As stadiums and public transit operators squabble over the cost of keeping trains running late, a new partnership in Seattle shows that the two can — sometimes — play nice.
Beginning this week, Mariners fans will be able to start showing their game tickets and receiving free rides to Safeco Field on Sound Transit’s light rail, the Seattle Times reports. The arrangement is meant to encourage transit ridership (and decrease downtown traffic and parking) while boosting game attendance. It’s modeled on a similar program in Phoenix, in which participating venues pay transit operators a set amount, and then ticket-holding attendees can ride free on the day of their event.
“It brought thousands of new passengers onto their system — passengers who then, having discovered the convenience of light rail, stayed with the system,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said, according to the Times. “We expect the exact same thing to happen here.”
Critically, the Mariners will reimburse Sound Transit. That’s notable because of controversies that have erupted over the last year between the 49ers and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority in the Bay Area, and the Washington Nationals and D.C. Metro, over who should pay for late-night service, with both parties refusing to pick up the tab.
Of course, offering special services to game-day riders can also be controversial. When Metro Transit in Minneapolis announced that it had reserved light-rail service along several lines for Super Bowl attendees, regular commuters pushed back.
“It’s creating two tiers of people: Those who can afford expensive Super Bowl tickets, and those who cannot,” St. Paul resident and Metro rider Nate Hood told TwinCities.com last year.
In Seattle, the Mariners have also arranged for fans who take Uber to or from certain light-rail stations on game days to have $3.50 shaved off their fare. Unlike the Phoenix program, Seattle’s pilot will not cover rides on Metro buses. Both discounts — for the ride-hailing services and light-rail rides — run through June 3.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.