This is an open thread.

61 Replies to “News Roundup: Oyster Sleeves”

  1. Speaking of ORCA cards, a shameless plug for my ongoing project: modding my ORCA cards. I got an e-purse card the day they came out. A few weeks later I got an unvalued card. I melted the unvalued card in acetone (yes, I will get that time lapse up sometime) and you can see the difference in the two here. While I haven’t tested it, I’m sure it will still work (and by work I mean will still read/write since there is no value on it).

    I bought another card out of a TVM and I’m planning to mod that one further. I can’t remember if I’ve officially announced my intent on that one, so I’ll leave it a mystery until it’s done. Photos, of course, will be in the pool once I’ve finished that one. The biggest problem is finding a way to get the card compact enough to fit it in the thing I’m trying to put it in while still keeping its integrity (no disconnected wires).

  2. Here’s an idea for the “asphalt desert” on Broadway: start digging the station now. Why wait?

  3. I’m pretty sure something is wrong with that Post Globe article. It says Metro ridership went down from 2.3 million in the first six months to 2.2 million. KCM got 118 million boardings in 2008.

  4. Apparently Ed Murray is considering running for mayor as a write-in. I have a hard time believing he could win as a write-in, though with labor backing, a large anti-R-71 turnout, and no other candidate with experience in elected office, I guess it is as good a time as ever. As a spoiler, I would think this would help McGinn more, since he could pull some pro-tunnel, anti-“activist as mayor” vote away from Mallahan, though who knows.

    What is your estimation of Murray on transit and development? I know he has been involved in some of the governance reform attempts, so that is concerning.

    1. The voters (well, the 25% or so of the voters who voted) have had their say – they selected 2 candidates for the final, and those are the 2 we should chose from. !

  5. OK, so since this is an open thread I will ask a completely unrelated question that I’ve been curious about for awhile now. I suspect someone will know the answer.

    I’ve been noticing that ST and Metro buses have been showing up with little triangular florescent green tabs under the lug nuts. If I had to “guess” (never a good idea), I’d guess that the tabs are a safety device intended to show if a lug not is loose or not (a loose nut would allow the tab to rotate and point outward giving a visual indication that the nut is lose).

    Q1: Is that really what the tabs are for?

    Q2: Are loose and undetected lug nuts really a major safety problem for buses? Or does this fall into the category of “creative worrying?”

    Anyhow, just curious….

      1. A castellated nut with a cotter pin would actually help keep the nuts from coming loose. The cotter pins could be designed to provide a visual indicator, the same under nut indicators used or dayglow paint on the outside of the lugnut.

    1. There is a picture at the base of a car after it was hit by a wheel that came off of an East Base coach. Thankfully, nobody was hurt in that incident. It wasn’t long before these started showing up

      Before we had these gizmos we had to look for rust trails or shiny spots around the lug nuts during our pre-trip inspection. However, they were not easy to spot. These make it much easier to notice a loose lug nut and I can’t imagine that they are very expensive. If the use of these saves a single life, it’ll be money in the bank for Metro. Even if it doesn’t, I think they look cool.

      1. Ah yes, those famous “cracked or missing lug nuts.” That’s about all I remember from the pre trip inspection when I helped my dad study for his CDL.

  6. Hey, has anyone taken all our “trains” lately and taken pictures? Would be a fun adventure!

    Ride Tacoma Link to Sounder, take it to King Street, ride Central Link to Westlake, take the Seattle Streetcar loop and back and then ride the Seattle Monorail loop and back. Then take Link back to King Street and ride the Amtrak Cascades down to Tacoma.

    Throw a ferry and bus ride in there somewhere and you’ve made it a whole day on all our transportation modes!! Just a thought…sounds like a nice Saturday or Sunday excursion. Maybe something for when the dark winter sets in?

    1. Tomorrow I’m going on a trip to take all the agencies that are on ORCA. WSF, Kitsap Transit, Metro, Pierce, ST Express, Sounder, Everett Transit, Community Transit, King County Water Taxi, and Link in order of first appearance.

      1. First appearance in your list, at a stop or station, or on the scene? That’s a long trip. One of my visiting friends did a backpacking trip in Olympic National Park accessed via public transportation taken all the way round the Olympic Loop at my suggestion a few years ago. I was somewhat envious, having wondered in the past about the people waiting for the Lake Quinalt-bound bus at Kalaloch. Washington state just needs bus services to connect at the Cascade passes and service in Okanogan County and we’re all set.

    2. You could do that on a few select weekends when the Sounder runs, otherwise it’d have to be on a weekday.

      Last Friday I did go out and ride every model of bus in Metro’s fleet. That was pretty cool. But I might take up your rail suggestion + bus + ferry but kick the monorail because I’d like to do it for free. And I’ll remember to take a camera.

  7. They should let you purchase ORCA cards with different designs (like for charity with an extra fee donated to that charity) …

    or they should go the route of the Starbucks card and offer all kinds of different designs.

    1. Or combine the two and make Starbucks pay them a little money to have a card that works on transit and at Starbucks!

      1. EZ-Link (Singapore) works as a cash purse at the several billion 7-11s there, as well as at some other locations. Hopefully that will happen here as well in time.

      2. I have a card that works in the ticket vending machines, at Starbucks, at the gas station, for online purchases, etc. I don’t even have to pre-load my account!

    1. Aw, thanks. :)

      Speaking of pictures, since STB linked today to my post about ORCA cards/Oyster sleeves, I should mention the ORCA sleeve I have now:

      It’s a Tube map Oyster sleeve that I ordered from the UK. Pretty nice quality. I found it online for only £2.50, but maybe it was on sale — the site where I thought I purchased it has them for £4.85 now.

      Just now I found this how-to page that shows you how to make your own Oyster sleeve with a Tube map:

      So you can print out a Tube map online, or make one with a more local theme. :)

      1. Ooh! Your maps would be good for this!

        I’m thinking some ORCA sleeves from photographs of Link and the stations would be good, too. I may have to whip some up at some point and see who wants ’em.

  8. Don’t you think this link in the News Roundup is a little misleading: “ridership on Metro and Sound Transit buses is down”

    Here is what it says in the article:

    ““Average weekday boardings on ST Express buses were down very slightly, while Sounder commuter rail saw a 11.6 percent decrease on both lines (to Tacoma and Everett),” said a summary circulated to Sound Transit board members.”

    Boardings on ST buses were down “very slightly” while Sounder commuter rail ridership was down 11.6%. I wouldn’t say that news was reflected in the headline.

    1. Well about five times as many people ride ST Express each day as ride the Sounder, so it is understandable that they mentioned ST buses but not Sounder.

    2. How is that headline misleading? Bus ridership was down, wasn’t it? The headline may be incomplete, but it’s not misleading.

  9. As I pointed out in a different thread, Link will, once the ST2 extensions are completed, will (if it meets ridership projections) be above the threshold for when turnstiles become more cost effective than fare inspectors. I hope ST is looking at making the ST2 stations compatible with turnstiles (even if they won’t be installed immediately).

    1. The best way for Link to vastly exceed its ridership projections would be to not charge fares at all. Then there’s no need for turnstiles or fare inspectors.

  10. The word on the street is Metro and ST are cracking down on drivers who talk on cell phones. They’ll not even be allow to have a bluetooth in their ear even when it’s turned off. Use of a Personal Electronic Device while operating a bus or train will result in termination. And failure to stow a PED out of sight will result in suspension on the first occurrence, and termination on the second.

    This policy will begin on Sept 19.

    1. About damn time. I know driving a bus or train or streetcar can’t be an easy job, and I have tremendous respect for all the folks out there doing it. And I know being able to stay in touch with friends and family is important.

      But I am grateful for this policy. The stats on driving while using a cell phone are pretty clear.

    1. That’s super odd. Can they split the cost between the car and the driver? Ha. Maybe it’s because the car and driver fare is the only one collected eastbound – are the ferries not set up with ORCA taggers at the Kitsap-side terminals?

      1. Nope. ORCA can’t be used for vehicles at any terminal. The Kitsap Transit board also found that odd, and wondered why, but even Kitsap Transit’s executive director (who’s been involved with the ORCA project since the beginning) wasn’t able to give them a reason. All WSF would tell me is that there are “no plans” to install readers. Since ORCA cards can’t be recharged at WSF ticket counters, and even a busy terminal like the Colman Dock doesn’t have a TVM, I’d guess somebody in a long-gone WSDOT and/or WSF management team made a decision to minimize WSF’s involvement.

        However, this makes even less sense than in normally would, as state law provides that ORCA cards eventually be used as a payment media (presumably via both readers and transponder adapters) in the state’s tolling projects. Go figure.

      2. It would really suck if you showed up in line for the ferry in your car without any other means of payment!

  11. Is ORCA going to offer fare discounts for using the card instead of cash? Here in Wellington, NZ if you use the Snapper card you can get 20 percent off the cash price. Although ,I guess if enough people switched automatically to ORCA, the incentive to do something like that would fade.

    Does anyone know what the rate of adoption has been or is it still too soon for that?

    1. My informal watching on the bus has seen that the adoption rate is less than 1/3 at this point. Still a lot of magnetic passes, but from my viewpoint it’s impossible to tell whether those are Puget Passes which they can elect to buy instead of the ORCA, or FlexPasses that they can’t upgrade to ORCA until their company’s renewal period. Still, you’re never going to get anywhere close to 100% (or even 85%) adoption because of various factors: tourists, those with limited English skills, those annoying people that refuse to adopt any form of new technology, etc.

      1. Many employers/institutions haven’t converted to ORCA, including the City of Seattle and the UW.

        The big incentive to switch to ORCA will be coming soon. If your trip involves an interagency transfer like ST to Metro, then you need to get ORCA unless you want to pay twice.

        We can get high adoption with the right incentives. Oyster has an 80% adoption rate and Octopus has a 95% adoption rate.

        ORCA has not been fully launched with a widespread public information campaign, yet, but they will soon.

      2. I’ve heard rumors that Metro is looking at eliminating paper transfers entirely. If they do that the only way to get a transfer will be ORCA.

    2. Brian we could do that but we don’t like to learn from others.

      I will once again ask that cash payment be much more then ORCA, it’s the only way to speed up boardings and get people away from whatever they are doing now.

      1. I will once again ask that cash payment be much more then ORCA

        Bad idea. People use cash because
        1) They can’t afford to buy a pass. Some people live from paycheck to paycheck and can’t plunk down a couple hundred bucks on a pass, but if you spread it out to a few bucks every day it works fine.
        2) Tourists will hate you for making their ride more expensive. If you’re here for 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, or 17 days, you probably won’t buy a pass that you won’t use again for a long time (or possibly never again).

      2. They don’t need to buy a pass to use ORCA, they can use the ePurse. That’s the whole point of having ORCA!

        Tourists can just get an ORCA card for $5 at the TVM. That covers at least 2 rides, plus it’s a souvenir of the trip.

        That’s what we did when we went to Singapore, saved us a lot of hassle of not handling cash and messing with ticket machines. For London, tourists can even order an Oyster card online pre-charged with credit before they arrive. I think we should have a similar program.

      3. The card won’t be free for long. After that, they’ll have to pay $5 to get one, which is kind of a waste for something you’ll be using for such a short time. For a transit nerd, $5 is a cheap souvenir.
        For low income people though, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for them to get an e-purse card for as often as they’d need to refill it. Unless they like the beeps.

      4. I think you’re conflating your arguments against it from the tourist perspective and the low-income perspective.

        From the low-income perspective, yes, they would have to pay $5 once to get the card, but then they can refill it at no additional cost, and the cards have an expected lifetime measured in years.

        While I’m not going to say there’s no such thing as a low-income tourist, I do think that tourists on the average aren’t terribly price sensitive. I mean, Gray Line charges $11 for the Downtown Airporter and apparently gets enough takers to make it worth their while when the 194 serves the same area for a lot less. I know when I go on vacation I spend a lot more for things than I would at home.

        I do disagree that it should be “a lot” more, though. Maybe just a quarter, to nudge people toward it. Assuming two trips per weekday, that would make it pay for itself in two weeks. I do think that adoption will speed up once people actually realize that ORCA is here. I’ve seen those readers on buses for over a year now, but if my employer hadn’t just given us our new FlexPasses on ORCA cards I might not have realized that the system was actually operational. I’ve heard on this blog that Metro is planning an advertising blitz for ORCA soon, and I think that many people will convert simply for the convenience.

      5. What I meant in the low income scenario is that it would be rather pointless to stop at a TVM every day or every other day to reload the card. I do agree that anyone that uses the system regularly would benefit from having a card–you don’t have to carry change around, if it gets lost the balance can be replaced, it calculates transfers automatically, and more. But getting the average person to understand these benefits is another thing.

        I just don’t wholly agree with the “electronic” discount–people already bitch enough about many transit-related things and I don’t want to give them more things to complain about (like how it’s (would be) “confusing”).

      6. Low-income people will have two choices:

        1. Pay cash and pay twice for transferring from ST to Metro or to CT and vice-versa (beginning after fall 2009).
        2. Spend a minute every other day at a TVM to reload their ORCA Card with cash and save a few bucks a day.

        If you don’t have much cash and need to transfer from Link to Metro which one would you choose? With Link becoming a key component of people’s commute an ORCA card is a necessity.

        To people who bitch and complain, screw them. Why let their noise hold us back. Most people will adapt. It works elsewhere, why not here?

      7. A low income person who rides transit regularly can probably afford to load more than a couple of trips on to a card at once. Some won’t be able to but most people I know who don’t have a lot of money can still go out and buy a few metro ticket books at the beginning of the month. Besides many low income people have bank accounts with debit cards and online access so would be able to reload the cards that way.

        For those with reduced fare permits I’d say it would be a good idea to just waive the charge for the card or combine ORCA with the permit itself.

        Also don’t forget that most of the people who are going to have the hardest time coming up with $5 for an ORCA card, affording the planned fare increases, or paying a cash surcharge are often people who can easily get a reduced fare permit if they choose to do so.

      8. You can use ORCA to make “cash” fare payments, you don’t have to buy a pass to use an ORCA card. I think his point was to make cash fares paid with real cash more expensive than if you pay with ORCA to get people to switch to ORCA and speed up the boarding process. I guess another way to do the same thing would be to give ORCA users a discount on their fare.

      9. Dang it Oran, you beat me to the reply.

        I have transit cards and tickets from all of my travels, they’re one of my favorite souvenirs!

  12. I just got back from a couple trips, and since it’s an open thread, a quick missive about transit systems in some places I visited.

    Austin, TX is too spread out for its own good, too hot to walk, and has a weird heavy rail track-sharing commuter diesel light rail thing that was supposed to open on March 30 but was delayed indefinitely because, according to some news articles, the operators made incursions into heavy rail areas against the signals. It made me sad.

    Mexico City and its surrounding areas have one of the best transportation systems I’ve ever experienced. First, let me point out that every mode of transportation – driving, riding the Metro, even walking down the sidewalk – is quite literally crush loaded. During last Friday evening’s commute, I literally could not get on the subway – the first three cars are reserved for women and children during peak times, and my wife stood across the men/women platform divider from me. We waited three trains and I physically couldn’t get on; not only was I not able to shove hard enough, but I wasn’t quite brave enough to stand on the edge of the platform in front of 75 other shoving men. We, like several other couples there, gave up and took a cab.

    The upshot is that it moves 5 million people a day, and that was the only problematic ride. The metro is weird because it has rubber tires, the design elements of the stations are consistent throughout the system, there’s tons of public art everywhere. Every station has a pictogram symbol, and there’s somewhere around 200 stations; unlike Sound Transit, the pictograms aren’t all birds of various species indistinguishable as silhouettes. My guidebook said the Metro operates every 2-3 minutes during peak times, but it seemed more like 1 minute. It connects to an incredible regional bus system – you can go anywhere in the country on a Greyhound-style bus (only way nicer) from huge, airport-like bus terminals, and many cities in the region have such bus service that operates on 10-15 minute intervals all day long. (Like being able to catch a 1st class bus to Bellingham more often than Metro’s 7 shows up!) The buses go on the fast toll freeways. There’s also city buses, private mini buses, bus rapid transit, trolley buses, and a light rail line.

    On the way back I had a layover in San Francisco. BART had impressed me on previous visits, but after Link here and Mexico City it was hugely disappointing. Transferring from BART to Muni made me appreciate ORCA a lot more, BART’s frequency leaves a bit to be desired (feels more like commuter rail), the stations are super dark and architectural relics of their time (the same time as Mexico City’s, which are bright and full of art), and it costs $16.20 round trip from SFO Int’l to downtown. The bright side is that the train cars are straight out of Supertrain and compare only with the Seattle Center Monorail in terms of looking like Austin Powers’ living room.

    1. Mexico City and its surrounding areas have one of the best transportation systems I’ve ever experienced. First, let me point out that every mode of transportation – driving, riding the Metro, even walking down the sidewalk – is quite literally crush loaded.

      Gotta love they way they run the reversible lanes. However many cars are going one direction or the other decides which direction the lane goes. Same shove cue concept as the subway :-)

      The metro is weird because it has rubber tires,

      A Michelin thing developed back at the dawn of time. Wasn’t very reliable at first so only the French stuck with it. Quite the contrast between the Tube (possibly the loudest subway in the world?) and Metro, almost silent.

      It connects to an incredible regional bus system – you can go anywhere in the country on a Greyhound-style bus

      Saw a news story a couple of days ago that Greyhound is expanding to England

      BART’s frequency leaves a bit to be desired (feels more like commuter rail)

      It is commuter rail.

      and it costs $16.20 round trip from SFO Int’l to downtown.

      Ouch, that was for two? What would a cab have been?

      1. Another thing that was just about rush loaded is Bicycle Sunday on Paseo de la Reforma and other major downtown streets closed to motor vehicles – the number of cyclists makes our closing of Lake Washington Boulevard look pretty pathetic in comparison.

        I also read that they use rubber tires in Mexico City because of the settling soils; i.e., it’s not quite as touchy as steel (?). Some buildings downtown sink at 15 cm/year – everything is leaning and crooked, including my hotel room, in which one descended across the room to the bathroom.

        BART was $32.40 for two of us round trip. No transfer to anything else was included. A cab probably would have been a little more, but it seems like we could’ve chartered a helicopter for not a lot more!

        The thing about BART being commuter rail is that it looks like a Metro, feels like a Metro, has a name like a Metro, and there’s not a lot to tip you off to its relative infrequency till you’re at the station, unless you’ve read the timetables first. Once you’re on, the cushy seats make you realize it’s made for longer rides.

    2. “Every station has a pictogram symbol, and there’s somewhere around 200 stations; unlike Sound Transit, the pictograms aren’t all birds of various species indistinguishable as silhouettes.”

      To be fair, only two of the Link pictograms are birds, and those two are relatively easy to tell apart. (Still, they should have made Rainier Beach’s pictogram something else. I don’t particularly think of herons as being any type of Rainier Beach icon.)

      1. According to Sound Transit:

        An elegant heron with wings spread echoes the theme of flight represented by one of the major artworks at this station: Darlene Nguyen-ely’s “Dragonfly.”

        Herons have also been important symbols in various cultures for thousands of years, so perhaps that was in the back of the artist’s mind when he created the pictogram.

      2. Right, I know what Sound Transit says the icon means — it’s just that I don’t think of it as particularly relevant to that station, and some of the other stations’ icons are a little more obvious.

  13. Well, I was being a bit facetious, but I seriously thought 3 were birds, so I looked closer: Tukwila’s symbol is a canoe that, to me, is indistinguishable from a bird! (I.e., I thought the paddle was the head and tail and the canoe itself was he wings.)

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