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Image from Flickr contributor Redjar

All this talk about fare structures has sparked some yearning for turnstiles.  I refer you to my post on the topic last summer.

The only thing I might add is that although it’s true that LINK has surface stations, there are fairly high walls at every point except the on-ramps at the ends and (of course) the tracks themselves.  While those obstacles aren’t insurmountable, they aren’t any easier to negotiate than simply jumping the turnstile.  In any case, you’d have to have security, so the surface station issue isn’t really relevant.

You couldn’t have turnstiles in the DSTT when shared with buses, of course, but it’d be easy enough to assume anyone exiting without an entry swipe is coming from there and assess the maximum fare.

All that said, despite my East Coast biases I’m not terribly energized on this issue and am happy to see how the honor system works out here.

39 Replies to “Turnstiles”

  1. I’ve used turnstiles on WMATA and never complained one bit. It was even clearly marked (like in the picture above) so me & my trusty wheelchair could easily get though. Less money wasted on cheats

  2. You should absolutely have turnstiles in the bus tunnel. Because the buses should cost the same flat fare as the link! This is supposed to be easy, right?

    Why can’t I just pay one fare, and get anywhere I want to go?

    1. Buses already have a built in turnstile in essence, its the entry doors.
      You install a small smart card reader and require users to tap and go.
      For those annoyed with sourcing the correct change for bus fare each time the ORCA smart card would resolve a lot of these kinds of issues and improve loading times.

      All cash paying customers still need to insert their cash into the bus farebox as already required.

      Let’s be a little more realistic here.
      Is someone now going to suggest that we enclose all bus stops and install turnstiles? Obviously very unrealistic.
      So what since does it make to impose turnstiles with part of the bus system but not all of it.
      Also the bus and LRV lines provide different levels of service justifying different fare tables.

      Heavy rail Sounder at even a higher cost of operation considering diesel fuel cost.

      This again is why the ORCA smart card project is so important to ease the purchase and pay of fare for the customer. It is expensive in the back end for the agency but mitigates cost and risk of excessive cash collection and handling processes.

      1. No when you get on a bus outside of the tunnel, you would pay when getting on. But when the buses are in the tunnel, people would just get their ticket that could be used on both buses and Link, put it in the turnstile, then go and get on the bus without doing anything with the farebox on the bus. Vancouver uses the same fare for buses and the Skytrain (the buses spit out a little printed ticket) and they are installing turnstiles at Skytrain stations. It can be done, and it’s really not that hard.

    2. Well said Jeff! Sound Transit was created to provide ‘transit to the masses’ using a spine network of rail lines, and relying on local bus routes to feed the spine. It is imperative to follow through with an original goal of Sound Move, and that is fare integration — simple, seamless, transfers from one vehicle to the next.
      The 5 local transit agencies and WSF have had 12 years to figure this out, and are still fighting the good turf war.
      Simplify the fare structure, everyone does it the same, uses the same media, honors everyone else’s fares for transfer and maximizes on/off boarding volumes with all doors open policies. Cheaters can be dealt with in a variety of ways, but let’s ‘juice up’ the system to make the other 95% of honest people have a pleasant, rapid, and hassle free trip.

  3. I vote in favor of a honor based fare system if proper fare inspection measures are implemented.

    Light Rail = honor based system = reduced technical and mechanical overhead with the lack of turnstile maintenance.
    I vote for Fare Inspector Agents making random but consistent fare inspections with strict citation issuing.
    Not the very lax fare inspection methods used on Sounder regardless of the lax Great North West attitude we tend to hold near to heart.

    Include deputized uniformed Fare Inspectors with badges and hats. Each to be issued a state of the art handheld with integrated capabilities of scanning RFID tags/tokens, ORCA Smart Card for confirmation of proper fare validation, integrated digital camera, and wireless connectivity.

    To ensure the fare inspectors are making their required inspection rounds you need to install RFID tags/tokens at the inside A and B end of every single Link LRV car and key location at each station platform. When the Fare Inspector boards any LRV he is required to scan the RFID tag/token creating a time stamped log of his location to his handheld reporting back to the database for management review. This type of measure ensures the security staff, and fare inspectors are not sluffing off at the local Starbucks for half a shift at a time. This also provides a mechanism for security management and the agency to support auditing and future effectiveness planning.

    The digital camera to be used for photo capture of the fare invaders face and for decoding the barcode on the back of the violator’s drivers license for faster data entry during the citation process. Touch screen for collecting violator’s signature.

    Integrated Bluetooth to support print job to the fare inspectors wireless belt worn thermal printer for paper citation generation.

    Integrated GPRS modem to support thermal printer and back end database reporting. Allows for continued text communications with security base dispatch.

    When Fare Inspectors are on a beat they can better isolate drunk and intolerant patrons and call for transit police or the local sheriff to arrive at the next station to make appropriate arrest. Those dead beats that continue to try to ride without paying proper fare should legally be blacklisted and cited with no trespass from the transit property. A blacklist photo database should be implemented wirelessly accessible from the fare inspectors handheld device. Increased mobility of security / fare inspection personal on the light rail system will also help in identifying individuals engaging in illegally activities on the transit property and improve safety and confidence of the riders.

    Subway = turnstiles = more technical overhead and maintenance support for the turnstile network. In addition you implement a less effective stationary security guards sitting in a booth watching the turnstile lines for “jumpers” attempting to execute fare invasion.

    First things first ERG has to get the Smart Card program fully operational for much of this seamless low line queuing of “tap and go” fare validation at the stations to be fully implemented.

    The electronic purse and tap and go hasn’t even been publically released to the Sounder line yet…
    Ambitions measures to have this ready for Seattle Link are indeed under way.
    Let us not even discuss all the other promised services this ORCA was announced to support, WSF, and our hand full of bus services. At some point this will be realized as well.

    Bye the way Portland Trimet has much older Scheidt and Bachmann Ticket Vending Machine technology only issuing paper tickets.

    Seattle Link Light Rail will have a brand new fleet of S&B TVM with much more improved technologies!
    With the addition of ERG Smartcard solution if ST opens the option there could be secure web-based fare collection methods to add purchased value to the users ORCA smart card therefore reducing TVM and retail pay station usage greatly improving fare collection issues at the station platforms.

    1. I agree the fare collecton/payment should be honor based. I’ve seen this in action and it seems to work well. I believe the fare evasion rate is lower on honor based systems than on turnstile based ones. Furthermore there is the advantage that fare inspectors act as de-facto security guards at stations an on trains as well.

      I wouldn’t call the fare inspection on Sounder “lax”. I’ve been asked for proof of payment every time I’ve ridden. Best I can tell the conductor checks the entire train at least once during the trip. On Tri-Met I’ve never been checked despite riding it much more over the past 20 years than I’ve ridden Sounder.

      1. I ride Sounder four to five days per week and get checked about once a month. That is lax to me. The inspection seems to have really dropped off in the past 6 months or so, because I used to get checked about once a week. It’s also much easier to do proof of payment on Sounder because there are long distances between stations, while on Link someone could just hop off at the next station if they see a fare inspector comming.

      2. Katie,
        I’ve made up for you not getting checked. My pass was checked on Sounder the last five of the seven times I rode in the last two weeks.

  4. My main reason for wanting fare inspectors is to have an added layer of security. There are plenty of bus routes I would never take right now…

    1. Really? Which ones are those? The only route I hesitate to ride and find myself wishing for uniformed security on every trip is the 358. None of the other routes I’ve ridden (some on a daily basis) in the CD, SE Seattle or Burien/White Center seems to have nearly the same level of problems.

      1. To me the criteria of a safe transit system is something I would be comfortable with having my wife and baby ride alone on. From my occasional bus use that would not be the case on many routes, especially south of I-90.

        Outright violence is not too common but rude passengers, drunks/homeless, creepy staring types, loud gangbanger wannabes etc. In our Europe travels it felt like everyone took transit, here off peak that is not usually the case. It’s just not worth it to put up with this type of crap.

  5. Make it simple. Make it low-tech. Blue Tooth and WiFi are great tool, but most people still don’t use those by choice or they can’t afford them.

    Many European subways, suburban trains, and trams use the honor system (Munich, Prauge trams, etc.). In Prauge, you can buy tickets for the tram and bus at any tobacco shop. Maybe Seattle can do the same: anywhere that sells Lotto tickets could sell transit tickets in single use, discounted 10-packs, or day passes, that get validated on the platform/bus/tram. Of course, there must be enforcemnt of validation, and high fines for “schwarzfahren” (fare-dodging).

    There MUST be a common fare structure for light rail, streetcars and busses to make transfers easy and fast. The more complicated it gets, the more people will decide to drive instead.

    1. That’s right: when I studied at the Vysoka Skola Economicka in Zizkhov (now ten years ago, almost to the day), I simply bought a monthly (or 3-month) pass that got me on every sub, tram, and bus in Prague…even to the far reaches of town. It would be like going from Alderwood Mall to Southcenter to Issaquah, all on one ticket. Awesome, LOL.

      And if I forgot to renew the monthly pass at the main nazdrazi, you’re right: I would simply walk across the street to a tobacco stand, and purchase a day ticket there.

      Good times!

  6. I wonder if they could make a system that takes a picture like a red light camera and alerts security staff at the station when someone jumps the turnstile, and then if the security staff doesn’t get him, they can beam the picture to security people on the train.

    1. Or if you want to go all out, you could install a security gate like the ones they use at the DSTT entrances. They will block the track until a train comes then it will open and let it through. But that’s too complicated and probably not worth it.

      1. Not exactly what I meant but a great suggestion! That would prevent accessing the platform from the tracks and objects or people falling onto the tracks. Seems easier and more beneficial to implement than my suggestion.

        I’ve never heard of a system implementing platform doors for at grade street level systems before. It might not work in the transit tunnel shared with buses but we won’t need them if access is already controlled.

        What I was trying to describe was a retractible barricade which is probably more suited in stopping cars and trucks than people who would climb over them.

  7. LINK is traveling through some of the poorest, highest crime neighborhoods in the state. Unless a person is naive, most people realize that there will be a very high percentage of people who don’t pay the fare if it’s going to be left to the honor system.

    1. Sound Transit plans on having a good number of fare inspectors on duty once Link opens. Supposedly an honor system plus fare inspection has a higher fare payment compliance rate than systems with turnstiles.

      As for the neighborhoods the initial link segment will be passing through your comment tells me you haven’t actually spent much time in those neighborhoods. For one thing they are rapidly gentrifying, for another the amount of petty crime isn’t noticably higher than other part of the city.

    2. A “very high percentage”? Honor systems almost universally have exceptional compliance rates. I’d be surprised if Seattle is the exception. Honor system is also a misnomer. Having fare inspectors randomly screen passengers will, hopefully, ensure compliance.

      The cost of having a set of turnstiles at every station in addition to having security — to make sure people aren’t simply walking on the tracks to the station (which will be very easy at places like Sodo and in the Rainer Valley) — is just not worth it. We’d be spending more money on enforcement than the revenues we’d lose from having an honor system with fare inspectors.

      Encouraging fare inspections also means more security presence on trains.

      The two benefits I see from turnstiles:

      1) They seem more big city, urban, and sexy.

      2) They make sure people tap in and tap out since Orca, like London’s cards, require that.

      1. Maybe “exceptional” is a little over the top. Apparently LA did a study and found that 5% of riders evaded fares.

  8. I propose using the “honour” system for *both* buses and rail, taking drivers out of the fare collection loop altogether. Tickets would be sold at stores and at vending machines at major bus stops (I’ll define all timepoints as “major” for this purpose) as well as rail stations. Drivers would sell one-ride tickets at a premium but have no other responibility regarding fares. Rather, passengers would validate their tickets at a machine either before boarding at major bus/rail stops or on the bus at other stops. Passholders wouldn’t have to do anything unless the inspector comes. Random fare inspections would occur and penalties would be as follows: 1st offence, 5 times the fare that should have been paid. 2nd offence, 100 times the fare. 3rd and subsequent offences, 90 days in jail. (Only offences within the last 4 years would be counted.) The rapidly increasing penalties would get people’s attention…. (All fines should go to the transit system.)

    1. 90 days in jail for not paying a fare? Now that will certainly bump up costs. (“What are you in for?” “I knifed a guy for looking at me wrong. You?” “I forgot my wallet at home”)

      1. True, but since it would only apply after the 3rd time in a rolling 4-year period, I doubt if anyone really forgets their wallet that often….

        More importantly, it would be a serious enough deterrent that even with a 1 or 2 percent chance of getting caught, people wouldn’t risk it….

  9. I’d like to say that the existing Ride Free area rules, as far as WHEN TO PAY, should apply—

    Heading Downtown: Pay when you get on.
    Leaving Downtown: Pay when you get off.
    Travelling within Downtown: Pay nothing.
    Ride after 7 PM (both directions): Pay when you get on.

  10. the problem is fare inspection will likely be rare especially when they start cutting costs.

    fare inspection on MAX in portland is rare and unheard of on the portland streetcar. a lot of problems have been associated with those riders that evade fares.

    regardless of turnstiles or honor system, Link and the entire transit network need strict enforcement of fare evasion and crimes within the system. you know who is a lost tourist and who is taking advantage of the honor system. you dont want to let the trains get out of control with roudy people and a culture of not paying fares… there has to be a sense of law and order and people need to feel safe and unthreatened at all times.

    also i hope they can keep the DSTT stations nice and clean as they have been since they opened almost 20 years ago. i have always been impressed with the appearance of the DSTT stations. while i dont like the new ads in the stations, my hope is the revenue from them will cover the increased station maintainance costs of having the stations open much longer than now.

    1. Portland used to have the honour system on *buses* too (much as I propose and is common in Europe). They also used to have a lot more frequent fare inspections. The first stop outside Fareless Square was always a huge one for the fare inspectors, but they could show up *anywhere*. Added bonus: people were less likely to cause trouble knowing the fare inspectors could show up on any bus at any time….

  11. There’s a dusting of snow on the ground right now. From my scanner: Just now Metro cancelled the route 44. They are telling routes 43 and 49 to take the route 70 wire. Buses stuck up on Beacon Hill….

    Simply amazing

  12. Right now one coordinator has over 60 calls in the que to talk to her. Presumably, many of those drivers are stuck. 3rd Ave southbound blocked. Buses rerouted to 2nd. I’d hate to be waiting for a bus right now. It’s a total meltdown out there.

  13. Yeah, I measure a bit over 3″ of snow sticking on the top of Queen Anne, and still snowing heavily. Tomorrow morning will be interesting.

  14. I’ve got my scanner going too. (Can’t pick up Metro here as I’m in one of the many radio black holes.) There are blocking accidents everywhere and many roads are just being closed because sanding crews weren’t ready. Glad I don’t have to go anywhere until tomorrow.

    It’s supposed to turn to rain by midnight but we all know how that goes.

  15. Craig, the main frequencies that are being used right now are 452.725, 452.650, 452.375, and 452.650 if you can get them.

    1. Thanks Sam. I’ve got ’em programmed already, I just can’t get the signal down here in Kent for some reason. Everywhere I’ve lived in the south end they come in fuzzy, but here, complete static. They also use 452.275 (East county and route 41), and 453.375 (South county and the 71, 72, 73, 74, and 75 for some reason) and 452.350 (supervisors). Oh and 453.525 (tunnel control).

  16. My bus got stuck trying to leave Kingsgate P&R. It was a hybrid articulated 255 to Brickyard. It’s only a layer of compacted snow a few millimeters thin and the bus couldn’t get any traction. Having the exit be a very slight incline to the street doesn’t help either. It took me 30 minutes to walk home with 2 other people. They were good company.

    I don’t have any snow removal tools other than a small shovel. The rest of my family are still at the store so I used one of my Mass Transit Now signs to plow the driveway for them. About 3″ here in Kingsgate. They might have a hard time getting off Capitol Hill.

    Tomorrow’s lows are forecast to be above freezing. Hopefully the snow won’t be sticking around for very long.

  17. What I don’t understand is how do the fare inspectors doing random inspections know that those using the swipe cards have swiped?

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