Photo from ECB at Publicola.
Photo from ECB at Publicola.

77 Replies to “News Roundup: Unit Faulty”

  1. was KCM not happy with the current provider of Hybrid busses? Anyone familiar with the Daimler Orion VIIs?

    also in the news:

    The Sound Transit Board on Thursday:

    · Approved a contract amendment with LTK Engineering Services, LLC to provide additional systems engineering final design work, design services during construction, and light rail vehicle inspection and test support services required for the University Link project in the amount of $1,579,576, with a contingency of $158,023, totaling $1,737,599, for a new total authorized contract amount not to exceed $9,922,972.

    · Approved a contract with Railworks Track Systems, Inc. to provide construction services to expand the vehicle storage yard at the Link light rail Operations and Maintenance Facility for North Link and University Link projects in the amount of $11,150,000, with a contingency of $1,115,000 for a total authorized contract amount not to exceed $12,265,000.

  2. The ORCA reader at the upper level NE corner of Westlake Sta, closest to the Nordstrom entrance would not read my card or anyone elses’s on Mon, Tue or Wed’s at approx 1700 each day. There was no FAIL notice on the machine’s screen, it just squaked at you as you tapped your card.

    1. What exactly is the problem here? It’s not like RFID card readers are a new, obscure technology. There are a lot more than just hundreds of transit agencies that use them all over the world without problems like this. I really hope this gets fixed soon and it’s not a manufacturing problem because this just shouldn’t happen.

      1. Even worse, it isn’t as if Vix-ERG doesn’t provide smart card technology to a host of other cities around the globe including a number of multi-agency contracts. I have a hard time believing the teething problems of ORCA would be tolerated in Asia or Europe.

        For some reason the implementation of ORCA here and TransLink in the Bay Area have been serious clusterfucks. The question is are the problems due to Vix-ERG in general, their (former) Concord, CA office, or the transit agencies involved in ORCA and TransLink?

  3. The ORCA cards on the buses have been kind of flaky, too. Anecdotally, they work about 2/3 of the time.

  4. I’m surprised they didn’t go with New Flyer to replace the Gillig fleet. It would make a bit more sense, since replacement panels and parts are easily interchangeable across New Flyer buses – and we already do have a pretty big New Flyer fleet.

    I hope the new buses are evenly distributed across the fleet, rather than every new model going to South Base (with every old castoff going to Ryerson).

    1. good time to be in the bus business

      i agree, it seems odd to introduce another manufacturer/model into the fleet when the key is interchangeability of parts.

      are there any plans to buy more ETBs while there are still some models in production (namely new flyer’s vancouver and philadelphia model)?

      1. Unless they plan on doing some large scale expansion on the trolley network, KCM wants to try to get as much value out of whatever trolley capable assets they have.

        According to the plan, the Bredas will be twenty-something before they’re finally retired for good.

      2. From the Transportation Choices Coalition blog:

        Desmond notes that the final Performance Report will be published in September and will identify an array of issues from planning and scheduling to technology issues, to financial efficiencies to fare strategies and whether the trolley bus system is sustainable in the long run. (emphasis added)

        Hmm… are they going to consider scrapping the trolley bus system sometime in the future? I hope we don’t end up like Edmonton where they are ending trolley bus service in favor of hybrid buses.

      3. If I recall correctly, Metro wanted the trolley fleet to last until 2013-2016, so there is at least four more years to decide whether or not they want to keep or scrap the system.

        Which reminds me that salvaged architecture of the Gillig Trolleys are almost 30 years old.

      4. Given that the cost of diesel is almost certain to go up in the next 4 to 7 years (and beyond) scrapping the trolley bus system would seem to be rather short-sighted. Especially considering trolleys don’t add to local air pollution and their power comes mostly from city owned hydro dams.

        I’m sure maintaining the OCS is a significant expense but I have a hard time believing that fully offsets the fuel cost savings (especially with future price risk), or the maintenance savings of electric motors over diesel engines.

        From what I understand when Metro bought the AM General trolleys in the 70’s they “recycled” motors and electrical components from some of the old Seattle Transit trolleybuses. I’m not sure if any of these were used in the Gilligs, but if they were then the “guts” of some of the current trolleybuses are actually more than 50 years old.

      5. When diesel gets to US$20/gallon, as it surely soon will, KCMetro would have more than egg on its face if it abandons the electric buses and removes the overhead. The Bredas are now 20 years old, the Gilligs aren’t getting any younger – time to order 300 new low floor electric coaches!

      6. while it sounds like a few years away from anything major, it appears we might need to keep an eye open and stay on top of anything involving the trolley system.

        to me, the ETBs are my favorite part of the seattle transit system

        toronto scrapped their system in the early 90s for some failed CNG buses and has just recently looked at rebuilding some ETB lines. talk about short sighted.

        it wouldnt surprise me if portland considered ETBs for portions of its city wide streetcar system as theres no way to build the entire thing as streetcar due to cost, street RoW issues, lack of density in some neighborhoods, NIMBY anti-upzoning, streetcar tracks on major bike routes, etc.

      7. Well, another problem to consider when diesel gets to $20/gallon is how are we going to keep the roads paved and in good condition. Most roads are paved with asphalt which is an oil byproduct. When oil hit well over $100/barrel many cities struggled to stay within their road maintenance budgets. Trolley buses don’t do very well on bumpy roads. Their poles will come off all the time.

        That’s why I think rail is a better investment for the long term.

      8. “Trolley buses don’t do very well on bumpy roads. Their poles will come off all the time.”

        Especially by 15th AVE NE by the UW. The Bredas often get their poles yanked underneath the overpass. I saw another Breda dewired by the 3rd AVE downtown the other day, causing a bit of a pileup until a Metro bumper truck was able to push it out of the way.

        I had heard that new ETBs have measures to get out of the way during construction/dewiring, such as being equipped with supercapacity batteries or small diesel engines. They always could throw something back into the Breda engine cavity if they wanted to…

      9. The issue Desmond seemed most concerned with was an estimated $1 million to replace each trolley bus vs. only $600,000 for a diesel bus.

      10. Back on the subject of the Orions, I’m actually kind of liking how they went with them over New Flyer.

        If they went with New Flyer, they likely would’ve ordered them with the old exteriors rather than the redesigns. The current Orion VIIs seem to come with redesigned looks and frameless windows standard.

      11. The sooner those damned Bredas are condemned to the scrap heap, the happier bus drivers (and passengers) will be. What total piles of crap. Commonly referred to as “Franken-trolleys” by drivers and maintenance.

      12. Rumor has it (from the Brown Bag) that KCM is actually considering elimination of the trolley network, due to much higher per-passenger costs.

        Yes, electricity is cheap, but maintenance, the volume of passengers in the ride-free only area, and fare evasion adds up.

        I’m against it by the way – and I drive (and have come to love driving) the trolley buses.

      13. Eliminating the trolleys won’t reduce any of those costs except for maintenance. I have a hard time believing maintenance of the trolley buses themselves is more expensive than a diesel bus. The wire plant does cost money to maintain but I would think lower fuel costs would offset that somewhat.

        As for the number passengers in the ride-free area and fare evasion those are problems shared with non-trolley bus routes. I suppose Metro could eliminate the routes entirely, but the ETB routes have some of the highest ridership in the system. I’d think it would be better to address the costs of the ride-free area and crack down on fare evasion.

      14. I thought removing the Detroit Diesel engines from the Bredas were supposed to make them a bit less of a headache. If the MAN 60 foot ETBs were less of a nightmare than the Bredas, why didn’t they refurbish those instead?

      15. Dunno why the older ETB’s weren’t refurbished – I think that the conversion of the Bredas to trolley only service was a move to avoid some of the egg on the face of buying the things in the first place for tunnel use and finding them unsuitable for that.

        The power plant on the Bredas isn’t the problem, it’s the brakes, the suspension, the electronics (doors opening and closing for no apparent reason, etc.), and the general profile of the monstrosity.

        If you wanted to bring back the MAN artics, age and all, to replace the Bredas, I doubt you’d hear any squealing from drivers on that one.

  5. I would like to see the online ocra system change a bit

    right now when you add funds it deducts the amount immediately from my credit card, but does not add the value until it is tapped.

    I don’t think it should charge you until the fare is loaded on first tap. In my case I loaded $40 on the wife’s card, she took 35 days to use it so her fare expired off the system. It then took almost two weeks for them to load my $$ back on. It wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t expire so quickly…

    1. What is this “expiring” business with ORCA? Money put into the e-purse should stay there indefinitely until spent. Monthly passes of course expire at the end of the month for which they were bought. You say there’s more to this? Details please

      1. If you load money onto your card using the online system you have to tap your card at a reader within 30 days to finish the process. Tapping your card syncs your card with the system and updates the E-purse info on your card. Once you’ve done this the E-purse value does not expire. The 30 day limit is because the readers on the bus can only hold a finite amount of data. If you add value at a TVM your card will be updated immediately.

      2. with how cheap storage is these days, I have a hard time believing that the buses can only hold a 30 day memory. Does anyone know the size of the storage?

      3. Remember, these devices are supposed to be designed to withstand shocks and various conditions found on a moving bus and constant everyday use. Sure you can add more memory but where’s the limit? 30 days seems reasonable to me, especially when the system is anticipated to have 400,000 cards in circulation.

        If you’re not going to use it within 30 days, you probably have ample time to go to a physical location to add the card. I know that’s not always the case. So I would like to see the practice of pre-activating the card with value when you order online. You order a new card and then it asks you at the same time if you want to add value to it. When it arrives in the mail, it’s ready for use with money on the card without that initial tap.

        Setting up an Autoload is one way around that problem. Of course, you have to tap your card to set it up but after that, you never have to worry about insufficient funds again. When you tap in and your balance is insufficient for that trip, it automatically loads your e-purse instantly and deducts your fare. Autoloads can be as small as $5.

        However, there is no excuse for the fixed networked devices i.e. TVMs and Link validators to have a limit when they could easily query the central database unlike the buses.

      4. Oran the auto load I don’t think would solve my guest pass problem since they won’t be used within 30 days.

        I can get a 16GB usb drive for $40… I bet that would hold much more then 30 days of data. I live and work on the eastside so swinging by a TVM does not work for me.

      5. The Vix-ERG site specifies a max of 512 MB flash memory for the CP5000 that’s used on buses. The next-gen CP6500 supports up to 8 GB of flash memory.

        I live on the Eastside, too, so I don’t think that’s an excuse for not being able to drop by a TVM. It’s not like transit service to downtown Seattle from the Eastside is bad. For something that’s not going to be used within 30 days, it’s not too much to spend 2 hours on a weekend to load up a bunch of cards. In the near future, Bartell Drugs and other current transit pass retailers will be equipped for ORCA so you don’t have to go downtown anymore.

        Here’s an excerpt from the Equipment Specifications for the PSRFCP: Capacity
        (a) The FTP shall use solid state memory with sufficient capacity to
        store at a minimum, all data subsequent to the last data upload to
        the DACS including:
        i. Up to 10,000 transaction records.
        ii. 100 log-in / log-off records.
        iii. 100 Event records such as, but not limited to FTP
        malfunctions, failed read attempts, successful and
        unsuccessful data up- and down-loads.
        iv. 6,000 bad card numbers for cards issued to the general
        v. Card block or status change information for all campus and
        other institutional cards in circulation (capacity is required
        to update the status of all campus cards at an academic
        quarter or semester change, and also to update non-campus
        institutional account cards).
        vi. Secret keys for communication and card access.
        vii. Manager passwords.
        viii. Minimum of two (2) fare tables.
        ix. Automatic card revalue information.
        x. Vehicle identification number or designated location code
        to be programmed at time of installation.
        xi. Additional Agency specific data required for processing
        and reporting local fares and inter-service transfers.
        (b) As transaction volumes increase, FTP memory shall be expandable
        to a capacity of at least five times that for previously listed items i.
        through xi.
        (c) The Contractor shall provide data storage for the OBFTP which
        uses non-volatile memory.

        6.III-4.5 Electrical Requirements – OBFTP
        Equipment installed on-board transit vehicles shall meet the following power supply
        (a) Nominal voltage: 12 to 24 volts DC nominal (car or bus battery)
        (b) Operating range: 9 to 39 volts DC
        (c) Equipment shall be able to withstand sustained voltage levels of up to 48 VDC
        for up to ten (10) minutes.
        (d) Equipment shall not suffer damage or lose data in memory when the supply is
        increased to 48 VDC.
        (e) Equipment shall not suffer corruption of data when the power dips below
        9 VDC.
        (f) Equipment shall not be damaged by very high (twenty [20] times nominal
        voltage) short duration (up to ten [10] milliseconds) peak voltage.
        (g) Contractor shall indicate full operational and quiescent power drain for each
        on-board module proposed.

  6. Yeah, I’ve had trouble with some of the ORCA readers at Westlake giving me the “TRY AGAIN” message ad infinitum. And the TVM reliability is still terrible. I just went to Westlake to load some more cash onto my card and both of the TVMs closest to the Macy’s entrance were hung. Luckily the ones on the other side of Pine were working, and while I was there I had the opportunity to explain to a man why the machine wouldn’t sell him a ticket to the Sea-Tac station. I’m happy to help people where I can, but it’s a little disheartening to see all of the confusion, and the technological issues don’t help much.

  7. i’m still stuck at about 60% reliability on orca across the 10/12, 43, light rail, 49, 42 and 8 bus.

    the tuk card reader didn’t work for me yesterday (the card and i were extremely wet from biking uphill to the station from the green river trail in the thunderstorm) but i forgive that one – the rest have been primarily the reader being “not in service” or going out of service when i tap in – though occasionally i get an unresolvable card read error.

    it was neat to get fare-checked on light rail yesterday as well. the control agents are pretty good – one improvement they may want to make is find a place to stand waiting for the train where they are not visible from the oncoming train. by habit, i know to look for control people ahead of time so i can get off before they get on!

    1. As the ORCA readers are electromagnetic and radiometric, the moisture level of the card shouldn’t affect anything.

      The “Out of Service” error (at least on the buses) remains an unresolvable, as it requires a complete reboot of all onboard electronic systems – which means leaving the bus and disconnecting the battery from the outside disconnect switch (no internal “reset” button).

      1. They’re too busy blaming drivers for the problem – even though the same problems are occurring at standalone card readers in the train terminals – where drivers aren’t part of the loop.

  8. There are something like 100,000 of these cards in use.

    And hundreds – if not thousands – of the readers.

    Sh!t will happen.

    Ever have any problems with your computer?


    IKOMO will certainly want to do a story about how slow Windows is running, and Publicola will want to tell us how many times their iPhones crashed last week…

    Stop the presses!

    1. I don’t know if we should get in the habit of becoming complacent about technology that doesn’t work. We should expect it to just work. And we should continue to complain about it until it does, because engineers are happy to build for the lowest common denominator of whatever gets them paid.

      All that said . . . the ORCA system is several orders of magnitude less complicated than the Windows environment, and thus our expectations of it working properly are appropriately scaled. They’ve had, what, 5+ years to test that this system performed at the scales they were expecting? Failures are always going to happen, but they shouldn’t be happening at this level.

      Both Metro and ST are going to be affected financially from the lack of farebox recovery if they don’t fix this soon, and if that happens, they’re going to raise some tax to make us pay for their own failure. That news probably would stop the presses, wouldn’t it?

      1. More to the point there are a large number of wide-scale smart-card based fare collection systems that don’t have the problems ORCA has had. For example Vix-ERG is the vendor for the Octopus card system in Hong Kong and the Ez-Link system in Singapore.

        Smart card based fare collection systems are a fairly well understood problem domain at this point.

        I’m also curious why ORCA and TransLink have taken so damn long between the contract award to initial roll-out. For both Hong Kong and Singapore contract award to initial deployment was only 3 years. ORCA has taken 6+ years and doesn’t appear ready to replace prior collection systems. Then of course there is the irony of WSF spending many years and a ton of money on Wave2Go, fare gates, TVMs, and a new point of sale system that deployed only a couple of years before ORCA. While the new system is “ORCA compatible” AFAIK you can’t use the Wave2Go TVMs to add value or a WSF pass to your ORCA card.

      2. Smart card deployment in the United States seems to have had many problems. Also, ORCA and TransLink both involve multiple (5+) government transit agencies. Integrating those fare systems are certainly going to lead to problems.

        Singapore and Hong Kong’s transit providers are both private companies, regulated by a single government agency.

        ERG was working on Sydney’s Tcard project which was mired with lawsuits and eventually got their contract canceled, bringing the entire company down.

      3. Having multiple agencies involved certainly doesn’t help. Many have had their own technology disasters over the years. Locally the mess with the WSF fare collection system (20+ years to finally deploy a new system) or integrating the back-office systems of Metro and King County (still not done after 15 years) come to mind. Now multiply by the number of agencies involved and I suppose it is amazing ORCA happened at all.

        I think the Octopus system in Hong Kong involves multiple transit companies, but having it mandated by the regulator might have made the implementation smoother.

        I wasn’t aware of the mess with Sydney’s smart card system though that seems to be some sort of bidding dispute more than anything else.

      4. That made me curious as well–I’ve used both Hong Kong and Singapore’s systems within the past few months with no issues both on bus and rail; my one bus trip with ORCA was a “fail” (old annual pass just expired so have only used on bus once; have had no problems on Link). Oran’s point on multiple agencies is a good one, however, and as Chris mentioned was almost certainly no help in the process.

  9. I’ve noticed a lot of people having problems with their ORCA when they try to quickly swipe their card in front of the reader instead of holding it in front of the reader momentarily. I have much better success when I hold the card up to the reader and give it time to do its thing. People seem to be used to building access cards that you can just swipe by the reader and are treating ORCA the same way, ORCA needs more time in front of the reader to work right.

    1. Yeah, I have noticed that the sensitivity of the readers isn’t quite right. It needs to be able to tolerate quick swipes and being able to read from the inside of a wallet. These are things that people naturally do to speed up the process, and the design of the machine shouldn’t hinder that.

      1. “Tap it flat against the black pad” is becoming my ORCA mantra as a driver to address the “Try Again” error messages. Works every time.

    2. Pretty much the same experience. The trick is to do exactly what you say–hold it in front of the reader for a bit until it beeps. I too thought it would be as quick as a building access card and I too had trouble until I learned to just pause.

    3. The radio frequency identification (RFID)-embedded smartcards used by ORCA are designed to be tapped – not swiped – for a couple of important reasons: power and security.

      • ORCA cards use passive RFID chips, which receive power from the processors/readers via the coiled antenna within the card. The chips need a second to power up. If users hold their cards immediately in front of a working processor/reader – a.k.a. “tap” – the system will work quickly and efficiently as designed. Side note: if users of WSF’s Wave2Go ticketing system will just set their ticket straight down into the bar code reader (with the bar code facing the laser), and hold it there – instead of ineffectually and repeatedly swiping it, or swiping it “slowly” per WSF’s instructions – the tickets will be read instantly.

      • A major security flaw of RFID chips is “skimming,” or the ability to scan a card with an unauthorized reader that’s somewhere in the general vicinity. The scan is then used to clone the card. ORCA cards incorporate chips utilizing the MiFare DESFire open standard, which is supposed to be relatively secure. An important feature of this standard is that the smartcard needs to be held four inches or closer to the reader. This is another reason the card needs to be held in front of the reader, rather than swiped.

      • The University of Washington Computer Science and Engineering student’s Society & Technology Interest Group has much useful information on ORCA and RFID cards in general. The wrap-up of the SocTech Spring 2007 seminar on ORCA cards also provides links to more information on RFID technology.

      1. While all this makes sense, it sounds like they didn’t really research how people use cards and card readers. It’s easy to rationalize away the how someone else is will use something – trust me, I see engineers and project managers do it all the time – but we never actually know until we watch.

        There are two significant usability problems I see with the current design. One of them lies in the language, the use of the verb “Tap”. I don’t consider what I have to do to get the reader to work a tap. It’s more of a pause or a hold. I conceptualize taps as being lightening quick. People keep screwing it up because they keep the knowledge of this activity in the world, since there’s all this signage about “tapping”.

        The other problem I see is that it’s not terribly obvious which part of the machine you’re supposed to hold your card to. There are no affordances on the ORCA device – nothing to naturally suggest where to put a card shaped object. And so I see people mis-swipe a lot, whacking the screen and so forth. A simple white outline of a card on the black portion would’ve probably made that better.

        Don’t get me wrong, security is very important and I’m glad they spent a lot of time on it. I just wish they spent an equal amount of effort on usability.

      2. It’s unfortunate that Vix ERG, Sound Transit, and the Central Puget Sound Regional Fare Coordination Project appear to have opted out of using environmental graphic designers. They should have hired Tim Girvin, or somebody of his caliber, to advise them. As far as the ill-advised adoption of the terms “tap” and “tag” – and we’re probably stuck with both terms now – getting the professionals involved early (including a linguistics expert) would have nipped that in the bud. I agree very much with your assessment that the terms are exceedingly inaccurate. Maybe the CPSRFCP thought “tap” and “tag” was sexy. I can’t speak for the folks at the CPSRFCP and Sound Transit, but I suspect they thought users would read the ORCA materials that define those terms before using the cards.

        As far as where to hold the cards on the processors and readers, the idea was not tied to the shape of the card, but to the ORCA logo itself. This is a standard design practice, and I can’t see it being done any differently, as the ORCA logo is placed on all processors and readers precisely where the card should be held. For example, Hong Kong’s Octopus system uses a variety of media, including different card shapes and sizes, plus 3-D objects such as key fobs, and we should expect that down the line – way, way down the line – ORCA will be doing the same thing. That said, a faint line in the shape of the card wouldn’t have hurt. Interestingly, the latest Vix ERG on-board processor is just one large screen – so somebody finally got the message. Unfortunately, we’ll likely never see it here, as ORCA will probably transition to Cubic Transportation Systems’ Vix ERG-compatible processors and readers.

      3. Metro and sound transit should have printed PSAs on buses that explain how to use orca. I agree the instructions to “tap” your card is misleading.

    4. Yeah, there’s a lot more going on between the ORCA card and the reader than a normal building access card. It needs to read and decrypt the data on the card and write data back (your transfer and new balance).

  10. The viaduct-as-park concept would definitely work, and it’d be huge asset to Seattle and the waterfront. For more great stuff on the High Line, check out the park’s terrific website. The 66 Feet Square blog has some spectacular (and recent) photos of the all-important landscaping and hardscaping, which will help give you an idea of the park’s value and the phenomenal effect it’s had on the surrounding neighborhoods.

    As far as ORCA goes, after initially experiencing no problems with the card processors, I’m now running into out-of-order units all the time. A few of those have definitely been driver issues (including that jerk on Metro’s #66 that others have mentioned), but most of them seem to be mechanical/technical in nature, as recently covered at STB. (By the way, now that Vix ERG is out of the picture, the company has just introduced a nifty new processor.)

    I’ve also run into a number of out-of-order Link validators, including a few in the DSTT that appear to have been down for many days, plus balky TVMs in the DSTT that refuse crisp new $20 bills. The sensors on the currency detectors are easily adjusted or replaced if they’re not automatically calibrated, so this shouldn’t be happening at all, at least not this early in the game. And WSF’s ORCA system definitely seems to have been an afterthought for all concerned. (Although the little tufts of Velcro on every gate’s card readers are interesting. I assume those are for the reader “Out Of Order, Please Excuse The Inconvenience” signs that are never used.)

    My sense, when filing reports or complaints – which I’ve stopped doing, unless a problem has cost me money – has been that the agencies are taking a “see no evil, hear no evil” stance, which was confirmed by PubliCola’s experience.

    1. Yes it needs to come down. And it will. But there’s nothing wrong with preserving a small piece of it for the sake of history and community (and a little tourism revenue). We all want to move forward, but it’s never a good idea to voluntarily forget where we’ve come from. It’s an eyesore now, but a nifty, elevated park or two will serve the same purpose as a scar, reminding us of what we did wrong so that we can learn from it and not make the same mistakes twice.

      I think it’s an awesome idea.

      1. I agree. However,they should reserve a portion of it for the Olympic Sculpture Park, not the waterfront.

      2. The viaduct must come down; it is a danger to all for seismic reasons, and unlike The Highline, was certainly not built to railway standards. Also, The Highline is a couple of blocks back from the waterfront unlike our monstrosity looming over Alaskan Way and the piers. May the Viaduct be erased from Seattle’s waterfront forever, every last shard of it!

      3. Have you people spent much time on the east coast? What gives those cities their character is that they remember their history. Heck, Boston in particular is a history nut’s paradise. Seattle’s character, for me, comes from it’s public art, it’s progressivism, and it’s fusing of the two. That’s why turning this into a park is *so* Seattle.

        Why? Think about all the layers of symbolism in that act. It connects with our nature as hardcore recyclists; we have a nifty habit of turning infrastructure into public art; and, most importantly, there is the symbolism of finally replacing a highway with green space, instead of the other way around. That symbolism, for some people, will be powerful. And it’ll be a great reminder to keep doing that.

        And it’s not like we’d keep a middle part. It’d be at either the southern or the northern extreme.

      4. I understand your point, but why create a whole new park for this when we already have the Olympic Sculpture Park that will have plenty of space for this project when the time comes. Which, in return, will save the city money and space for something more intriguing than a viaduct park.

      5. You’re asking why we should create more public open spaces in Seattle? I would’ve thought the answer was obvious.

      6. No,that was not the question. Just for the record, I believe in open spaces. I just don’t agree that we need to create a whole new park for this.

      7. I lived as an adult in Massachusetts for 9 years, visit friends and family every few years, and am well aware of the massive destruction of historically and architecturally significant buildings in cities and towns large and small throughout the NE and Mid-Atlantic states. The wanton destruction of Pennsylvania Station in NY is only the most egregious example of what has happened there: the routing of highways through neighborhoods, cutting cities into disintegrated parts; the filling of wetlands with factories, cargo container depots and shopping centers; the paving over of thousands of farms by suburbanization – all with little to no regard for what history and land use patterns had developed from 1650 to 1950. Yup, an impeccable record of preservation and thoughtful land use!

      8. That’s such a terrible argument, for 3 reasons:

        1) I never said they were *perfect* about it.
        2) Just because they screw things up doesn’t prove that they aren’t better at it than we are.
        3) If their landmark preservation truly is terrrrible than why shouldn’t be better?

        And seriously, why is keeping 100ft of a 2+ highway such a huge deal? It’ll be gone, no one will be driving on it, and the oceanfront views will make it a premium park.

  11. RE: Justin’s comment above.
    Does anyone have any further information about funds evaporating/expiring/passing pull-date from
    an ORCA card that has been funded with genuine fiat?
    I’d hate to put cash on the card and not have it there until I use it up.
    Otherwise, it’s a ‘purse’ with a hole in the bottom.

    1. If you don’t use the card within the 30 days, the money never gets transferred to it. But it doesn’t just disappear. It gets refunded to your credit/debit card account.

  12. My ORCA failure rate is running probably 25 – 35% right now…seems like every other day a reader on a bus won’t be able to read my card.

  13. For what it’s worth, my ORCA is working beautifully. Occasionally I get an error beep, and then I tap it again and all is well.

    There is one machine at Westlake that never works, but then I walk over to the other one and it works fine. So I don’t see that as an ORCA problem, but as a “one particular machine has an issue” problem.

    I mostly use it on Link, though. I have used it on the bus 3 times so far and it worked fine every time.

    I first set up my card and put money in the e-purse online, and though I have auto-load, I usually just refill it at the ticket machines, which has worked perfectly. (There is a limit to how many times you can use auto-load in a single month, unfortunately, or I’d never refill it at all, just use auto-load all the time. I tend to keep small amounts on it because I don’t ride every day — I don’t have a normal daily commute, and work at home most days. I’ve been riding about 3 days a week.)

  14. Here’s my ORCA beef: I ride from Beacon Hill to Westlake, then hop a bus (any bus) to the end of the tunnel and walk 5 blocks to work. I tap my card at Beacon Hill, but have nowhere to tap at Westlake without going up (and back down) the stairs. I can’t tap on the bus at the end of the tunnel, because it’s ride free. There’s no reader at tunnel level in Westlake for the northbound trains. At least I can pay at tunnel level for the southbound train.

    The way ORCA works, I’m charged the full $2.25 when I tap at Beacon Hill. If I tap upon arrival at Westlake (and/or on a bus to transfer from Westlake) I’m effectively refunded $.75 because my trip is only $1.75. If I don’t tap anywhere demonstrating the length of my trip, I’m charged the full $2.25. If I walk upstairs to find a reader, I’ll miss at least one bus–and it’s annoying.

    Why can’t the ORCA reader on the bus in the tunnel simply accept my payment? It doesn’t hurt Metro to allow the thing to read cards in the ride-free zone. Better yet, why not add readers at Convention Place–and readers at tunnel level on both sides of Westlake?

    1. I think the thought was that people coming in on Link and transferring to a bus would do so at International District where there is a an ORCA reader on the platform. I think the logic was that if people are continuing north on a bus, the transfer at International District station will allow those folks to have a better choice of seats.

      1. They really need an ORCA reader on both platforms at Westlake. It seems silly to have them on both sides at ID but only Southbound at Westlake.

      2. It never occurred to me to get off the train early at the ID to take a bus. That seems totally counter-intuitive. Why would I give up a seat on a fast-moving train to wait for a bus? Is the long-term plan to have readers at every station, both directions?

      3. The long-term plan is to kick the buses out and remove any need for readers at platform level.

    2. Totally agree with you, Melissa. There should be readers at the platform in every direction in the tunnel. If I’m going from Pioneer Square to Westlake, I want the first available option but the placement of the readers makes you decide before you know if a bus or train will be the first option.

      I have a pass so I’ll just tap in at the station, get on the first available mode of travel and tap off regardless… But that’s a lot of extra thought than a two station trip should require, not to mention the folks who are buying tickets or using an E-purse for the same trip.

  15. I’ve used my ORCA card at least 60 times in the last 30 days (according to the web site) on Metro, Link, and Sounder. Only two buses gave a failure, I took the card out of my wallet and showed it to the driver and got on. YOU HAVE TO HOLD IT FLAT TO THE READER AND WAIT A MICROSECOND although it can be in your wallet (mine is). As long as the machine is functional, not problem.

    As an odd-ball rider (no set route) I really like the ORCA card — no fumbling with money, no holding a transfer (which pocket did I stuff it in?) and I don’t worry about what the fare is — just use the card. Metro to Link to the Airport and ST bust to Tacoma — no big deal, proper fare deducted by the system. Sounder to Ballard — again no big deal. Works great and I just sail by the lines at the TVMs (but don’t get me wrong — I like seeing those lines because they will all be riders on LINK).

    The lack of a machine on the outbound Westlake platform is a problem that must be corrected. No where in the any information does Link or Metro say “to transfer to a tunnel bus you must do so at the International Station” or risk missing your bus by going to the mezzanine level. If a person is physically challenged the time to do so is increased by the time to wait for the elevator, go up a level, swipe/tap/tip/hold the card on a reader and then go back down. While not exactly a violation of ADA rules its a gross inconvenience and incredibly shortsighted planning on the part of Metro and Sound Transit that could be fixed with the installation of a single reader.

  16. Final comment

    International Station is NOT the place to transfer to a bus…its windy, wet and cold on the platforms compared to the deeper tunnel stations.

    1. Westlake Station seems the same way, except for the windy part.

      Even on days when there isn’t any rain, there seems to be moisture seeping from the unusually early formed cracks on the concrete…

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