Effective June 1, Sound Transit will offer temporarily reduced Recovery Fares in response to the economic impact of COVID-19 as the agency re-introduces fares on Link light rail and Sounder trains.
The agency suspended fares on March 21 to help protect transit employees and riders through social distancing.
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 Recovery Fares come as the region prepares for the next phases of recovery and the expected gradual return of riders, according to a Monday Sound Transit news release. The fare of $1 on Link and $2 on Sounder will be available from ticket vending machines through June 30.
During this period, Sound Transit will redouble its promotion of ORCA Lift, a reduced-fare program that gives income-qualified riders discounts of up to 66% on Sound Transit and other regional agencies’ services. Passengers can now qualify apply for ORCA Lift online or over the phone without having to visit a processing site.
In addition to ticket vending machines, Recovery Fare tickets will be available on a contact-free basis through 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.
All transit staff will continue to wear face masks, and all Sound Transit passengers will be directed to wear face coverings consistent with expanded public health directives. 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 will continue expanded disinfecting of transit vehicles and facilities, with particular emphasis on ticket vending machines and other high-touch areas including hand rails.
Beyond providing money to support transit operations, the resumption of fares will also allow Sound Transit 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.
For now 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.
Beginning Tuesday, May 19, 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.
The Sounder reductions that have been in effect will continue at this time. Sounder South weekday service is reduced to seven round trips. The cancelled northbound trips are the 1502, 1506, 1508 and 1518 departures from Lakewood, and the 1516 and 1522 departures from Tacoma. The canceled southbound trips are the 1503, 1505, 1509, 1517, 1519, and 1523 departures from Seattle.
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.
Riders will find more information on the specific trips cancelled at https://www.soundtransit.org/ride-with-us/changes-affect-my-ride/reduced-service and via rider alerts, which they can sign up to receive electronically.
During the COVID-19 response riders should take into account that electronic resources such as Google maps, One Bus Away and other applications and websites may not have accurate information for all trips, including service reductions affecting other agencies.
Sound Transit remains committed to working closely with its partners to continue serving the public. Efforts will continue to prioritize serving riders who depend on Sound Transit’s services, including seniors, people with disabilities, Title VI protected populations (race, color, national origin), low-income and limited-English-proficiency populations. To the greatest extent possible, we will continue to run trains and buses at our earliest and latest normal weekday hours. At this time normal service will continue on Tacoma Link.
Riders should sign up for rider alerts to ensure that they receive up-to-date information about service changes, or visit www.soundtransit.org. The language line 1-800-823-9230 is available to provide translation assistance for limited English proficiency persons.