Can You Ride the Bus For Free?




After the coronavirus pandemic, bus ridership has not fully returned to its pre-pandemic levels; fares were only one barrier preventing more people from riding buses.

Your MetroCard allows for free transfers within two hours (this transfer gets encoded onto it). Discounted fares are available for seniors 65+ and those with disabilities.

No ORCA Card Required

Seattle’s transit system can seem complex at first glance, with its complex fare policies and various agencies involved. But you can save both time and money by getting an ORCA card – this card provides access to most services!

ORCA cards offer the fastest and healthiest way to pay for regional transit. You can load a region-wide day pass, agency passes such as Kitsap Transit or Washington State Ferries passes or E-purse value onto them quickly and conveniently.

To obtain an ORCA, visit an ORCA vending machine or Metro ticket office, purchase one online, and add value via mobile apps (coming soon!). Youth ORCA cards are free; Metro drivers may even allow children to board even without cards or ID, creating an inclusive atmosphere on board the bus. Classic blue ORCA cards will continue working through 2022 while new black ones will begin operating system-wide by fall of that year.

Cash is Accepted On Board

All buses feature a farebox at the front of their bus where passengers can pay with cash or coins. Simply insert dollars or coins into the slot, tell the driver your fare type (one-way ride, transfer fare or pass pass), and they won’t make change for you!

On most local routes, children under 46″ ride free when accompanied by an adult paying full fare; any other riders must pay the full fare.

ORCA cards provide an easy and effortless method for paying. Simply tap them on before boarding, then swipe at the end as proof of payment.

ORCA cards make switching buses or subway lines simpler with one swipe of an ORCA card; simply show the bus operator your receipt of payment upon exit and the receipt is valid for one hour; MTA fare inspectors may ask to see it at random, without which a single-ride fare must be paid when boarding another bus.

No Refunds or Exchanges on Fares Purchased

Buying tickets on board does not offer refunds or exchanges, although you may transfer your PRONTO balance up to twice per day onto another card or purchase a Day Pass which covers one calendar day.

As soon as you board, use either the PRONTO mobile app or tap card to touch against an OMNY reader. As soon as this occurs, your tap will display a proof-of-payment receipt which you must keep during your trip; fare inspectors may ask to see it on demand.

But many riders, like Jennifer Saura of The Bronx (age 30), remain wary of fare-free transit. She worries it could threaten MTA finances, leading to cuts that threaten her job and pension as well as her commute, as well as encouraging fare evasion which has already happened in Dunkirk France and Tallinn Estonia as well as numerous smaller towns and cities across North America.

Transfers are Free

MetroCard can also be used to pay your bus single ride fare. A ticket machine is located on the front of each bus near its driver, or coins ($2.75) may be paid as a substitute payment method. Transferring between buses is free – simply encode connecting transfer data onto the MetroCard when paying.

Fare-free buses have proven effective in other cities. Boston saw tremendous results during the COVID-19 pandemic when they suspended fares, witnessing an explosion of ridership that even outpaced subway boardings; 9/10 riders reported riding more frequently during this time period according to a survey.

However, in New York the proposal by two Queens politicians to make city buses free-of-charge will likely not last long; MTA faces an enormous multi-billion deficit while state government is unlikely to increase taxes; MTA bosses prefer increasing fares and service frequency rather than testing free rides as an experiment.