Did you know that a round trip ticket bought at a Link light rail station is actually a day pass for the fare zone purchased, good for as many rides as you can fit into the current calendar day?
Riding the Link to the mayor’s press conference yesterday I bought a roundtrip ticket between Othello and downtown, and happened to run into one of the Sound Transit inspection teams while on the train. I flashed my ticket, and that was that, and apparently none of the other passengers on the roughly half-full train had any problems either. But it got me thinking.
My ticket had the date and the $2.00 zone value printed boldly on the card, with “Adult $4.00” in smaller print along with the names of the starting and destination stations. But there was no time stamp or expiration printed anywhere on the card… and really, how could there be? I might return any time, and the same ticket was issued as valid fare in both directions. And since the ticket is never punched, scanned or collected, I could use it multiple times throughout the day, getting on and off at various stations within the purchased zone.
So I asked folks at Sound Transit whether I had discovered a flaw in their fare system, and was flatly told no. They don’t seem to advertise it, but these tickets are day passes; in fact, it says “Puget Pass” on the front of the ticket, and clearly states on the back: “Pass is valid during the day(s)/week(s/month(s)/year(s) shown.” Furthermore, it’s valid for face value service throughout the region, on Community Transit, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, Metro and Sound Transit. In that sense it’s even better than a bus transfer; one can ride the light rail, and then use the same ticket repeatedly throughout the region’s bus and commuter rail system, paying the difference between the face value and the fare where need be.
At least through the end of the year.
When I asked why anybody would use an Orca Card, which dings you for every boarding, rather than an all-day Puget Pass, I was told that a) few commuters take more than a single roundtrip ride a day; and b) come January, paper tickets and bus transfers would no longer be accepted as valid transfers, while the Orca Card would continue to seamlessly operate as such.
Fair enough. But for the moment, these roundtrip tickets are one helluva bargain, and will still be a pretty damn good deal after the first of the year, especially for folks looking to explore the neighborhoods along the Link line.