover the costs of buying, installing and maintaining ticketing equipment.

A preliminary analysis indicated that revenues garnered from Tacoma Link riders would cover those costs, Ric Ilgenfritz, Sound Transit’s executive director of policy planning and public affairs, told Tacoma City Council members at budget update today.

But Fey and other members of the Pierce County contingent on the Sound Transit board – including Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, Lakewood Deputy Mayor Claudia Thomas and Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow – raised concerns about the analysis at the board’s meeting this morning, Fey said.

Among other things, the group contended the analysis didn’t account for changed revenue conditions or factor in downtown Tacoma’s new pay-for-parking system — both of which could impact Link ridership, Fey said.

“We need time with the new downtown parking system to evaluate people’s behavior and revenues,” Fey said.

In order to remove the new proposed fare from the budget proposal, the Sound Transit board would need to adopt a formal amendment, Fey and others said.

Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. Pecksbadboy says:

    It would probably be more cost effective to shut the whole thing down until it actually served a populace. It is like the Monorail in Seattle, during events it is busy but dead the rest of the time. But of course the Monorail does not block traffic through the main thoroughfare into the city.

  2. the real reason that they wont raise it they know nobody will ride it…….the great train to nowhere!

  3. tortoise says:

    Shucks, only a buck….cheeep at twice the price.

  4. Sound Transit’s total fare revenue this year was less than one-half the $79,000,000 it proposes to spend in 2011 on “agency staff,” a 15% increase in staff costs. The proposed 2011 budget of $1.1 Billion is an 18.5% INCREASE over 2010. For 2011, $187,000,000 goes to providing transportation. That’s 5 times fare revenue and does not include the agency staff”costs. Charge the buck just to keep the drunks in their ‘soiled’ clothing from contaminating the seats all day.

    To paraphrase Mark Twain: Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you ran Sound Transit; but I repeat myself.

  5. the3rdpigshouse says:

    Let me get this straight – the dependent class is too used to everyone else in Puget Sound paying their way they refused to contribute to the process once again!!! Isn’t socialism and the redistribution of everyones elses money a great concept??!!

  6. ktcmairman says:

    Another waste of money in the name of Social Engineering.

  7. sisterrock5 says:

    If there was enough parking at either end to make it work that might be a good thing. It would have to be free parking since the current on street parking fees would not enhance the use of the link. Pay to park and pay to ride?? Transit still does not pay for itself and at taxpayer expense it should be looked at as Enslow and the others mentioned.

  8. cmiklich says:

    Well, golly! Who couldn’t see this coming? “…jettisons some key plans…” Yeah, sure. Like, how many stops aren’t gonna be put in this time? How many cars aren’t gonna be on each train? Tough to document all the lies and failed promises spewing from the mouths of Joni Earl and other ST proponents.

    ST and their supporters have been shovelling so much excrement for so long, they actually believe their own droppings. The G.D. thing is already $Billions over budget, is decades late, can’t carry but a fraction of what was promised, is useless as an alternative to driving. Plus, it is stealing money desperately needed for real, viable transportation. Like roads to move the school busses, roads to move the products to market and to take people to their real jobs. Roads to the hospital when 9-1-1 is called! None of these things can ST do. And, it NEVER will!

    A “high-capacity transportation system”? Only a Stalinist-Leninist would believe such propaganda. Let’s take just one example: A Seahawks game. Say 3000 people show up at the Tukwila station on 99 (as if there was parking there that doesn’t exist). Since the trains are down to one car each, that’s 200 people per train. Running every 15 minutes (hell, I’ll be generous and say 10), that’s still 2 1/2 hours just to get that one group to the game. Not to mention anybody else at ANY other stop trying (impossibly) to get on an already packed train.

    It doesn’t take Einstein to see why rail can never be, will never be, a viable alternative to roads. A prohibitively expensive failed alternative. Add cars to each train, there’s still virtually no scaleability to the system. “Light” (heavy on the wallet) rail cannot compete with roads, cars, busses and vanpools. Never. P.T. Barnum had ST right all along.

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