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Big changes ahead for Metro riders as free ride zone ends

King County Metro Transit is trying to get the word out early about a number of changes coming at the end of the month, attempting to educate local transit users through a number of online tools.

With routes being altered or eliminated outright, Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond said his agency wants to make sure riders are well-informed before the changes hit.

“It’s homework time for riders, and we are putting tools online and on the street to help,” Desmond said. “These changes make the best use of limited tax dollars, increase connections between routes and reduce route duplication — and by doing so we meet the needs of more people.”

According to the county, dozens of routes will have different stops, travel different streets, or have changed schedules. In continuing efforts to be more efficient and cost-effective, some low-use routes will be cut completely. A complete list of the changes can be found online at http://metro.kingcounty.gov.

The agency plans to do a print campaign to inform the public about the upcoming changes, and will redesign its online trip planner a couple of weeks ahead of the actual change, so that riders can get a head start on travel plans.

Another big change coming to Metro Transit is the elimination of the ride-free zones in downtown Seattle. Instead, riders will pay upon entering the bus. According to the county, this change needed to happen in order to raise revenues and preserve existing service, even though the ride-free zones had been operating in Seattle for nearly 40 years.

The county advises riders to expect delays in these areas, as people adjust to paying a fare. More details on the changes to the ride-free zones can be found here: http://metro.kingcounty.gov/tops/bus/ride-free-area/changes.html.

“We expect the transition will take some getting used to, and we ask for everyone’s patience — especially the first week of October,” Desmond said.

The county advises riders who frequented the former ride-free zones to get an ORCA card to speed up boarding times. Area residents can look into getting an ORCA card at www.orcacard.com.

Two RapidRide lines, specifically servicing Seattle, will also be added as part of this service overhaul. One will go between downtown Seattle and West Seattle, while the other will travel between downtown Seattle and Ballard.

The success of RapidRide Line A is one of the reasons for the addition of the new routes. Line A, which travels between Federal Way and Tukwila, carries an estimated 8,300 riders daily, which is a 50 percent increase that meets the agency’s five-year ridership goal.

“Together, the service changes, pay-on entry system, and new RapidRide lines will make Metro’s transit service work better and serve more riders,” Desmond said.

The Federal Way Mirror is a sister paper of the Mercer Island Reporter.

 

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