by: Kevin McCarty Updated:
TACOMA, Wash. - After 10 years, Sound Transit has proposed charging passengers to ride the city's Link Light Rail.
The 1.6-mile ride from the Tacoma Dome Transit Center to the north end of downtown was free for years because of Sound Transit's policy of not charging a fare for a ride if collecting the fare costs more than the fare would generate in revenue.
But Link is popular now, with more than a million riders per year, so Sound Transit believes charging anywhere from $1 to $2 per ride would bring in money.
"Now, with a million riders a year, we're at the point where we need to reconsider charging fares," said Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason.
Sound Transit estimates ridership will fall by about 20 percent when and if the new fare takes effect, but even at that rate Link would generate between $700,000-$800.000 per year.
It cost $4.2 million to operate Link this year. The remaining cost is subsidized.
Some riders said they don't like the idea of the free ride going away.
"I think it's a bad idea," said Trina Forest. "I think if they do that people won't go downtown and it will impact the economy of downtown. I've seen that happen in other places."
Rider Pat Kosier said a fare would hurt riders who rely on the free parking at the Tacoma Dome Transit Center and free rides across town every day.
"Transportation is already high enough and there's not enough of it as it is," said Kosier.