Buses in Seattle stop making change on March 20, 1969.

  • By Heather Trescases
  • Posted 3/26/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 4151

On March 20, 1969, Seattle buses and trolley coaches stop making change for fares. The Seattle Transit System introduces the new policy in an effort to prevent robberies and to ensure the safety of its employees.

Effective the first day of Spring in 1969, passengers were required to have exact fare when boarding buses: 25 cents plus five cents for each zone line crossed, 35 cents on express runs and 20 cents for students and children. Bus and trolley drivers no longer carried change or sold tokens and the fare box was sealed.

In 1969, the Exact Fare Plan was already in place in more than 20 cities across the country, and was effectively eliminating robberies and hold-ups of bus and trolley drivers. In Seattle, 18 drivers were robbed in 1967, and 25 fell victim in 1968. In the first two months of 1969, there were 15 more robberies. Over the years, drivers had been assaulted during robberies and one was murdered.

On March 21, 1969, Transit System officials commented on the smooth implementation of the new policy. Lloyd Graber, Transit System General Manager, said that there was only one complaining telephone call and that the reaction of drivers "has been excellent" (The Seattle Times, March 21, 1969). Vic Mroz, a Transit System driver of 32 years, remarked that the policy was "the greatest thing since the wheel" (The Seattle Times, March 20, 1969).

Even regular Transit System passengers were impressed with the easy implementation and with the cooperation of the public. Among them was Sally Robinson, who said, "I haven't heard one person even ask for a dime in change, and I've been on an hour and a half" (The Seattle Times, March 20, 1969). A Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter commented, "There sure are a lot of nice people in this town! They certainly have cooperated in this Exact Fare plan!" However, to this a Transit System driver responded: "Nice people? Wait until a rainy, windy day when everyone's in a bad humor. Bah!" (P-I, March 21, 1969).

On the few occasions when people forgot the new policy and were in need of change, fellow passengers lent a helping hand. For example, on the Route 7 bus to Rainier, two children on their way to school needed a nickel, and a young woman on her way to work made change for them.

Otherwise, IOU slips were available. By signing one of these, a passenger promised to pay two fares the next time he or she rode the bus, and an IOU stub would go into the fare box along with the owing money. Driver Vic Mroz commented that he doubted he would ever have to use the slips: "I know everyone on the route and I trust them all" (The Seattle Times, March 20, 1969).

The Exact Fare policy remains in effect on all King County Metro Transit lines.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 266; "Have Exact Transit Fare," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 20, 1969, p. 12; Jack Jarvis, "First Day of Exact Bus Fare: 'Coinless' Rider Creates Crisis," Ibid., March 21, 1969, p. 11; Marjorie Jones, "Exact Fare: Transit Plan Gets Off to Good Start," The Seattle Times, March 20, 1969, p. 5; "Exact Fare Response Excellent," Ibid., p. 15.

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