On June 27th Seoul won’t only have a price hike for public transport but a new fare system is going to be introduced. The new fare system includes a new calculation method for long-distance rides, free usage for elderly foreign residents and a discount for early birds.
Changes of Standard Fares
The basic fare is going up by around 20%. We gave a complete overview of the increased prices here in the announcement of new public transport fares for Seoul. For an adult who uses a transport card the fare is going to rise between 150 and 450 KRW, depending on the transport type (comparison of old and new basic fare with transportation card):
Subway: 1,050 KRW => 1,250 KRW
Blue and green buses: 1,050 KRW => 1,200 KRW
Maeul bus: 750 KRW => 900 KRW
Yellow bus: 850KRW => 1,100 KRW
Red Bus: 1,850KRW => 2,300 KRW
M-Bus: 2,000-2,700 KRW => 2,400-3,100 KRW
Night-bus: 1,850 KRW => 2,150 KRW
Back in April, Seoul proposed to raise the fares for children and school students as well. After public consultation and feedback the city decided to not increase the fares for them. However, if a school student (age between 13 and 19 years) pays by cash, he has to pay the same amount as an adult.
Additional Charges per Distance
Subway users had to pay an additional 100 KRW for every 5 km between a distance of 10 km and 40 km. The surcharge grew to 100 for every 10 km after a total travel distance of 40 km. Now the threshold is changed to 50 km and after 50 km a surcharge is paid every 8 km. So until a distance of 40 km the additional charge is the same as before but as soon as you reach 50 km and more, you will experience a higher surcharge to the basic fare than before. Here is a summary:
10-40㎞ : 100 KRW every 5 km => 10-50 km: 100 KRW every 5 km
After 40㎞: 100 KRW every 10 km => after 50 km: 100 KRW every 8 km
Free Rides for Foreign Elderly
Until now, only Korean elderly enjoyed the benefit of free subway rides. With the new system also foreigners, who are 65 years and older and have a F-5 visa (permanent residence visa), are given the benefit to use the subway for free. In Seoul there are 2,525 people who could use this benefit. The free transportation card is called “senior pass” (시니어패스) and applications for that card can be done at community centers.
Discount for Early Commuters
Now, let me introduce the most important feature of the new system: If you tap your transport card before 6:30 am, then you can receive a 20% discount on the basic fare. The discount is only given to transport card users. It’s interesting that the discount is also given to children and school students even though their fare wasn’t raised. Early commuters are going to pay less than before the reform for all transport methods except for the yellow bus. The idea behind this concept is to reduce the amount of passengers during the morning peak hours (7 to 9 am).
Since years I wanted to have such a system for Korea. Buses and trains are over capacity in the morning. The situation is really severe and dangerous. My hope was that the discount would be higher or even that Seoul would offer a completely free ride. Free? Now you might think that I’m crazy but there is a very successful example where the free ride system works perfectly: Singapore.
Free Rides in Singapore
Introduced in 2013, Singapore is providing free rides on their metro through their “Free Pre-Peak Travel” measure. Any commuter who finishes their journey before 7:45 am on weekdays doesn’t pay anything for the metro ride. The measure is very popular and it got extended year by year. Just recently, it was extended until June 2016. Besides a free ride, commuters who exit a station between 7:45 and 8 am receives a discount to the train fare.
Of course, Seoul isn’t Singapore and Seoul’s public transport system is much larger than Singapore’s metro system. Still, I believe that the non-measurable benefits would be huge. We’ll observe the development and how transit users react to the fare increase as well as to the new fare system.