Seattle Streetcar, by Mike Bjork
"Seattle Streetcar", by Mike Bjork

The Seattle Streetcar official website welcomed the arrival of Link light rail and the ORCA smartcard. It announced that ORCA card readers will be installed on streetcar station platforms next year.

While ORCA e-purse users have to wait until next year to pay with their card, ORCA passholders can show their card as proof of payment. Funnily enough, an ORCA card looks the exact same whether it carries a monthly PugetPass or an e-purse… So draw your own conclusions.

Hopefully we can get ORCA readers installed into the streetcars themselves some day. Now that the South Lake Union Streetcar connects with Link, has anyone noticed an uptick in ridership?

141 Replies to “ORCA passes now accepted on SLUT”

  1. haha love the title, thats good news though – it’s never really felt like transit to me, maybe this will change that.

    1. Everyone calls it The SLUT :D

      Much easier to say “The SLUT” then to say “South Lake Union Line of the Seattle Streetcar”

      1. Well, I would never call someone a slut. But is someone is super offended by simply reading the word then they probably should stay off the internet.

      2. The people took over and usage dictates the name! People don’t call it the SLUS, and “the Streetcar” isn’t descriptive enough when we have a First Hill streetcar and a 1st Ave streetcar in the works.

        As for super offensive and hurtful… We could all use some levity at times.

      3. I’m not personally offended by it, but I know people who are. I’m somewhat disturbed, and I would be fine with it if it hadn’t started with “ride the SLUT.”

      4. Group Health station :D

        I got shirts for my whole family over the weekend when they visited

      5. Those station names are really weird. They’re obviously named for sponsors, but the sponsor is featured so prominently that you could be forgiven if you thought that UW Medicine is based in South Lake Union Park (SLUP! hehehe).

      6. Terry & Thomas is Next! Sponsored by GroupHealth!

        (did I get that right? Haven’t been on The SLUT in a while)

      7. I believe UW Medicine does have some office space in South Lake Union so it isn’t like they have no presence in the neighborhood.

      8. Yeah, but what if I was riding the streetcar expecting to end up at the Group Health or UW Medicine emergency room. Just kidding.

        Pacific Place is near the Pacific Place station – but you can’t see it from there.

  2. Why are they putting them on the platforms? It’s one price, so they could just put them on the trains.

      1. Why is this a mantra? On-board payment is only truly a problem if it delays the bus, right? On trams and rail systems around the world, it ain’t a problem.

      2. true.dat.

        The streetcar system in Den Haag (which, by the way, is awesome, and should be studied by anyone planning a streetcar line in an American city) has payment stations at each door. Pretty simple.

        And, instead of having to buy 10 card readers, they just buy 3 of them, one for each car.

        Is there a point at which the streetcar is going to go far enough that there will be more than one zone? Why not have a scan on/scan off system ride onboard?

  3. Why can’t I load a daypass onto my Orcacard? Metro has a Daypass on Sat/Sun, and apparently 2 roundtrips equal a daypass on ST – why can’t these be easily loaded onto an OrcaCard on the website?

      1. There’s a secret answer. Buy a Link round trip ticket. It doesn’t have a time on it, and it’s good on buses. Alllll day, any day.

      2. That’s the best secret I ever heard, except you’re 2 hours late with it. I burned through a bunch of Metro free ride tickets today!

      3. Can you buy a Link RT ticket anywhere but at a TVM? What if you start on a bus? That’s why I want to be able to load it on the card

      4. I will again pine for a day maximum to be automatic for OCRA users… we should be encouraging more trips off peak

      5. By my reckoning as I observe the trickling increase in ORCA users, e-purse card owners are getting a great deal as 3 out of 5 times either the card doesn’t scan at all or the ORCA reader is out of order (the only way to reboot the system is to literally shut down the bus, go outside to the battery shutoff switch and cut the battery to the entire bus for 20 seconds – impractical on the fly).

      6. Keep in mind too that unless you’re sitting up front watching people use the ORCA reader – you’re not going to notice the problems as a passenger.

        Could be too that you’ve got good palm english and are able to tap your card in the right way, as many seem not to getting the “try again” message.

      7. I got the “try again” error the first few times and learned quickly about the proper way to tap the card. I can’t believe that those little handouts and posters ST produced tell people to “tap on farebox” for buses. Which is totally wrong.

        There was one time I tapped got the “try again” many times. This was on a 40-ft Gillig. The driver said the system said the card was broken. No way, I just tapped off Link light rail before that trip and it worked just fine.

        I listen for the beeps when people pay to gauge how things are going. Are there any situations when the reader will not beep?

      8. The beep is just an acknowledgement that something happened. Could be the fare went through, could be a “try again” message, could be an “insufficient funds” message, could be a “pass back”. All result in a beep, so hearing beeps without seeing the screen on the DDU or ORCA won’t tell you much.

      9. I know that but the beeps are different. There is a OK beep, an error beep, a low balance/pass expiring beep, for example. That’s enough for me to know whether a card read was successful or not.

  4. So the ORCA card is now effectively accepted everywhere except when the bus drivers disable it.

    What’s worse is the 3/4 drivers, already a rather unpleasant lot (and yeah, i get that dealing with that route might make you bitchy, but…) tend to be the ones who insist on screaming for payment when that’s all you have.

    Ergo, why i’ve gone back to a regular pass. Tired of getting yelled at by drivers, basically.

      1. I’ve been using my ORCA since day 2 in late April, and have never had any grumpiness from any KCM operators. The machines, on the other hand, and especially on the Gilligs, are anything but reliable.

      2. the sound transit drivers have been fine. most metro drivers have been fine.

        pierce transit? bad. the drivers on some of metro’s more troubled lines? really bad. if the machine’s disabled, whether by the driver or a lack of reliability (and i’ve seen both…), some drivers have chosen to see ORCA as an instrument of trying to skip out on the fare. it likely doesn’t help that i look pretty young and i’m not white, but…since they have no way to call it in to determine pass validity, most of them shrug and let you go. some drivers, and the 2/3/4 ones are the worst, will demand payment since you technically haven’t provided it, and a lot of those drivers are the ones most wont to be nasty to start with. a 3 driver threatened to call the cops unless i paid 1.75 (even though i had a valid $2 pass), so i decided to give up on the experiment and the pissiness of a small percentage of operators and just go back to a regular pass which nobody ever disallows.

      3. Oh well damn, I’ve never had any problems using my card, but I’ve mainly stayed on the eastside.

      4. Let them call the cops. They won’t. They’re bluffing. Just sit down and be quiet. Think about it. How would that conversation go? “Uh, yeah, I have a person here who’s ORCA card didn’t work, and they don’t have any money, would you send the police?” Won’t happen. The drivers cannot do that, and will get in trouble if they do!

      5. I ride the two of the 1, 2, 3, 4, 13, and 36 every day, and the driver never forced me to pay in cash when the reader wasn’t functioning.

      6. I had the same 66 driver try to force me to pay cash twice. I told him I had a valid pass on the card both times just got off or on the bus anyway. The first time it was pay as you leave so I didn’t really belabor the point. The second time I pointed out my card had a valid Puget Pass for the amount of the fare and I would be reporting him if he continued to press the point. I reported him anyway, just like I would a driver who refused other valid payment.

        If any driver refuses ORCA as payment or tries to make you pay using cash when the reader doesn’t register your card call their bluff and also note the coach number, route number, and the time. As soon as you get a chance report the incident to the agency who owns that route (Metro for Metro routes, ST for ST Express routes, PT for PT routes, etc.).

        Since ORCA will soon be the only way to buy a pass, ticket book, or do transfers the drivers who are being jerks when the reader isn’t working need to get with the program ASAP. The ones who are deliberately disabling the ORCA reader need to really not be driving for a living.

      7. my card works about 60% of the time – the failures seem to be broken into two broad categories – reader not working (about 70% of failures) and driver hasn’t configured the reader properly (either set to ‘ride free’ or out of service, etc.) for the remainder.

        often i’m the first swipe on a given route/run and i notice the first swipe seems to fail a lot, and you have to wait about 5-10 seconds, then retry and it works then. this is a lot slower than the old magstripe cards, and the driver gets ultra annoyed (somehow the reader not working is your fault) and you also look like the jerk tying up the bus somehow.

        i’ve seen varying driver behavior when it comes to orca. most just ignore when it fails and wave you by, but sometimes, for whatever reason, they just unload on some poor orca user. it seems like those readers must be super frustrating to deal with in addition with the myriad other duties and bureaucratic annoyances of driving for metro – which in turn probably lead to drivers taking that frustration out on the riders as opposed to the pretty absurd hodgepodge of crackpot fare control schemes currently in play. it will improve over time, i’m sure but right now it’s just a game of chance having an orca card.

        on the plus side, i’m saving about 40% on bus fares since the readers are so unreliable. it really hurts someone like me who cares because that’s KCM revenue that is not getting to its rightful home.

      8. At Sounder stations, talking with new ORCA card users, I’ve found it best not to tell them to “swipe” the card — that suggests a reasonably modern card reading system that can read a card on the move.

        As far as I can tell, ORCA readers want the card sitting still for a second or so to read them reliably — when someone is getting repeated scan failures, I tell them to “hold the card over the reader” rather than “swipe the card”, and it almost always works.

        Just wish they’d bothered to put ORCA readers at all the entrances to Sounder stations, rather than just the middle of the platforms. King Street is the only station I know of with a reader at the north entrance, and it’s just one reader, right at the bottom of the stairs. The backup will be problematic as more people switch to ORCA.

      9. I don’t want to have to report drivers constantly. If they’re willing to get the drivers up to speed and deal with the ones who deliberately disable the reader, great. However, i’m going to choose the path of least resistance because i’m stuck with these people being the ones who get my butt to school.

        And, yes, i’m completely with everything Andrew said. For now, though, i will avoid the game of chance and stick with a regular old pass where there is no game of chance.

      10. Heinousbitca,
        Well I love ORCA so far and wouldn’t want to give it up just because some drivers are being boneheads. If I were in your shoes I’d press the point each and every time, but then again I get a certain amount of perverse amusement at times from watching people dig themselves a deeper hole when I know I’m in the right.

        I consider this right up there with a driver refusing passes if the pass reader or cash fares if the bill feeder on the farebox is broken. As a rider it isn’t my damn problem and I was ready, willing, and able to present a correct fare.

      11. I’d point out that despite you’re being “right”… it’s still technically illegal. Your argument doesn’t work in the City for broken parking meters, either. You can still be ticketed for not moving your car to a working meter or not walking to a working machine.

      12. Mickymse, heinous seemed to be talking about ORCA pass — as in, a PugetPass on an ORCA card. In other words, she paid for a pass for the month. She isn’t skipping fare. The tech is just broken.

        However, an ORCA e-purse user is “technically” obligated to pay just like you’d have to pay for a soda from 9/11 if the credit card reader is down. But given that it’s public transit which requires exact change, and technology is the main failure point here, I think drivers should just let people on when the ORCA reader is down.

      13. Is that actually true that I need to carry around cash in case my e-purse magically disappears?

      14. John,
        The driver has no way of knowing if an ORCA card has a pass or just an e-purse on it just by looking at it. Furthermore there is the issue of soon you won’t be able to get a transfer by paying a cash fare. The best policy for the local transit agencies is just to waive people on if the ORCA reader isn’t working unless they are prepared to announce what amounts to a major policy change well in advance and engage in a public education campaign.

      15. Mickymse,
        The rules surrounding parking meters are an entirely different thing than those surrounding payment of transit fares. Fare payment is also different than paying for a soda at 7-11.
        Furthermore there is the aspect of agency policy. Metro doesn’t want drivers getting into arguments over fares, they also have a policy of letting people ride for free if the cash collection part of the farebox breaks on the road rather than insisting people present a pass or transfer and refusing rides to people who want to pay with cash or tickets. I think a malfunctioning ORCA reader needs to be treated the same as a malfunctioning farebox.

      16. Yes, i’m discussing an ORCA *pass*. I had a $1.75 pass on my ORCA card in June, and despite that was forced to pay cash fare twice, both times on the wonderful 3, and both times by the same driver. I had a Pierce Transit driver get annoyed because “I don’t know how to work that (expletive) from Seattle” but i was carrying the kid i babysit and he backed off because she called him a “meanie.” Heh heh heh.

        The problem with complaining is that on the 3/4, i’m the only person trying to pay with an ORCA card, and this driver is pretty abusive and vengeful toward passengers, especially other disabled passengers. If i complain, he knows who’s complaining.

        On PT, the driver got a talking-to and their sup was extremely apologetic. She was also willing to put it in writing that if they can’t read the card, ride’s on them.

        Metro? No such luck. They say so, allegedly, but nothing on official web pages or letterhead. So i ended up out 3.50 for the month for buying the “wrong” pass.

      17. I’ve also noticed that most of the bad readers seem to be on the Gilligs. The readers on the D60 coaches (the high-floor artics) seem to have a higher failure rate as well. I’ve never had a reader fail to work on one of the DE60LF hybrid coaches yet.

    1. I was on the phone with ORCA customer service today while riding Link… basically, I had used $2 from my e-purse to buy a ticket with “VOID” printed six times on it. A Metro operator sitting behind me instructed me that I should inform any ornery drivers that they’re not supposed to get into any fare disputes and not to worry about it.

    2. How can you tell whether the machine is broken or the driver has disabled it? Most of my problems are the “try again” message. So I try it again and sometimes it works, sometimes I get another “try again”, and sometimes it says “pass back”. What’s curious about the “pass back” is apparently the first transaction did succeed but the reader never told me so.

      In NYC there’s some strange problem where you have to keep swiping your card at the same turnstyle until it lets you through. If you go to another turnstyle you’re double charged. Which means the reader did recognize the card and successfully charged it but… something didn’t happen. It couldn’t phone home? But then how do the other turnstyles know the card was charged? Is something like that happening here?

      In any case, they need to shorten the delay on the error message. I’ve found you can tap the card again while the message is displayed, but it’s instinctive to wait till the lights go off, so it’s hard to tap immediately. Part of your brain says to tap but your muscles wait.

      1. If the reader says ‘Out of service’ then it’s most likely the driver disabled it or didn’t set it up properly. I’ve seen readers that displayed an error message with a bunch of diagnostic information before.

        I found out about the error delay, too. When I realized that, I just removed and repositioned my card without waiting and it works. For some reason it’s really picky.

        “pass back” means your first transaction succeeded and you tapped it again. It’s intended to prevent cheating on passes/discount fares by handing your card to another person.

      2. Jeff Welch suggests otherwise. I saw this happen on the 545 the other day. The driver was obviously comfortable with the system, as he switched it from RFA to 1-zone when leaving downtown and then to 2-zone after the Montlake stop (most drivers I’ve seen go from RFA to 2-zone, if they remember to switch it at all). But then shortly after leaving Montlake the reader beeped and displayed the OUT OF SERVICE message.

      3. If the reader says ‘Out of service’ then it’s most likely the driver disabled it or didn’t set it up properly

        Drivers cannot “disable” the ORCA reader. It isn’t possible. It is automatically enabled when the driver logs on to the radio. The only way to manually disable ORCA would be to log off the radio – and no driver operates his or her bus without being logged in to the radio.

        What invariably happens (especially on trolley buses) is that the system has a power surge or goes through a radio dead spot (south Queen Ann this happens a lot) and the system spontaneously disables ITSELF. The only way to bring it back online is to literally pull the bus over, shut it down, go outside the bus and use the battery disconnect switch for 20 seconds to reboot the system.

        The only real ORCA related driver issues that do come up are forgetting to activate or deactivate the Ride Free Area (it isn’t automatic), or manually selecting the incorrect leg of the particular trip (can cause ORCA to think that it’s Peak instead of Off-Peak and vice-versa).

      4. How can you tell whether the machine is broken or the driver has disabled it?

        Drivers cannot “disable” the ORCA reader. It isn’t possible. What invariably happens (especially on trolley buses) is that the system has a power surge or goes through a radio dead spot (south Queen Ann this happens a lot) and the system spontaneously disables ITSELF. The only way to bring it back online is to literally pull the bus over, shut it down, go outside the bus and use the battery disconnect switch for 20 seconds to reboot the system.

        Your “try again” message is a function (usually) of the card not being held to the right part of the reader, or not being held to the reader long enough (usually a full one-one-thousand count).

        I see the “pass back” error a lot as well – you get the “try again” message repeatedly – even though your card WAS read.

        The thing about the ORCA system is that it really, truly sucks.

      5. “The thing about the ORCA system is that it really, truly sucks.”

        I disagree. That’s a very broad generalization. The concept is great. Sure, they made mistakes in the implementation on the buses but those can be fixed. It works very well elsewhere, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, where they gained operational benefits.

      6. My perspective is as a driver. I agree that the concept is great, and very much support the move to the technology. This system however seems to have an inordinate amount of glitches, and as observed here – people tend to blame things on the driver when it isn’t working right.

        If the system worked as it should – my “sucks” comment wouldn’t stand. As it is, with the frequent “try again” and “out of service” issues, I have a hard time recommending that anyone use it, and can report anecdotally that a lot of ORCA users are getting free rides due to these errors. The more people who use it – the more free rides.

        Not that Metro in particular prioritizes fare collection, but you get the idea. It’s frustrating when the darn thing doesn’t work – and it often doesn’t work.

  5. It seems to be my experience that sometimes the worst drivers are also the ones that seem to not know how to work the ORCA thing. I had one driver on a 574 in Lakewood insist that I tap anyway while it was set for 2 zones when I asked for one zone ( was going to Tacoma Dome). After a minute of arguing with her that she needed to set it up before I tapped while she said to tap first, I gave up and tapped it anyway. Oh well. Maybe there is a correlation between drivers not being able to work the readers and drivers that are chronically late?

    1. This kind of crap should not be tolerated. Refuse to tap. They are not allowed to insist on overpayment. Also, file a complaint – especially if you allow yourself to be overcharged.

      1. Except Pierce Transit is very insistent that the correct fare be paid. Last night I saw a 594 operator tell someone they couldn’t ride because they only had a dollar. She told them to take the 500. I need to call in a commendation.

      2. I’d still go sit down and tell them to call the cops or a supervisor if they were trying to make me overpay when I had a valid form of payment. Same thing if they tried to make me pay cash when the ORCA reader wasn’t working.

      3. Same thing if they tried to make me pay cash when the ORCA reader wasn’t working.

        Official King County Metro policy is to accept the ORCA card as a “flash pass” (i.e. just show it to the driver as accepted payment) if the reader is out of service. If you encounter a driver that is making you pay cash – even though frankly you’re getting a free ride if you’re an e-purse user and you don’t – then call Metro customer service, give them the bus number and time of day and let them know. The driver will be reminded of the policy when they review your complaint with their Base Chief.

        This also goes for Sound Transit routes operated by Metro drivers. Can’t speak to First Transit or CT policy as I don’t work for them.

      4. Well my ORCA has both a $2 Puget Pass and an e-purse so most of the time I’m not getting a “free” ride when the reader doesn’t work. At worst it is the difference between the value of my pass and the fare amount.

      5. Different graphic designs for different types of ORCA card, just like there are currently different designs for different kinds of passes. They can remain branded with the ORCA logo etc. with some sort of indication as to whether it’s an adult pass, youth pass, monthly, e-purse only, etc.

        Not rocket science, really.

      6. I could see doing a different color for youth and adult cards, but I don’t see differentiating beyond that. I get a flex pass from my employer, and come next February its replacement will be on an ORCA. If I want to add money to it (for ferry rides for example), your method would require that I carry 2 cards: one with my flex pass and one for my e-purse. It would be far too difficult for a large employer to ask each person if they needed a FlexPass only card, or a FlexPass plus e-purse card. Plus many would think they only needed the FlexPass, then a couple months later decide they wanted to add money, and they’d be out of luck (FlexPasses are good for 12 months).

        Plus we’re just experiencing start-up issues right now. Once everyone gets more used to the system (drivers and passengers both) things will go much more smoothly. Similar systems work well in other parts of the world, and will here too.

      7. Differentiating passes and e-purses defeats the versatility of ORCA as the point is to have all of that in one durable card that’s reusable and lasts for years. The key is differentiating youth, adult, and senior/disablity cards. Of which the RRFP is already different. The youth cards have the expiration date of youth eligibilty inside so that they can’t cheat anyway.

        Eventually the ORCA card will become the only type of fare media, other than cash, in circulation. Cash payment won’t ever be going away. I remember SKAT trying out cashless fare payment (that required pre-purchased fare cards) for a while before reinstating fareboxes that take cash last year.

        Besides, it shouldn’t be the job of drivers to enforce fares anyway. I think you would agree.

      8. Actually I’m fine with epowering drivers to enforce fares more so than now. As it is, drivers can actually be reprimanded for asking for a fare if the customer calls to complain that they felt that the driver “embarassed” them by doing so. While I agree with the no fare disputes policy, passengers should hopefully see the driver as “in charge” of the bus, and not just a wheel-turning automaton that they can thumb their nose at over everything from paying the fare to yapping loudly on their cell phones to harassing other passengers.

      9. Except Pierce Transit is very insistent that the correct fare be paid. Last night I saw a 594 operator tell someone they couldn’t ride because they only had a dollar. She told them to take the 500. I need to call in a commendation.

        If I did that as a Metro driver I’d get a reprimand.

    2. Nathan,

      Maybe there is a correlation between drivers not being able to work the readers and drivers that are chronically late?

      One wonders what (or who) some of you folks would take your frustrations out on if there weren’t bus drivers out there to bash.

      Buses are late for the same reasons that you are sometimes late getting home in the evening if you drive your car: traffic caused by volumes, construction, accidents, etc. Add to that a wheelchair lift use or two (not built into the schedules), overloads, breakdowns and what you have is a bus that runs late.

      If buses could fly (FYI – they can’t), I’d be a pilot and not a bus driver – and your buses would likely run on time a heck of a lot more often.

      But don’t let that stop you from looking down your nose at me and complaining about things you don’t understand, K?

  6. The Streetcar was packed on Sunday for the Seafair parade. I was eating at Cold Stone and looked over and saw a hoard of people get off the purple car and thought “was I seeing something?” Never saw that many people getting off one of the cars since it started.

    The Monorail also looked rather full. I sure wish that the group that runs it would integrate it’s fares with the rest of the transit market. In addition to Streetcar and Monorail ridership, anyone know if Sounder and Tacoma Streetcar numbers are up as well?

    1. A lot of us want the Monorail fare-integrated with the rest of the region. You’re not alone

    2. just wait until it goes through Amazon.com’s new HQ campus … then the Streetcar will be plenty busy

      1. I think as with light rail, it just needs to go more places. An extension to Fremont/Ballard or Fremont/Zoo would make a lot of sense. So would taking it to the UW light rail station/UW hospital and on to U-Village.

      2. This answer is 80% sarcastic and 20% truth:People who look like me might take the train there. You know, rather than driving there, which we do anyways. See also Kemper Freeman’s lovely quote about keeping certain people out of Bellevue, when the irony is that we live there.

        However, i think there’s a more racially innocent motive: There’s a butt-ton of parking at U-Village. It’d be Instant Park-N-Ride, and i don’t think they want that.

      3. I’m not sure U Village doesn’t want transit service. I’ve never heard anyone associated with the mall ownership or management express that view. It does tend to be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction of mall ownership and management in general but I think both Kemper Freeman Jr. and Sr. are in their own special category. See the book Strawberry Days for an account of how Kemper Freeman Sr. acquired those strawberry fields Bellevue square was built on.

      4. my answer is that the people that are likely to go shopping and spend big $$$ are not going to be transit users, at least not around here. Kemper knows that rich housewives are taking the BMW to the mall… not wait around in the hot sun to sit in a hot bus with commoners.

      5. Hmm, that’s funny because I’ve made some rather substantial shopping trips on public transit or via walking. I suspect the amounts I spent were well in excess of the average amount spent in a single trip to Bellevue Square.

        Ok I’ll admit I’m hardly the average shopper but it isn’t true that people prepared to spend substantial amounts of money don’t arrive to stores via transit.

  7. To answer the original question: I rode the SLUT from Lake Union down to City Kitchens today and noticed no ridership uptick. ‘Twas as empty as usual. It seems that line won’t be more popular until it is either extended or directly connected to another streetcar.

    I’m pretty new to town, but to me pushing the trolley north is a no-brainer. You don’t even have to bother crossing the canal: a streetcar running from the heart of Eastlake to Westlake Center would make a very nice and popular little commuter line—especially since in that area there is (relatively) decent pedestrian and bicycle access for folks on the other side of I-5.

    To scale back even more, simply extending the line a half-mile (or whatever) to the Eastlake-Fairview intersection would drastically increase its utility, pulling many more residents and businesses into the half-mile radius of the route’s northern terminus.

    Anyway, my two cents.

    1. It really is a no-brainer, but there are other things the City wants to ask for money for first.

      Ridership is exceeding expectations! They didn’t expect as many people to ride it as do now.

      1. AFAIK the First Hill and First Avenue streetcars are a higher priority. From what I understand extending SLUT to the U-District is right after those two lines in the list. I believe the City wants to get that done sometime before U-Link or at least North Link opens.

      2. I’m not so sure about that. In order to get the streetcar past the current terminus at Fred Hutchinson, the Fairview Street bridge will have to be reinforced, and I don’t see that happening. With Link on track to reach the University, I’d much prefer–after First Hill and First Avenue–a Fremont/Ballard line. As I’ve mentioned, there is no direct bus service between Fremont and Ballard commercial districts. The only issue is where to put the tracks on Westlake, as there is a virtual parking lot extending from Valley almost to the Fremont Bridge….Besides, Ballard and Fremont will never have any ST lines, save for possible light rail, but that would be decades in the future. A streetcar extension can be built in a couple of years.

      3. Truth be told I’d like to see both an Eastlake/U-District and a Ballard/Fremont streetcar line, as well as a Ballard Link line. I’d also like to see the First Hill streetcar extended all the way to the U-district along Broadway/10th.

      4. I’d prefer that they build a maintenance barn for the waterfront street car and start that back up. All that’s needed is the barn and to remove the asphalt they dumped on the tracks at the turn into Pioneer Sq. That’s gotta be the least cost way to get another 2miles of track in service.

      5. Did the waterfront streetcar actually get all the much ridership? I agree that it was kind of cool, though I never used it personally. Did a lot of people use it?

      6. Steve,
        Well a lot more people used it than use the free bus which replaced it.
        It was often full during tourist season and could have quite a few people on it even in the dead of winter.
        True a lot of the riders were tourists, but other than just novelty rides they were using it to get back and forth along the waterfront, to/from the ID, King Street Station, and Pioneer Square. A popular transit line is a popular transit line no matter who is riding it or for what reason.
        I think the average daily ridership was somewhere around 2000 but I’m not exactly sure.

    1. In SoDo, where the tracks are surrounded by fences and gated crossings. You would have to be pretty out there for that to happen.

      I wonder who is more excited about this.

    2. Unfortunately there rarely passes a month when I don’t hear about someone committing suicide by throwing themselves in front of a suburban train here in Paris.

      I don’t want to jump to conclusions; we have no idea if this was a suicide. But I can say this will not be the last time.

      1. It’s just a weird article..claims that there were no witnesses, and also claims that the person jumped at the last minute in front of the train. If there were no witnesses, how does anyone know anything other than there is a dead guy under the train?

        Anyway my condolences to anyone who knew this guy.

      2. Imagine they mean no *independent* witnesses — I would guess the operator saw him jump, but just as the car driver isn’t usually referred to as a “witness” in a car/pedestrian accident, the train operator was *involved* in the incident, so he’s a party to it, not a “witness.”

    3. … and the trolls have already made their way to the comments on komotv.com and seattletimes.com spewing their nonsense.

  8. OMG SLUT? LOL!

    Both the First Ave Streetcar and USLUT can be done at the same time considering they have different pots of money. FAS (nowhere near as fun, dang) is ST and USLUT is probably all City-O-Seattle funded. There probably is Seattle money in the FAS. Anyone know how it’s going to be funded?

    Thanks for using my pic Oran!

    1. First Ave Streetcar is not ST funded, it’s state funded with the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement. The First Hill Streetcar is ST funded, however.

  9. What are the chances that SLUT check fare people actually use an orca reader to verify?

    We have known ORCA was coming for years, it’s just wrong that the SLUT was not prepared for that.

  10. Good news about the Streetcar and Orca and sad news about the person who jumped under the train. I hadn’t previously thought of this happening, and am sad that it has. I fear there will be more occasions like this, but this is a complex society with many problems in a screwed up economy. The pressures on people’s sadness will not lower until we can get this wretched economy back on track.

    I am not sure that I would quite say that the Streetcar connects with Link, however. That is a disconnecting walk between the two stops. If SDOT had built an underground walkway between the two station areas, then we could say as much.

    As for ORCA in general, I wasn’t happy at the overload of payments I made when I took a casual trip on Link last week. Just getting out at stations en-route and getting back on, seemed to add charges continually as I went. I have written to Orca to investigate and so far have not had a reply. It seemed to me, that I was getting charged getting on at stations and getting charged when I got off at stations regardless of whether I was in the two-hour transfer limit or not. Anyone else had this problem?
    Tim

    1. I usually just cut through the basement of Nordstrom when I’m going from the streetcar to the tunnel. The walk is almost entirely out of the elements that way.

      1. Or cross kitty corner and enter the Westlake Mall, go downstairs to the station level and voila!

    2. Link transfers using ORCA seemed to work fine this past Saturday when I made a round-trip within the 2-hour window and it didn’t charge me for the return trip.

      How much was it adding each time? How much did you end up paying total?

    3. “I wasn’t happy at the overload of payments I made when I took a casual trip on Link last week. Just getting out at stations en-route and getting back on, seemed to add charges continually as I went. I have written to Orca to investigate and so far have not had a reply. It seemed to me, that I was getting charged getting on at stations and getting charged when I got off at stations regardless of whether I was in the two-hour transfer limit or not. “

      It is most likely that they were not an “overload of payments” but instead payments, refunds, and transfer notifications.

      For example, the other day we went from Beacon Hill to the ID, got out and had lunch, then went from the ID to Tukwila with a friend who had never ridden Link before, then back from Tukwila to Columbia City where we got out and saw a movie, then from Columbia City to Beacon Hill and home.

      Here’s how ORCA recorded it (edited a bit for clarity and to save space):

      04:21 PM / Purse Use on Entry / SOT, BEACON HILL STATION / -2.25
      04:32 PM / Purse Rebate On Exit / SOT, INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT STATION / 0.50
      05:43 PM / Purse Use on Entry / SOT, INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT STATION / -0.75
      06:23 PM / Purse Use on Exit / SOT, TUKWILA/S. 154TH STATION / –
      06:28 PM / Purse Use on Entry / SOT, TUKWILA/S. 154TH STATION / –
      06:48 PM / Purse Use on Exit / SOT, COLUMBIA CITY/EDMUNDS STATION / –
      11:04 PM / Purse Use on Entry / SOT, COLUMBIA CITY/EDMUNDS STATION / -2.00
      11:11 PM / Purse Rebate On Exit / SOT, BEACON HILL STATION / 0.25

      So here’s how it went — we entered the system at the Beacon Hill station and I tapped my ORCA card. It was debited 2.25, which is the maximum Link fare from Beacon Hill to any point on the route. I tapped to exit at the ID station, and my card was credited 0.50, because the fare from BH to ID is only 1.75. When we got back on the train an hour later, we were still within the transfer period so I was not charged a whole new fare, but my card was debited 0.75 to bring the fare up to the maximum Link fare, 2.50, from the ID station to any point on the route.

      We then rode Link to Tukwila. We exited there and no charges were made, and no debits either, since we rode to the end of the line and so the total $2.50 fare was correct.

      We looked around then tapped back in at Tukwila five minutes later. Still in the transfer period, so the card was not debited. Twenty minutes later, I tapped back out at Columbia City. Still in the transfer period, so the card was not debited.

      Several hours later, after the movie, I tapped back in at Columbia City. The card was then debited 2.00, the maximum fare from Columbia City to any point on the line. Then I tapped out at Beacon Hill, and was credited 0.25 since the fare to Beacon Hill from CC is only 1.75.

      Starting to make sense, now? I too thought ORCA might be overcharging me at first. But when looking up the transaction history on the website, it was clear that it’s actually working well. But I do think it is confusing to people, those debits and charges.

  11. I used my ORCA to go from Westlake Sta to Beacon Hill Sta to University Steet Sta on Link and then took my #11 home last Wednesday between 5:00 and 6:30 pm – tapped in/out where I was supposed to and it all cost me $2. Ni fuss, no muss.

  12. Well I hope they get the Orca cards straightened out as my employer is handing them out instead of the previously regular passes. There will be a lot of complaints if we all run into the same level of problems being reported here.

  13. Following are several ORCA-related questions I recently submitted to ORCA. Can anyone provide any related insight?

    1. After the free ORCA card offer ends, will cash customers be charged more than ORCA card customers on a trip that involves a transfer?

    2. Other than repeatedly purchasing new ORCA cards anonymously with cash, how can an ORCA card user travel via public transportation without having all of his uses of public transportation tracked and linked in such a manner that if the ORCA serial number was associated with him (such as would be the case if he was found to be carrying the card by someone who could read the serial number from it), details of all of his public transportation travels would be available to interested parties with access to ORCA data?

    3.Under what circumstances will the remaining balance on an ORCA card be canceled?

    4. Other than the time at which I board a public transportation vehicle and wave my ORCA card near the card reader, under what, if any, circumstances am I required to present my ORCA card — which seemingly is the link to a record of all my ORCA-paid public transportation use — to someone, and what law compels me to do so?

    5. After using my ORCA card to pay the fare for a trip on public transportation, will I receive any proof that I have paid that fare?

    1. 1. I believe ORCA’s website said intersystem paper transfers will be eliminated Fall 2009. The details of how that’ll work, I don’t know.

      2,3 I don’t know but have you tried reading the privacy statement and terms & conditions of use? It might answer some of the questions. They’re linked at the bottom of the ORCAcard.com site.

      4. RCW 81.112.220 requires you to “produce proof of payment when requested by a person designated to monitor fare payment.”

      5. The proof is in the smart card. The chip on the card stores the last 10 transactions.

      1. 4 & 5. Ah. So I’ll be required to present the card — the item that provides a link to all my ORCA-funded (i.e., regular, non-extra-charge-for-cash) public transportation travel — upon demand to someone roaming around with a card reader? If ORCA tells me that, my next questions will be “How can I identify someone who claims to be a fare inspector?” and “How can I prove that I have paid the fare without divulging information that would link me to the travel record of a particular ORCA card?”

      2. Other questions I posed after posting the previous comment:

        6. What, if any, information other than a serial number is stored on an ORCA card after it has been used?

        7. How can I check the balance of an ORCA card in my possession without boarding a public transportation vehicle, registering on the ORCA Web site, or identifying myself?

        8. How can I acquire an ORCA card after providing only cash — without providing a name, mailing address, e-mail address, or anything else that could personally identify me?

        9. What, if any, limits will participating transit agencies place on the number of ORCA cards someone may acquire or the frequency with which he may acquire them?

        10. How soon, if ever, will an unused card without any e-purse credit (e.g., an extra that I acquire and set aside for a visiting guest to use at a later date) expire after I acquire it?

        11. In the context of ORCA card purchases and activations, how is “fare product” defined? Your Web site states, “You must tap your card within 30 days of purchase to activate a fare product.” That is the only instance of the words “fare product” on that page. I am unable to find a definition on your site.

        12. How does an unactivated fare product differ from an activated fare product?

      3. By the way, I don’t represent nor work for ORCA or any transit agency. I just happened to know some things about it and wanted to figure out your questions.

        With regards to privacy and security the UW CSE department has a site with some info on those concerns: http://soctech.cs.washington.edu/wiki/ORCA/ORCA

        f-up 4 & 5 Ask the fare inspector for official identification. They should be uniformed. Right now they’re just looking to see if you have a card. If they come with readers and decide to use them, they may access any information on your card. Actually, they don’t need readers, the serial number is printed on the card itself! So I guess the answer is no.

        6. There’s other info stored on the card in encrypted form. Among those are E-purse value, any passes (with pertinent information), reduced fare status, last 10 interactions, last 5 revalues, etc.

        7. at a self-service ticket vending machine (TVM) although you still could be identified by CCTV cameras on the premises, the machines themselves don’t have cameras

        8. at a TVM (and again you may be identifiable from CCTV)

        9. No limits, you’ll just have to pay $5 every time you want a new card (the cards are designed to be reusable, tossing them away is very wasteful or you could give them to someone else). Disposable paper smart cards exist (like in Atlanta) but are not used by ORCA.

        10. don’t know but e-purse value is supposed to never expire. The agencies reserve the right to suspend your card if you violate their TOS. Soon, you won’t be able to get a blank one from the TVM anyway.

        11. Really? from the Terms of Service linked on the website:

        2.9 “ORCA Card” means the smart card that can be presented for payment of fare to ride train, bus and ferry
        services provided by, and in accordance with the terms established by, the Agencies. ORCA Card can mean cards
        issued to individuals and Business Cards, unless the context indicates it means one or the other.

        2.11 “ORCA Product(s)” or “Product(s)” means any transit fare payment option offered for sale within the ORCA Program, including, but not limited to, monthly or period passes and E-purse.

        A list of products is obviously shown on the site.

        12. Following from 11. activated means it’s been loaded on your card. (this is from other people’s experiences posted previously on this blog) Simply adding a product through the website does not magically transfer it to your card. That’s why the tap is required. It doesn’t apply if you loaded it at a TVM or service location as they are activated on the spot.

        Again, I don’t represent nor work for ORCA or any transit agency.

    2. if you have privacy concerns you can fill up with cash with the same orca card, you don’t have to buy a new card every time…

      1. That would only provide a minimal amount of privacy, because that particular ORCA card would be the link to all my travel history. If I’m ever linked to that card’s serial number, all previously-anonymous travel that has been stored by ORCA would cease to be anonymous.

        I’d much prefer a system like what’s used on Chicago — cards are free, available by paying cash at self-service machines, and the remaining balance is printed on the card each time it’s used.

      2. You don’t have to use an ORCA. You can buy tickets from any TVM for Link or use cash on the bus. You can also buy an unregistered ORCA from a TVM using cash, and check your balance at a TVM.

        Aren’t most of your questions answered on the ORCA website?

      3. Zed, it seems that you’ll have to pay extra to use cash if your trip involves a transfer, since paper transfers are being phased out. I’d like to get ORCA to confirm this.

        I read the FAQs on the ORCA site and did not find answers to my questions. Can you be more specific about those you think are answered there?

        As for checking the card balance at a TVM, the “Balance questions” section of the ORCA FAQ states:

        How do I view my card balance?

        After you have logged into your My ORCA Account, select the card you want to view then click on View Card Balance to see the E-purse value and valid passes on your card.

      4. The website said that “intersystem transfers” will be eliminated in “Fall 2009”. They are referring to paper transfers. Which means paper transfers from Metro can’t be used on ST, CT, PT and vice versa. You don’t pay extra if your transfers are all on a single agency’s service. (Didn’t I post that earlier?) They will come out with more information when that time approaches. There’s no way they will make a huge change without a public information campaign.

        It’s the ORCA website so they’re inclined to have you use it (registration required). And yes, you can check the balance at a TVM. I did it before. They weren’t really comprehensive with the answer.

      5. I was simply pointing out that if a person was genuinely concerned about their privacy on public transportation that they could still use cash to pay their fare. Maybe a higher cost will be incurred if you have to transfer, but it is still an option. A transfer is not a right, it’s a privilege granted by the agency who’s services you are using.

        The transfer policy for each agency is set by that agency, not ORCA, so you’ll probably have to contact the one that you use to find out how they are going to handle transfers. ORCA is simply a service for conveniently paying your fare, they don’t dictate the fare policies of the transit agencies that accept the card.

        As I pointed out in my previous comment, you can buy an unregistered ORCA anonymously from a TVM using cash.

        As for registered cards, this is from the ORCA website:

        “No personal information will be stored on your ORCA card. You may elect to register your card so it can be more easily replaced if lost or stolen. Participating agencies have planned for multiple layers of system security, which include data encryption for all communication systems, the use of passwords and secret questions for access to customer data and controlled access to all data. Registration information is stored in the central database only. Washington state laws protect your personal and travel use data from public disclosure”

      6. Thanks, Oran, for digging that up.

        If ORCA customers pay the same as cash customers, then I’m not nearly as concerned. But it seems that eventually, cash customers will have to pay more under some circumstances, and I don’t think that’s good.

        In January, 2009, John Jensen of Seattle Transit Blog reported:

        What we don’t know is the fate of paper transfers. It hasn’t been announced whether Metro will keep bus-to-bus transfers around nor whether Metro buses will accept light rail tickets as transfers. Reducing paper transfers saves money and reduces littering and waste. By outright eliminating paper transfers that cash-paying riders receive, transit agencies would de facto discourage cash payment. Another way would be reduced fares for ORCA riders.

        In April, 2009, Aubrey Cohen of the Seattle P-I reported:

        People will always be able to pay fares in cash, Munguia said. “Some people, we realize, will never switch over to this newfangled device.”

        But paper transfers will eventually go away, meaning only card users will get free transfers.

        Zed, I’m concerned not only with privacy, but with being able to use public transportation without someone amassing a record of all my travels, and the ability for everyone to do so without having to pay extra for it. Whether or not I am linked to a particular card at the time that I acquire it, I could be linked to it later, and that would mean that there was a record of my travels somewhere. In order to maintain our freedom, it’s important for us to be able to move and associate without being tracked by our government, no matter how innocent the original intent of that tracking may be.

        Does tracking ORCA users’ movements provide any advantage to those users? I suspect not. It’s useful for ORCA and transit agencies, but when our right to privacy and their desire for correlated usage statistics collide, we should take precedence.

      7. On July 1, 2009, Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services published an interview with Michael Miller, Accessibility Manager for Sound Transit’s Mobility Initiative Program including the following (emphasis added):

        Q: What is happening to the old paper transfers?

        Metro and the other bus providers will continue to issue paper transfers during the transition period. However, these transfers cannot be used when transferring between transit types.

        For example, you will still be able to get a paper transfer on a Metro bus and use it to transfer to another Metro bus. However, you cannot use it to transfer to Link Light Rail or another transit agency.

        Link Light Rail will not issue any paper transfers, and all transit agencies plan to eventually phase out paper transfers.

      8. For transit planners, they’ll love the extra data for origin/destination, transfer rate information. Before ORCA, such information is usually gathered by trip surveys or people onboard transit gathering data. Now we have a larger and more reliable sample of data that can be obtained for less cost. The better data we have the better we can plan service to meet the needs of transit customers.

        The question I now have is what is ORCA’s data retention policy? If the data collected is discarded or aggregated after a set period then I think that’s fair. I believe the EU has pretty stringent laws regarding data retention. Even Southwest Airlines’ website has a check box to tick if you’re a citizen of the EU

      9. Oran: regarding data retention: The ORCA Privacy Statement (PDF; 200KB) that was last modified June 2, 2009 states:

        13.1 Information collected through or generated by the ORCA Program may be retained in the ORCA central system and at individual Agencies; on both active databases and in archive systems; and in electronic as well as hard copy form.
        13.2 The Agencies will store all information related to the ORCA Program for as long as they believe it useful or required by applicable law.

      10. Phil,

        Yeah! CTA has done some neat stuff. CTA also has a pretty sweet proximity card system that was piloted around 2000 and launched full-scale in 2004: http://www.chicago-card.com/

        You can have either a monthly pass or a pay-per-use option that works like the mag-strip stored value cards, the $5 fee is waived for new users. I agree that a mag-strip stored value option would have been great for the Puget Sound region (and the TVM stock might even be able to accommodate it), but there really is no need to reinvent the wheel since Seattle has kind of skipped straight to ORCA.

        One thing I like about what CTA has done is the creation of special prox-card “Go Lanes”. They’re at train turnstiles and on the left side of front bus doors so you don’t have to wait in line behind the slower, mag-strip or cash paying customers: http://www.chicago-card.com/GoLane.aspx

        It would be great if Metro and the other ORCA participating agencies studied CTA’s results and implemented something similar here.

        With regard to your question about checking the balance of an ORCA card, just go to a TVM. You can buy a pass, add value or check value without ever registering your card. If you’re concerned about privacy, pay cash and maybe rotate through a few different cards.

        Also, the instructions on the site appear to be more about how to use the site than an online TVM guide.

      11. Today, I received responses to the messages I submitted to the ORCA people Wednesday. Six questions were answered. Six were unanswered, presumably due to miscommunication, and prompted me to followup.

        Questions that were answered:

        Q1: After the free ORCA card offer ends, will cash customers be charged more than ORCA card customers on a trip that involves a transfer?
        A1: The introductory card fee being waived is not related to cash customers – paper transfers are. When paper transfers are discontinued then, yes, cash customers will have to pay for each leg of their trip.

        Q5: After using my ORCA card to pay the fare for a trip on public transportation, will I receive any proof that I have paid that fare?
        A5: If you have registered the card, then you can view the card’s activity and the amount paid for each trip. Other than that, there is no proof, just as there isn’t any for non-ORCA users.

        Q8: How can I acquire an ORCA card after providing only cash — without providing a name, mailing address, e-mail address, or anything else that could personally identify me?
        A8: If you don’t want to provide your information you can add value with cash at ticket vending machine or at a customer service location.

        Q9: What, if any, limits will participating transit agencies place on the number of ORCA cards someone may acquire or the frequency with which he may acquire them?
        A9: Currently, there aren’t any limitations set for one person having an ORCA card.

        Q11: In the context of ORCA card purchases and activations, how is “fare product” defined? Your Web site states, “You must tap your card within 30 days of purchase to activate a fare product.” That is the only instance of the words “fare product” on that page. I am unable to find a definition on your site.
        A11: Fare product – any regional pass or agency pass or E-purse.

        Q12: How does an unactivated fare product differ from an activated fare product?
        A12: Unactivated – card has not been tapped and the amount is pending on the card. Activated – card has been tapped and balance shows on the card.

        Questions that received responses that require followup:

        Q2. Other than repeatedly purchasing new ORCA cards anonymously with cash, how can an ORCA card user travel via public transportation without having all of his uses of public transportation tracked and linked in such a manner that if the ORCA serial number was associated with him (such as would be the case if he was found to be carrying the card by someone who could read the serial number from it), details of all of his public transportation travels would be available to interested parties with access to ORCA data?

        ORCA response:
        Don’t register the card and no name will be associated with the card.

        my follow-up:
        Thanks, but it seems that you misunderstood my question. I’d like to know how an ORCA card user can travel via public transportation without having all of his uses of public transportation tracked and linked in such a manner that if the card’s serial number was later associated with him (I understand that it can initially not be the case) details of all of his ORCA-paid public transportation travels would be available to anyone with access to ORCA data.

        One way to accomplish such travel would be to repeatedly acquire new ORCA cards. This would prevent all travel from being tracked under a single card serial number. Unfortunately, that will eventually cost $5 per card.

        Your suggestion, to decline to register the card, does indeed prevent a name from being associated with the card, but does not prevent a record of all travels using the card to be stored somewhere (your privacy statement dated June 2, 2009 [1] says that transit agencies will retail travel records for as long as they find it useful to do so), and thus to accumulate a record that *will* be associated with the passenger if the card serial number is eventually linked to him — something which would seemingly be a simple matter, given that he will be carrying a card with that number both printed on and stored electronically in it.

        [1]: http://www.orcacard.com/ERG-Seattle/common/images/ORCA%20Privacy%20Statement.pdf

        Can you explain how someone will be able to travel without having a record of all his travels stored — even in an initially-anonymous manner — without paying cash (which will cost extra unless no transfers are ever involved) and without repeatedly forking over $5 to ORCA to start a new anonymous history?

        Q3. Under what circumstances will the remaining balance on an ORCA card be canceled?

        ORCA response:
        If the card has an E-purse balance, a customer can request a refund. Otherwise, the balance is not cancelled.

        my follow-up:
        Thanks, but it seems that you misunderstood my question. I’d like to know under what circumstances under which remaining e-purse balance on an ORCA card will be canceled. It seems that one such circumstance would be if the card was registered and the owner reported it lost or stolen, as the balance on the old card would be canceled and added to the new card. Are there any other circumstances? For instance, if I have a card with remaining e-purse balance and I don’t use it for a long period of time. Your site doesn’t seem to say.

        Q4. Other than the time at which I board a public transportation vehicle and wave my ORCA card near the card reader, under what, if any, circumstances am I required to present my ORCA card — which seemingly is the link to a record of all my ORCA-paid public transportation use — to someone, and what law compels me to do so?

        ORCA response:
        If the card is not registered, then there is no name associated to it. Even if the card is registered, it still allows for persons other than the registered name to use the card –
        we only know which route or station location the card was tapped.

        If you’d like, we can send you a copy of our terms of use and privacy statement to you. If interested, please email your mailing address.

        my follow-up:
        Thanks, but it seems that you misunderstood my question. I’d like to know under what, if any, circumstances I am required to present my ORCA card to someone, and what, if any, law compels me to do so.

        The bit about the card being a link to a record of all my ORCA-paid transportation seems to have confused things. I included it in my message to you only to explain why someone might be concerned about presenting his card to someone — particularly if until the time of presentation, the card was not associated with him, since it was unregistered.

        Q6. What, if any, information other than a serial number is stored on an ORCA card after it has been used?

        ORCA response:
        Any transportation value is stored on the ORCA card.

        my follow-up:
        Are you sure that the only information stored on the card after it has been used is a serial number and any transportation value? Other people I’ve spoken to are confident that much more information is stored on it, but I hoped to find out from an authoritative source on the matter: you.

        Q7. How can I check the balance of an ORCA card in my possession without boarding a public transportation vehicle, registering on the ORCA Web site, or identifying myself?

        ORCA response:
        You can’t check the balance of a unregistered card.

        my follow-up:
        I cannot check the balance of an unregistered card at all, or cannot check it without boarding a public transportation vehicle or identifying myself? In a recent discussion on the Seattle Transit Blog [1], someone wrote, ‘With regard to your question about checking the balance of an ORCA card, just go to a TVM. You can buy a pass, add value or check value without ever registering your card.” Was that person mistaken?

        References:
        [1]: https://seattletransitblog.com/2009/07/27/orca-passes-now-accepted-on-seattle-streetcar/#comment-58754

        Q10. How soon, if ever, will an unused card without any e-purse credit (e.g., an extra that I acquire and set aside for a visiting guest to use at a later date) expire after I acquire it?

        ORCA response:
        The actual card is expected to last at least 5 years.

        my follow-up:
        Sorry, I didn’t mean to ask how long the card is expected to last under normal use without physically failing, I meant to ask when, if ever, an ORCA card that I acquire and set aside without using will “expire”. I understand that sometime in the future, more technologically-advanced systems may be used and the existing system, using the Mifare Desfire cards in whatever manner you use them may be phased out, but until then, will a card acquired, say, tomorrow, but never registered, with no balance on it, still be useful to me?

        One reason this information would be useful is that someone might want to purchase extra cards for guests to use at a later date. Those $5 expenditures would be wasted if the cards “expire” before use.

      12. And on second thought, it seems that Q9 may not have been answered, so I followed up with:

        To clarify, I asked about any limits on the number of cards someone can acquire or limits on the frequency with which he can acquire them. You seem to have stated that no such limits exist, but you used the phrase “an ORCA card”, suggesting that you thought I asked about one card, though I did not. Do any such limits exist? For instance, I might like to go pick up several cards, for me, friends, family, and to set aside for guests to use. Or I might like to get myself a new card every week (say, to avoid having you track all my travel history under a single serial number).

      13. Rob: Huh. It seems the person who responded from ORCA was not aware of that. Thanks for publishing the images and please don’t take any personal offense at my question to ORCA about the accuracy of your report in light of the conflicting information their representative provided to me.

        As a computer software developer, I’d be hesitant to rely on something that amounts to an undocumented feature of the ORCA system. Such features are far less likely to endure than those which are part of the published interface.

        I’ll follow up here when I receive further responses from ORCA. I’ve also contacted the director of ACLU of Washington’s Privacy Project to find out to what degree they’re tracking ORCA-related issues. They were instrumental in persuading ORCA to improve privacy protection for people who use an ORCA card that is provided by their employer or school.

  14. I was looking at my 1940 map – and I wonder:

    Is it still illegal to pass a streetcar on the left when going in the same direction except on a one-way street?

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