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Tri-Met fares: All day for 2 times a one-way fare

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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2011 9:00 pm    Post subject: Tri-Met fares: All day for 2 times a one-way fare Reply with quote

Note: I'm somewhat familiar with the transit system in Portland
Oregon (Tri-Met), so I mention them specifically, but this thought
would apply to pretty much all major city transit systems.

Tri-Met is the organization responsible for running busses and
light rail in Portland Oregon. You pay as you enter, based on
the zones you will travel through: zones 1, 2, and 3. An all-day
ticket is available, but is generally not emphasized. Furthermore,
it costs somewhat more to buy an all day ticket than two one way
tickets, especially for people who live closer to town.

Now, I could make a case that the income would not change much
if all-day passes were emphasized and discounted.
More people might give their ticket to someone else, but some people
might lose theirs and pay twice. Meanwhile, running a bus system would
seem to entail a lot of fixed costs. Having another passenger on a
bus that wouldn't otherwise have been there involves a small
incremental cost.

From there on, I see only advantages to emphasizing and promoting
(by reducing the price) the sale of all day tickets. It's more efficient
to sell a ticket once instead of twice, especially at commute time.
Promoting all-day tickets makes the commute easier.
It gives transit users more flexibility in planning their day, at no
extra cost to tri-met.

There are only 2 peak transit times, so, by definition, any trips taken,
beyond the 2 peak times, would necessarily be a non-peak time.
Having extra riders would not incur inordinate extra costs, or strain
the system. In other words, if you are going to make it round trip,
you might as well make it all day

There are also some intangibles at play: I think people would like
to get a discount for buying a round trip ticket. Meanwhile, there's a feeling
of security to it, of options, of having something of value in ones
pocket. I don't mean to overplay these intangibles, but there is something to
this notion: in a narrow sense, an all day pass represents freedom,
whereas two one-way tickets represent routine.

If you take the price of two one-way tickets and round down, then
it becomes a simpler transaction. No coins need be involved.
That makes it faster just when it needs to be: peak times, in this
case, morning.

In short, for Tri-Met, the message is, tie the all-day pass to zones,
and charge the same or slightly less than the price of 2 equivalent
one-way tickets. Emphasize this feature in signage, in driver training,
and in marketing (billboards, radio, etc.). Make a major campaign:
all day for just $4* (in zones 1 and 2). "The price of a gallon of gas!"

To the non-habitual transit user, using an all day pass might make
using transit at all seem to make more sense. For a commuter
not already using a monthly pass, an all day ticket is the next closest
thing, in terms of convenience. For a tourist it is just perfect.
Tri-met gets to do something good for little to no cost, and attract
new riders.

Seems like win-win-win-win to me.
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