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Sound Transit wants feedback on fare enforcement, searching for new name for Seattle-side ‘Red Line’ light rail

(Image: Sound Transit)

Sound Transit is taking on some important social and operational issues to end 2019: fare enforcement — and the end of the unfortunate “Red Line” name for its future Seattle-side light rail routes.

When CHS has reported on light rail fare enforcement over the years, it has never been good news. Last year, we reported on a video showing a rough “use of force” arrest for a reported fare enforcement issue aboard a train in Capitol Hill Station. This fall, Sound Transit scrambled to explain aggressive fare enforcement efforts against students on the first day of school.

Now, following a Seattle Times report in October showing how Black passengers are cited and punished disproportionately by Sound Transit fare enforcement, the agency is beginning a process to collect feedback on how to address equity and safety issues related to how it collects fares:

We want to hear about your experience and perceptions of checking fares on Link and Sounder. We invite you to complete the Fare Enforcement Survey below by Nov. 27. Your confidential responses will help us review our policies to ensure that we provide safe, equitable transportation opportunities for all people using our system.

You can take the survey here.

Sound Transit passengers caught not paying are supposed to get a warning. If they’re found to have skipped the fare again within one year, they can be issued a ticket. Sound Transit has temporarily stopped referring cases for misdemeanor charges. The fares are currently a critical component of funding Sound Transit’s lines. For light rail, the fares cover about 38% of operating costs.

Fare enforcement for Sound Transit and Metro is provided by Securitas, a private company under contract with the agency and King County. “Eighteen Securitas USA officers, all with at least two years of structured security or military and strong customer service experience, were hired as fare enforcement officers,” the company reported in a case study (PDF) on its work. UPDATE: As of April, Sound Transit reported (PDF) that the company had “roughly 30 fare enforcement contractor employees under the management of a co-located Securitas account manager.”

The survey is open through November 27th.

End of the Red Line
Meanwhile, this week also brought the announcement of a decision by Sound Transit brass to end the use of “Red Line” to describe its Seattle-side light rail line:

At today’s System Expansion Committee Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff informed members that, after hearing from the community and considering the issues, he has instructed staff to create a new naming system for our light rail services that ceases any reference to a “red line.” A couple of months ago, Sound Transit started using the term Red Line more broadly to represent our current Link service. We are preparing for the addition of a second system line and wanted to start building rider understanding of the current and coming line names. As the term Red Line became more visible we heard concerns from members of our community, that this term carries unfortunate associations with the punitive practice by lenders of “redlining.”

CHS reported here on the history of redlining in Seattle and the racist covenants placed on properties in Capitol Hill.

“These discriminatory practices caused widespread damage and inequities that have had a lingering impact to this day,” the ST announcement reads. “In response, we are going to identify a new system for identifying our routes. It’s the right thing to do, and we are grateful for the community members who encouraged us to take this action.”

Sound Transit’s Seattle-side lines were planned to be known as the Red Line while Eastside extensions would be the Blue Line. The designations had already been rolled out in the agency’s communications. Sound Transit says it will transition back to referring to the line as “Link” in the meantime before working out a “new naming convention” by March 2020 when “new signs and system maps will start to be developed for the opening of light rail service to Northgate in 2021.”


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43 thoughts on “Sound Transit wants feedback on fare enforcement, searching for new name for Seattle-side ‘Red Line’ light rail

  1. Just stick with colors. It’s so much easier to remember colors and you can have lines of said colors lead to the correct trains like in CDMX.

      • You made me curious so I did some light googling. The illiteracy rate is actually a bit higher than the colorbindless rate in the US.

        Complicating the math, though was another nugget I stumbled on where Seattle is the most literate city in the country.

        I didn’t come to any conclusions, but it was interesting.

      • Any easy solution would be to use symbols rather than colors or names. Though letters and numbers would serve even the illiterate or foreign traveler well too. Accessibility isn’t really that complicated, but people are so venomous about it. For the most part accessibility features benefit the general population more than they actually benefit the intended population.

  2. This was entirely predictable in the current political climate. Sound Transit should have been prepared with an explanation that they provided in advance: “We named it the Red Line as a way to re-appropriate this term that was once used to divide our neighborhoods and apply it to something that links us together, celebrating our connections and empowering us to….” etc. Now we will need to leave off one of the primary colors that is present in pretty much every colored subway system everywhere.

    But I do like some of the color ideas above. Might help to set us apart a bit. Emerald especially, or purple for UW. Or even lavender for Capitol Hill, but that will never fly.

    • Agreed. Maybe ‘Flatline’ would be better. It describes the lack of brain activity behind the original ‘Red Line’ idea.

      • It seems pretty obvious to me…..
        Take a deep breath and realize not everyone is evil and out to get you.

        Someone who’s never lived in this neighborhood and may have never even heard the term redline used pejoratively (or has but heard it once on the news and promptly forgot it) looked at where the line will end REDmond and thought cool – we’ll call it the Red Line. Just like the one in LA, Chicago, Washington DC, Houston, Boston, Baltimore, Austin, Milan…. I’m sure I could go on….

        It also seem pretty clear that someone has explained to them why they really shouldn’t it and they’ve said oh OK, what shall we call it then.

        It’s all good…

      • The Red Line was going to Everett, not Redmond. The Blue Line is going to Redmond.

        Also, it just so happens that the Red Line cut right through the part of the city that was most affected by red lining and still suffers from red lining policies to this day. The fact that these neighborhoods are the only areas where the light rail is at grade was intentional, racist and a continuation of the red lining policies of the 20th century. This wasn’t an accident. The people who made these decisions all have college degrees and no full well about the history of red lining and made intentional decisions to continue this harm on marginalized communities in Seattle in an effort to get them to move out of the city once and for all.

      • Yeah…. no, the typical person isn’t even capable of being that subtle….

        Nearly every other US city with a subway has color coded lines and it hasn’t been a problem before. It never even crossed their minds.

      • @iluvcaphill: Your assertions are preposterous and paranoid. What evidence do you have that redlining in the housing market is still going on? And to say that some individuals are intentionally planning to drive certain groups of people out of Seattle is a crazy conspiracy theory.

  3. Just name it for the direction it goes. North Line, South Line, East Line. It isn’t like there will ever be more than a few of these things.

      • Well, the North Line from downtown Seattle goes north to Lynnwood, servicing the north end. The East Line will go to Bellevue/Redmond servicing the east side, and the South Line goes south to Federal Way (that’s in the south end).

        Doesn’t get much simpler than that.

      • Ok. Let’s make it even more simple.

        The one that services the east side we can call the “New York Line”

        The one that goes north we can call the “Vancouver Line”

        and the one that goes south we can call the “Vancouver Line”

        No confusion there!

  4. Transit fare enforcement:

    You know that scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” where Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) throws the Nazi guy out the Zeppelin window? And then turns around and tells the passengers “No Ticket”

    Well, there you have it.

  5. As one of the 8% of men who are color blind would appreciate more accessible names for the lines. Numbers or letters would be more accessible. And obviously all of these ass wipes who are minimizing the impacts that red lining have had on marginalized communities, especially the communities where the light rail is cutting down the middle of their neighborhood at grade and literally killing the residents in those neighborhoods are rich white dick heads who live in the most nimby of all neighborhoods. Learn your history and check your privilege.

    • Wanting a government agency that uses my tax monies to pay for something to use symbols that are accessible to me isn’t umbrage, it’s equity. Wanting a government agency to be aware of the past intentional harm that other government agencies caused marginalized communities in the past and to acknowledge it and be sensitive to it, is just basic common sense. The fact that you don’t give a shit about those marginalized communities who are being harmed all over again by the way this light rail has destroyed their neighborhood while has had minimal impact on the daily lives in the white neighborhoods it’s been put in just shows your
      intention racism and privilege. Keep on propping up white supremacy dude.

      • Am I alone in assuming that signs for the ‘blue line’ wouldn’t be a blue swatch. They would include the word “Blue” as well, right? Or like a blue Circle with a “B” in it.

        Assuming that is true, are the concerns of the colorblind addressed?

  6. How about Central Link, East Link, Tacoma Link, etc? Then use different colored lines on a map to show each route? In other words what we have works fine at least for the short and medium term. Ask again about 2030.

  7. So if everyone in the train car is checked if they paid, and more black people than other races didn’t pay a fare how is that racist?

    PC correctness gone mad!

  8. How about we teach people not to be offended by language, especially where none is given. That is way more empowering and helpful than making a symbolic gesture (in this case, avoiding the commonly used in other cities Red Line name) that does nothing to battle racism.

  9. Really, the Red Line designation ought to rightfully be given to the forthcoming light rail spur to Bellevue. It was in that city that a prominent millionaire developer, kemper Freeman, has sought to keep light rail from the city, i.e. to red-line it out, for decades.

    The line’s designation would be a fitting tribute–and a powerful retort–to that effort.