BART at sunset
Photo of BART from blmurch on flickr.

Not governance reform, but just governance. Andrew Villeneuve went to San Francisco and was surprised by the number of transit agencies in the Bay Area. Andrew notes about 27 transit agencies in the area, compared to, by his count, just four (Metro, Pierce Transit, Community Transit and Sound Transit) here.

I think Andrew’s a bit off. He goes way outside of what would normally be considered the Bay Area. Rio Vista? Healdsburg? Cloverdale?? That’s 94 miles out of San Francisco, and 140 out of San Jose. Vancouver, BC is 110 miles out of Seattle.

We do have a bit more than four transit agencies here. An incomplete list of others that he is missing here: Everett Transit, the Seattle Streetcar, Amtrak, Intercity Transit and Island Transit. He is also counting specific branding of transit services in the Bay Area as separate agencies. In reality most of the agencies in the Bay Area are planned and governed under the Metropolitan Transportation Commission or Caltrans.

Enough with the nitpicks: he has a great point about ORCA. As our systems grow and become more and more intertwined, we need more and more coordination, and a more and more seemless experience commuting. It might be difficult to get a single agency in charge of transit in our area, as the MTC does in the Bay Area, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

14 Replies to “Transit Governance”

  1. Why does it seem such an impossibility to link up the transit agencies? It’s fairly common elsewhere…

    New York City: Metrocards work on the city buses and subways, and some outer bus networks (bee-line in westchester, some NJ transit lines). Doesn’t work on commuter rail, but doesn’t need to – conductors ride every train and check tickets.

    Washington D.C.: If memory serves, I can use my Metro farecard on city buses, too.

    London: Oyster card. ‘Nuff said. (Tube/Bus/DLR/Rail/Riverboat(!))

  2. Don’t forget the Monorail. It’s small but they don’t accept transfers. (and I doubt they’ll accept ORCA)

    I think it’s time for another post about ORCA. Will I be able to pick up cards at any drug store? Will there be automated vending machines? How do I add value? Will it remember that I’ve paid for a one-zone trip an hour ago when I first boarded the 13 but was stuck in traffic and I now want to transfer to the 2, or will it charge me again? Will it give me a discount if I end up riding the bus every day, or will I have to set it up as a monthly pass?

    1. I currently live in the Twin Cities which has a RFID card program called GoTo that is similar conceptually to ORCA. While I can only guess at how ORCA will be implemented, I can give an educated guess to answer some of your questions.

      1. The Monorail wouldn’t have to accept transfers to accept ORCA. RFID systems are flexible enough to deal with conflicting rules among agencies as to which accept each other’s transfers. The Monorail can stay “cash” only and still take ORCA.

      2. Sales locations depend on the transit agencies. Twin Cities Metro still has limited locations available to buy GoTo. However, I would guess the only limit to sales locations is equipment expense.

      3. GoTo doesn’t have automated vending machines to initially buy a card, but ticket machines at light rail platforms and at the Metro Transit stores can be used to reload GoTo cards, and yes you can use a credit card to reload at a vending machine.

      4. GoTo does remember that you have a transfer. Twin Cities transfer rules were changed from “end of the line plus an hour” to “2.5 hours from time of payment” when we went from a tear-off paper transfer to an electronic ticket. I would guess something similar would be done with ORCA. I can’t see how a transfer could give any special allowance for traffic, however.

      5. GoTo stored value is sold in units of $11 for $10. However, since the Seattle area has no history of discounted ticket fares, I doubt ORCA would have any discount on stored value. However, Puget Passes are priced better than our 31-day passes. Puget Passes are 36 times the cash fare. Our 31-day passes are 37.8 times cash fare rounded to the nearest 50 cents, except for the off-peak local pass, which is 33.6 times cash fare rounded to the nearest 50 cents. However, our passes can start on any day of the month and run 31 days from first use, unlike Puget Passes which run from the first to the last day of a calendar month only.

  3. I landed at SeaTac around 10:30 p.m. last week after a 7-hour flight. I only had .75 in my wallet after being robbed by the airline but I know that I will need $1.50 for the bus. The airport’s ATM is out of service. Surely, in a world class, progressive, transit-friendly, metropolitan hot spot like Seattle this won’t be a problem. Of course, as a loyal and responsible transit rider I would never haggle with a Metro driver over the fare so I endeavor to find a solution. I ask everyone I encounter about where I might be able to purchase a bus ticket from a human or a vending machine. Many people direct me to the very end of the airport to see the “Transportation” desk. After I drag my two suitcases from one of the airport to the other, literally, I arrive at the desk and tell the fraus working the counter that I want to purchase a bus ticket. They act as though I’ve asked to purchase a used maxi pad. They scoff, “We don’t sell THOSE here.” Really, and you’re the TRANSPORTATION counter? Obviously, I must be the crazy one. I ask if I can buy an entire bus pass…NOPE, don’t sell those, either. Why don’t I try the ATM and then getting change from someone? Thank you for that invaluable suggestion! I can see why two of you are needed at the counter and I hope my tax dollars will be used for your raises. I ended up wandering the parking garage collecting SmartCartes for almost an hour in order to claim the .25 returns. In 2008, this is what I have to do to be able to take the bus from a major airport into a major city? How do we expect tourists to put up with this? Especially those used to efficient public transportation ticketing systems?

    1. That’s outrageous. I’ve had trouble buying tickets at drug stores before (hint: apparently only Bartells, and the one on Queen Anne always runs out), but I would just assume they’d sell them at the transportation desk at the airport!

      I can’t wait until Link starts up. I bet they’ll have ticket machines.

  4. Healdsburg and CLoverdale will be connected to the rest of the Bay Area with the new Sonoma-Marin Commuter Train in a few years. CalTrain goes to San JOse, but also has a few runs that terminate in Gilroy. Also, BART was supposed to be much bigger, and encompass 9 counties, including Marin, served via a lower deck on the Golden Gate Bridge, which was never built.

  5. The Bay Area does have an absurb number of transit agencies though, at least a dozen, and the jurisdictions are a lot smaller and less logical. Imagine if Seattle were independent and had its own transit agency, and all the buses from East and South King County were run by independent agencies as well, each with their own fare policies and rates, and no interagency transfers. And the Sounder would be run by a separate agency governed jointly by Seattle, South King County, and Pierce County, while Link would be built by yet another agency, this one a special-purpose district with members elected directly by the people.

  6. LA could be going one better, to keep the Metro Gold Line Construction Authority in business, they are considering extending the Montclair Extension of the Pasadena branch of the Gold Line to Ontario International Airport. One problem as for funding and governance. OIA is not in Los Angeles, and I doubt Los Angeles County Voters would pay for it beyond the county line.

  7. Is there really any comparison between the SF Bay area and here? Multiple counties (7+), huge population (more than our state), covering a large land mass with a large body of water seperating it all.

    Bay Area is a little less than twice the size of the general Seattle area, but really does have a huge number of transit organizations. I guess it does work out alright, but it’ll be a lot nicer if they had better transfers, e.g., Caltrain connecting to Transbay Terminal and the BART/Muni Stations. But just looking around at all the transit projects going on there is incredible. BART to San Jose, BART to Antioch, the SMART train, the Central Subway, the Dumbarton Bridge Caltrain extension, the Salinas Caltrain extension, Caltrain electrification, the Oakland Airport Connector… and those are just the ones that are funded, there are many more being planned.

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