Photo by Oran
Photo by Oran

I often travel with someone who relies on a student pass. They recently lost it, and as none of the schools around here are yet on ORCA, that means they’re out of luck for the rest of the quarter. As a result, when we ride a bus, I typically pay for them out of my e-purse.

In order to do this, I have to ask the operator for a “group fare”. The operator takes the ORCA reader out of service, adds two adult fares, then puts it back into service – the next swipe uses my pass for one fare, and my e-purse for the other, automatically. The operator has to do this, you can’t just double swipe – the system assumes that’s a mistake or a “pass-back” (and that’s a good thing, it prevents double-withdrawals that users might not even notice).

Many bus drivers don’t know how to do this, though – so much of the time, the operator just hands out a free transfer. I encourage taking advantage of this – Metro needs a reason to improve their operators’ ORCA training. According to @VeloBusDriver, the button to do this on the ORCA console has an icon showing multiple people, but it’s so rarely used that operators sometimes forget about it.

There’s one more interesting point here. How does the second user (or third, or fourth) in a group fare transfer to Link? ORCA customer service doesn’t seem to know.

90 Replies to “An ORCA Trick That Shouldn’t Work”

  1. Our training is fine – the issue is as you said that this type of transaction doesn’t occur often, and is unnecessarily complicated (requires 4-5 button presses and 3 different menus).

    The current DDU (Digital Display Unit) has several unused buttons on the main screen – I have already made the suggestion to Metro that some functions be moved “front and center” rather than having to dig two menu levels down to get to them. One of the functions that this would be good for is the one you mention here. The other is the switch from Ride Free to fare zone – which requires 3 presses, 2 different buttons to get to.

    As far as “taking advantage” of what amounts to a clunky transaction getting waved off to save time – if you really want to take advantage of something, just flick your card too fast for it to be read (most drivers will ignore “please try again” errors), or do what many of Seattle’s riders have already discovered – simply don’t pay. Metro does not enforce fare payment in any way, shape, or form.

    1. I think the OP’s point wasn’t to “take advantage” of this quirk for the primary purpose of avoiding fare payment, but rather to enough to cajole the system into doing things right so as not to lose money. But as you said, Seattle Metro probably doesn’t care enough.

      I’ve used lots of transit in both Seattle and Minneapolis. I’ve always described the difference as: Seattle’s strict about the stops but not the fare. Minneapolis is strict about the fare but not the stops. Every comment you guys make about your Metro not enforcing fares could be made about Twin Cities Metro stopping just about anywhere for runners, wavers, etc. — even in the middle of intersections. But try to ride without paying here, you’ll get an earful and possibly a visit from the cops and a $180 fine.

      1. John,

        I think the OP’s point wasn’t to “take advantage” of this quirk for the primary purpose of avoiding fare payment, but rather to enough to cajole the system into doing things right so as not to lose money.

        Except as I mentioned in re: fare enforcement at Metro – it won’t. Metro doesn’t care if people avoid fares.

        Has to be a happy medium somewhere. I’m thinking that with the transition to Orca (tricks or no tricks) that the concept of fare enforcement may indeed become an issue on Metro as it is on Link and other bus systems.

        Despite the opportunity for conflict and the position this can put drivers in – I’m in favor of it, as I see fare evasion as kind of a “gateway” offense, indeed a chronic one for some.

      2. Oran,

        Metro should care about fares.

        You’d think.

        I believe that the audit revealed that fare evasion accounted for an estimated $2-3 million in lost revenue per year.

        Transit security repeatedly identifies “fare disputes” as the #1 prequel to driver assaults. “Fare disputes”, Metro has unofficially concluded, means any and all interactions, questions, challenges, requests etc. from drivers to passengers regarding fare payment. Solution: tell drivers “we have no fare disputes”, and discipline drivers for any and all complaints relating to passengers reporting that the driver challenged them on the issue of fare payment.

      3. I think it’s probably not accurate to say Metro “doesn’t care” about fare evasion. It is at a low enough level that the cost of enforcement may exceed the likely return.

        If the problem were to get worse I’m sure they’d look at that again.

      4. Martin,

        I really do believe that Metro doesn’t care about fare evasion. As in – you know, “doesn’t care”. I hear you on the ROI (return on investment) argument, the idea that it isn’t that they don’t care, they just don’t think that the problem justifies additional outlay.

        But me – I think that they really don’t care. The last “sweep”, where undercover officers monitored certain routes for about 3 days – took place well over a year ago.

        On the other hand – look what’s happening on Link. Security has a regular presence there, and passengers are routinely checked for fare payment.

        With far more passengers, and far more at stake on Metro buses – why is there no similiar ON BOARD presence on Metro for fare evasion? Why no well-publicized sweeps – even a couple of unannounced times per year?

        No, I really believe that Metro simply doesn’t care about fare evasion, anymore than they care whether a chunk of budget can be recovered by taking a hard look at middle and upper management positions that may be redudant and highly overcompensated.

      5. If you have any doubt that Metro doesn’t give a crap about fare evasion, the 3/4 and 2 are both rolling circuses of fare evasion, as is the 124 to a lesser degree though happily the drivers have been cracking down on the 124 lately.

      6. I pity the drivers of the 124, as they’ll ultimately catch hell for trying to get people to pay their fares.

        I drove the 3/4 last shakeup, and you’re spot-on. I do drive the 2, but it’s early morning when the clinic folks are polite, well-groomed and well behaved, as are the students who ride. Not much fare evasion on my a.m. trip this shakeup.

        Used to drive the 42 which was pretty bad as well that way.

      7. I had some trouble with one specific 3/4 driver, but he seems to have phased off the route. I think that might have been some issues that have little to do with transit and a lot to do with certain things i have no control over, and he just used his problems with ORCA as an excuse.

        I have found many of the clinic folks to be far preferable to the 3/4 “fun”. The 2 might be louder and a little smellier, but nothing too weird happens and it’s loud but not horribly rude and sometimes filled with “inappropriate touching” as many 3/4 riders are.

        I get being poor, folks. I get being underclass. I spend two hours a day on the damn bus going to school to try to get out.

        My mother always used to tell us that no matter what, you never complain about a 359 driver or a 174 driver. I think the 3/4 is the modern insanity equivalent. The 358’s classed it up a little.

      8. gwen,

        I spend two hours a day on the damn bus going to school to try to get out.

        LOL – so did I. One BA and graduate school later – I’m here driving a bus part-time, a member of the working poor with $26 grand in outstanding student loan debt.

        Life is funny, I suppose.

        Next time you see a bus driver think about something: you may be looking at your future. :)

      9. If Metro doesn’t care if people avoid fares, the agency needs to have some turnover. It’s fine if Metro (and ATU) want to avoid conflict, but if ORCA is unusable for drivers who need to do this, they need to get it fixed.

      10. Ben,

        I don’t think this is an ATU issue, but someone at Metro’s idea of positive customer service. Personally I belive that having drivers abdicate responsibility for customer fares sets a dangerous example – particularly for regular fare evaders. It sends a message that there are no rules for riding the bus – or at least that what rules there are are just words printed on an overhead placard, and otherwise meaningless.

        The fare evasion issue is a pretty sticky one with bus operators – and opinions on the issue run the gamut. Many like myself feel frustration that we’re relegated to the status of uniformed wheel-monkey by these 100% hands-off policies, while at the same time the passengers who obey the rules still look to drivers to enforce those rules printed over the front passenger seat.

  2. When a driver does know how to do group fares, does the ORCA system keep track of all the different transfers? Like, if you transfer to another bus and done another group fare, would ORCA have done one ride ride on the pass, plus one xfer for the e-purse fare? There’s absolutely no mention of group transfers on the ORCA site, and my instinct about the system is that it’s probably not “smart” enough to do that, and that any attempts at transfers would simply result in new fares being charged.

    Also, when you say your student friend is SOL for the rest of the quarter, why is that? If the card was registered (which I imagine it would have to be, as a pass), can the student not report it lost/stolen and get a replacement for $5, just as would be the case for an adult card/pass?

    In any event, I’m sure this weekend got many folks thinking about ORCA and how it works with groups. My sister and her fiancé were in town for a while, and despite both being carless transit users from DC, they just bought an old school ticket book and went with paper transfers while they were here rather than use the ORCA card my mother offered them. (Their travels were only on Metro, and presumably for any trips on other agencies they would’ve just paid cash fares.) At first I thought this was kind of silly, but when I thought about all the issues ORCA has, it seemed pretty reasonable. As a tourist you’re already trying to figure out destinations and transfers, why would you want to add anything else difficult to the mix?

    1. The GoTo system in Minneapolis is similar to ORCA. If you do a group ride here, trasfers for everyone are embedded in the card. Paper transfers are not issued. the group is required to stay together to transfer.

      1. John has it right; that is how ORCA works. The transfers are embedded on the cards. They last 2 hours.

        Until the end of 2009, you can ask Metro drivers for paper transfers. (I don’t know if other agencies issue transfers for group fares.) This allows the group to split up and still get transfer credit.

        When inter-agency paper transfers go away 1-1-10, inter-agency transfers can only be done with ORCA. Since paper transfers will still be issued and accepted within Metro, each person except the card holder (who has the embedded transfer) can get a paper transfer for use on another Metro bus. After 1-1-10, if your group is transferring between agencies, you can only transfer with ORCA and will only get credit for the fare paid on the first leg as long as you stay with the card holder.

      1. Then doesn’t that answer the transferring to Link question? The transfers are embedded in the card, so you’re good to go as long as you tap on. It may not show it on the yellow card tapper, but your car ought to remember if you get checked, right?

  3. ORCA certainly has its problems and issues and some drivers fumble hesitantly in converting a two zone to a one zone. The readers are set for the max number of zones possible for any one trip, so asking for a one zone sometimes causes confusion and in some cases, the user gets waived on board anyway.

    Still waiting for ORCA to be accepted for those driving cars onto the ferries and also for those of us using the South Lake Union Streetcar.

    1. ORCA has been accepted on the streetcar for months. They just don’t enforce past “do you have one?”

  4. Ben
    By the way, I know this is the 10th anniversary of the WTO protests, but am not sure you should be suggesting to ORCA passengers ways how not to pay just to punish METRO. If it happens, fine, but probably not a good idea to publicise it!

    1. The intent is to publicize it. It’s up to the Metro operator whether they want to give a free ride.

      1. Ben,

        Not sure whether you’ve been paying attention – but IT’S NOT UP TO THE DRIVER WHETHER TO GIVE A FREE RIDE OR NOT.

        Drivers are actually DISCIPLINED for trying to collect fares from passengers unwilling to pay, confused about payment, or determined to pay the wrong fare.

        That’s what I’m trying to tell you guys. Fare enforcement aboard Metro buses is NONEXISTENT. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

        Your “plan” to “publicize” this “trick” won’t accomplish anything, because METRO DOESN’T CARE WHETHER YOU PAY OR NOT – AND DRIVERS ARE SPECIFICALLY INSTRUCTED *NOT* TO CARE, EVEN DISCIPLINED FOR *TRYING* TO CARE.

        Sorry about the caps, but feel like I’m not getting my point across very well here.

      2. Probably not. It’s as much frustration that I can communicate without adding fake cartoon swearing like this: @#$%&!

        Point being – at Metro, drivers are in no way, shape or form ever to confront a passenger about fare payment – hence three little words with even less meaning: “no fare disputes”.

        Under NO circumstances (there’s those caps again – sorry) is a driver to refuse a ride to someone who doesn’t pay – even if they announce their intention not to pay.

        So it isn’t “up to the operator whether to give a free ride” at all.

      3. it is the same for us at ct, everybody rides, we are supposed to “remind them of the fare” then let them ride AND give them a transfer. With Swift they will have a few ‘Swift ambassadors’ as they are called, checking if people have proof of payment, but they have no power to give tickets or even kick off bus. They have to call transit police to do that.

      4. The bigger issue here – which goes to Ben’s original posting – if fare enforcement (or at the very least fare ‘attention’) by drivers doesn’t matter, then why should it matter to passengers?

        Answer: it shouldn’t.

        Back to Ben’s challenge – doing what he suggested won’t alert anyone to anything.

        Knock yourselves out, guys, at least on anything but LINK. Pay, don’t pay. In a group? NOBODY (caps again) has to pay.

        Nobody cares. ‘Encourage’ away.

        The conclusion of Ben’s original posting here is that taking advantage of the clunkiness of the Orca multi-passenger on one e-Purse process would “encourage” Metro to make a change is inherently flawed. It assumes 2 things (at least): that the waving on of passengers to speed loading is a factor of “driver training” and that Metro really gives a rip about fares.

        I challenge both assumptions – and the conclusion of Ben’s post.

      5. Hey Jeff:
        Are you Part time? All this talk about the by the book “No Fare Disputes” and “Fare Inforcement is Non-Existent” sure sounds like you are Part Time. I could be wrong though. And what routes do you drive, that you have such a problem with the fare? And you talk so much about being disciplined for telling someone to pay or get off….has it actually happened to you?

      6. Casey,

        I am part time, but hear from full time drivers dealing with similar frustrations on an ongoing basis – including my Granfather who drove for Metro for 43 years (full time). I do work out of Atlantic, where the issue tends to be magnified due to the routes we drive there.

        I actually have never asked someone to “pay or get off”, though I have had customers complain (twice) when I merely told them what the correct fare was when they refused to pay, and once when I made the comment (which in retrospect I shouldn’t have) that the person not paying should thank his fellow passengers for paying his fare for him. In my defense, this was a guy who was regular verbally abusive to me as well as not paying as he got off at Harborview.

        So in answer to your questions, “yes”, “yes” and “yes”.

      7. Casey – by the way, what was the point of your questions? Did you have a point of your own to add?

        -it isn’t just part-timers who experience frustration over the fare payment/evasion issue
        -fare enforcement IS non-existent at Metro (if you disagree I’d love to hear about your experience)
        -drivers can and do get disciplined or at the very minimum called in for a ‘See Me’ when a customer complains that they were challenged over a fare – and the driver is always in the position of defending their behavior

        Not sure what any of this has to do with being part or full-time. Would be interested in hearing where you’re coming from there.

      8. I wasn’t trying to say that part-time and full-time drivers don’t deal with the same problems. We do.
        -On the point of fare enforcement, I believed you to be part-time, because during rush hour, calling for police for a fare related problem would be crazy. The coordinator would probably laugh at you and you only drive during rush hour. At night I do see Metro Sheriffs driving around looking for stuff to do. Sometimes you will see them downtown, at a bus stop, checking with each driver if everything is fine. It’s just so easy to point out anyone who hasn’t paid and the sheriffs have no problem pulling them off the coach. This doesn’t happen every night and they aren’t always in the same place. Also when you see them, you can pull up next to them on the sidewalk or their car. If you ask them, they are looking for something to do and wish that we would place more calls for their assistance. Again, I know you only know rush hour and that is a different story.
        -Now the fare dispute issue. I hassle people just about every night because they have an expired transfer(more than 2 hours expired), fake or expired passes, they just don’t pay, have a lame excuse, or they show their RFP without a sticker and don’t drop in the 50 cents. Usually after I tell them they can wait for the next bus, people come up with the money…..they have it, they just don’t want to pay. Some won’t, but I won’t force the issue to the point of an assult. But my point is, I’ve never had a complaint over this issue. NOT ONCE.
        -Now lastly…..What is the big fuss about ORCA? I love it! I never have any issues, it actually makes my day easier. Changing the trip is not hard, changing zones is not hard (especially for an Atlatic operator that doesn’t cross zone lines). Once you change your trip, bring up the ORCA options menu right away and you will have everything you need for ORCA. Group fare is on that menu or if someone only wants to go one zone and you’re in two zone mode, you don’t need to change the fare, just push the fare override button for that one transaction. Just seems like many drivers made up their mind about ORCA before it was really launched. And they aren’t willing to use it correctly. Yes there are a lot of buttons, but it’s easy to pick up with a little practice. The first time I did a group fare it took me a second to remember ORCA training, but once I selected the Group Fare button, it all came back to me and now I don’t have to think twice about it.
        Everyday, I have no problem operating my coach safely and staying on schedule, while using the ORCA system correctly. Any monkey can do it and those who refuse to use ORCA correctly are just lazy!

      9. Casey,

        You’re right about calling for security over fare evasion. What I would suggest is what transit security did a year or so ago – have undercover officers on board who do spot enforcement – including issuing citations and arrests if necessary. Make sure these sweeps occur randomly, and are well-publicized, so folks get the word that it isn’t ‘anything goes’ on the fare payment issue.

        As to how I myself handle fare evaders these days – I do the ‘by the book’ answer. I tell people what the fare is, and leave it at that. It gets a bit more complicated when people *ask* if they can ride for free. I usually tell them that riding without paying is a criminal offense, and I can’t give anyone permission to commit a crime – that if they do so, it’s a choice they are making, not something I’m telling them is O.K.

        I also have people stop me downtown and ask me for a free transfer – even if they aren’t getting on my bus. I tell them to ask the driver of the bus they eventually get on for one.

        It’s good that you haven’t had any complaints over attempts to enforce fares – I’ve had 3. I think routes and passenger types have a lot to do with who complains and when. As a junior part-timer, I’m a new face for folks each shakeup, and I think that it takes a couple of months to get into the groove of a particular route, both for the driver and the passengers who come to know you. As a newer driver on their route – I think people tend to be a bit more reactive and less forgiving. The complaints that I’ve gotten this shakeup and the last over fare issues happened the first couple of weeks of my driving that route/run.

        I hear you on the Orca thing. I think you’re right about folks adjusting to new stuff, and the union culture these days has a bit of a knee-jerk way of getting people riled up/pissed off about things. When it works, it works well, and the more people that are using it I think the smoother things are going. I still don’t like that there’s no reset button inside the bus for when the damn thing goes out of service for no reason and I have to shut down the entire bus at layover to get it going again.

        I still occasionally forget to switch from Ride Free to fare area, but I usually catch it pretty quickly. I have a pretty good routine on pushing the buttons, adjusting for zones and times, etc. It’s definitely manageable, though there’s certainly room for improvement.

      10. I don’t know if complaints come because you are new on their route. I drive off the board sometimes so I may be a new face for different routes everyday. I just may be lucky, and not so lucky for you with the complaints. Sorry to hear you got 3….just not right. I used to not care much for fares, but then again when I was part time it was 212, 229, 255, 229’s. Mostly commuters. Until I picked the 550 my last shake up before full time. I became I stickler for the ST fare structure. And it wasn’t so much that I really wanted to be like that, but it just pissed me off that almost everyone knows that a Metro Transfer is only worth one zone, and you have to pay the upgrade for ST two zone. And it was the same people everyday. Then I told myself, as a new full timer, to just let it go. Driving the 106 on some nights, I wasn’t going to deal with it, but then after so long you just can’t handle it anymore. I no long drive the 106, mostly just decent routes, 5, 15, 17, 18, 21, 23, 26, 28, 54, 56, and one crappy one, the 124, but I still deal with it everyday. I don’t think our routes are all that different or diferent people. Just the same issues to deal with. Hopefully things will get better soon.

        Also, one trick I do, maybe you too, about remembering to switch from RFA. On the way into town if you are a through-routed trip, where your trip changes at Pike, or Union, etc. Change trip when entering Free Area. Then you take care of two steps, with one. Next trip will start in Ride Free default anyway. But ofcourse thats only works on through-routed trips. Then leaving downtown, I make a habit of changing fare right after I call out “Last Stop in RFA”….now it’s habit and it works for me.

      11. Casey,

        My regular piece is the 2/13 early a.m., so waiting until I get to Bell (inbound from the north) or to a lesser extent 6th inbound from Madrona doesn’t make as much sense to the passengers. People at First and Mercer looking for a #2 get confused if they see I’m still signed as the #13, and on my last trip as the #13 I actually continue down third rather than going to Madrona. My first a.m. trip through downtown actually occurs before the time RFA starts. On my last trip from north to south downtown, I change my signage to “Atlantic Base via South Jackson” at Cedar, so people aren’t expecting me to go west on Spring, and I make an announcement to those on board (and even using the external speaker as I arrive at downtown zones) that I’m continuing down Third.

        Usually I forget when I’m doing an ATL piece I’m not used to or a vacation relief. I seldom make the error anymore though.

        Regarding complaints, I do think that Atlantic routes (at least anecdotally as I hear from other drivers) does face some particular challenges with regard to sheer passenger volume and diversity not quite as evident at some of the other bases. Since you’re at Ryerson dealing with some equally heavy diesel routes, that may be an exception. It is frustrating to get that “See Me” as I think I’m actually a pretty decent driver, both in terms of how I operate the vehicle and how I handle customers, so the goofball complaints do tend to sting a bit.

      12. Yes, understood about when to change the signage. But what I meant was changing the trip on the ORCA display. I know that if going from QA to Madrona, you would change you signage at QA/Mercer, if I’m correct. But on the DDU that would be two trips (QA-Union, Union-Madrona)…so rather than changing to RFA at Bell, then Changing trips on ORCA DDU @ Union, I was saying since you’re entering RFA, change trip at Bell, and it will go to Ride Free in that same step. Just a way to reduce the number of buttons to push.

      13. on the DDU that would be two trips (QA-Union, Union-Madrona)…

        Should be – but isn’t. The DDU still has the trip set at central CBD – 3rd and Union southbound, Pike northbound as I leave my terminal at each end.

        It’s less confusing, particularly to passengers boarding at Mercer – to go by the Book matrix and change signage at Mercer and change to RFA at Cedar (before arrriving at Bell). It is more buttons, but it has the advantage of being in line with the book procedure and helping customers not get on the wrong bus.

        But yes – I do change trip at Cedar as you suggest rather than manually flipping from fare to ride-free. Can’t do this south/west bound, as the trip change is supposed to be at Union, and there are still 2 ride free zones left at that point (4th and Spring and 6th and Spring).

        So sometimes it makes sense to change trip to flip to/from the RFA, sometimes you still have to do it using the delta $ button. Depends on the route/run.

        Ultimately it’s not rocket science, particularly for tech nerds like us, but having the DDU, signage and fare system and run cards better coordinated will help avoid signage and fare set errors in the future.

      14. Jeff, Casey, and others — interesting comments about Metro not caring about fare collection. Would it help if fare-paying riders started complaining when they see drivers obviously ignoring fare payment?

      15. It would be interesting to see what would happen if you did. All customer complaints about drivers are dealt with by a 1:1 meeting between the driver and their base chief, usually within 3-5 days of the complaint being made if there’s enough identifying information (bus number time of day, date) to track down the driver.

        I’d love to have you call in such a complaint about me just to see what the conversation with the chief would go like.

        If you were to phone in your complaint rather than using the online system, a customer service representative *may* explain to you that it is the official policy of Metro that drivers tell the non-paying passenger what the fare is supposed to be – ONCE, and “only if they feel safe doing so”.

        Personally, I’d like to see the issue get some media attention, as that’s the only way stuff like this tends to get changed. Ultimately – I’m not sure *how* it would change given the issues involved, but as with here on the blog – it would doubtless generate some interesting discussion and educate the public a bit. No down side there.

      16. It does seem to me that Metro drivers are all over the map about enforcing fares.

        I’ve seen a rush hour bus full of people be held up because the driver was hassling someone about their pass not scanning in the mag stripe reader on the farebox. I’ve also had a couple of metro drivers insist that I pay a cash fare when my ORCA wouldn’t read for some reason (though in one case the ORCA reader was clearly broken).

        At the same time if someone is going to cause a problem on the bus they almost always refuse to pay the fare and get abusive with the driver when reminded of the proper fare or told their transfer is expired. In addition I’ve seen many evaders get even more upset when the driver refused to give them a transfer after not paying the fare.

        I really want to see more uniformed and undercover officers riding the bus and enforcing the Metro code of conduct. While some routes rarely have a problem some other routes seem to have a general feeling of lawlessness on them. The disruptive riders know the drivers are mostly powerless to do anything to them and the response times of the transit police are long enough that the miscreants have plenty of time to get out of dodge if the driver does call them in.

        So even if it doesn’t save any money I do think there needs to be better fare enforcement simply to improve the security on Metro Transit.

        BTW I’m curious what fare enforcement policy applies on the Sound Transit routes operated by Metro?

      17. There’s one specific driver on one bus i ride, and it’s not a bus i’ve mentioned here, who has become merciless about fare collection. I’m shocked he’s still driving the bus, but lemme tell you, he’s also my new favorite driver.

        I’m never saying a damn thing about who he is or what bus he’s on, since he’ll get canned. He’s firm, professional, pleasant, and extremely polite, so it’s not like he’s part of the small minority of Metro drivers who suck. He’s really, really good. And the bus is so much better for him since the serial evaders will flip him off rather than get on the bus. He gets thanks from passengers, from low-income folks like me to the moneyed (apparently) commuters. He’s the man.

        So, tell me, Jeff, is there any way one can pass along a commendation straight to the ATU in case they screw with this gent for doing his job?

      18. gwen c.,

        Good on you for mentioning the “c” word – commendation. You want to run that one through Metro Customer Service – the website is a good way to do that, http://metro.kingcounty.gov/cs/metro-feedback.html .

        Using the feedback form to commend a driver in general or for specific incidents is a great way to help boost a driver’s morale – and to let them know they are doing a good job. Feel free to do it more than once – I hear that sometimes commendations from customers, regardless of how specific the customer is about what bus they are riding or who their driver is, have a way of not filtering to the driver. Complain on the other hand and the driver is in front of his or her base chief within 3-5 days.

        You won’t get him in trouble for commending how a driver handles customers, even if the issue is being confronted over paying the correct fare. I think that the more that Metro hears from paying customers that they appreciate it when a driver tries to educate passengers about correct fare payment (politely and respectfully of course), the more they may focus on realizing that simply giving evaders a ‘pass’ really isn’t good customer service at all.

      19. I’ve sent in my share. My mom used to drive for Tacoma Transit back when Tacoma was a far, far less “fun” place, so i’m all over a deserved commendation, and this guy deserves it. I know his name, and i know he always drives the same run, so i’ll get nice and specific.

        I’ll put all this law school mumbo-jumbo into action and make sure i don’t say he’s ever demanded fare. Heh heh heh.

  5. What I don’t like are lazy drivers who could be bothered to press a few buttons. I’ve had to insist that a reluctant driver switch from Ride Free to Two Zones at the start of a morning ride into Seattle. Metro is in a big enough financial hole without bus drivers adding to the problem by giving a bus load of riders a free trip just because they couldn’t be bothered to work the ORCA console correctly.

    1. It’s not laziness, they’re trying to drive the bus. We did the group fare thing once when my sister-in-law was in town, and it took the driver about 3 minutes of pushing buttons to get the ORCA console on group fare, for us to tap the card, and then to reset the console to single fare. That delayed our trip and everyone else on the bus–though with all the clicking I’m glad she didn’t do it while driving! After that experience we just got another ORCA card to use.

  6. It should be noted that CT Swift cannot handle group fares, according to the CT website. I don’t think LINK nor SOUNDER can handle group fares, since you can only tap the readers. Only bus drivers can change the fares via group fares.

    As a driver, I have no requests for group fares so far. Eventually, the units will have more GPS features, so the machine will change from Ride Free to 1/2 zones (and vice versa) when entering/leaving RFA. There is one thing that passengers need to do. They need to see the screen and if they are riding one zone, when my ORCA is set to two zone, they need to tell me right away, so I can override the zones for that transaction.

    1. Link and Sounder can do group fares, you just have to buy the tickets on the TVM with an E-purse. Passes only work once since passes are non-transferable (can’t be shared).

    2. The sign above the ORCA reader at Swift stations explicitly say “May be used for single fares only; not for group fares.” I wonder how many people know that ORCA can do group fares.

      1. I got little bro his own ORCA as soon as he arrived (as well as ORCAs for the rest of my family while visiting), specifically because I was/am confused about Group Fare

    3. Another good one for one of those main menu “up fronts”. Push the button once for one zone, again to set it back (three pushes for longer range ST buses).

      Same thing with ride free/fare zone. Default is off-peak. Press once for peak, twice for ride free. Next press resets it back to off-peak.

      Too many menus, too many different buttons to fish around for – all while operating a bus, keeping passengers loading, and often while wearing gloves.

      Feh.

    4. The self-service GoTo validators on the Hiawatha Line (Minneapolis’ equivalent to Link) have all the functionality of the drivers’ console on the buses. Therefore you *can* set the GoTo reader on the Hiawatha Line for a group fare, though I’ve never done so. I think the validator reverts to default after so many seconds so the next person doesn’t get “dinged” accidentally….

    5. I’m a regular Link rider who still occasionally rides Metro buses. The ORCA readers on the buses are hard to read quickly when boarding the bus, to see if it’s properly set. If I pause long enough to read the screen, someone’s bumping into me from behind. And when I swipe my card, the beep tone is so faint, sometimes I don’t notice it over all the background noise.

      Link’s ORCA card readers don’t have to be reset at zone lines, and their beep tones are loud enough to wake the dead. Maybe there’s something for Metro to learn from Link.

  7. I keep my DDU on the Orca screen that makes it easy for me to switch things for Riders. Drivers also done know about the button that will let you change the zone for a one time swipe. Normally I have 1 person at the I-90 Rainer freeway station that pays with her epurse so I switch it while i’m on the bridge so she doesn’t have to ask me for 1 zone.

    I did learn the hard way when someone asked if they could pay for the 2 of them. just have to reverse the first tap and do group.

  8. I just wish the DDU was easier to get to for the driver. I’m having to reach around the wheel to get ot it.. least in the 60 foot New Flyer. I would like to see it a lot easier to use for sure.

    1. Ergonomics were never a priority in these buses for the most part. Having driven even older model MCI Motor Coaches for Grayline, there’s loads of room for improvement aboard municipal buses in regards to ergonomic design. It’s almost as if the driver were an afterthought.

      That said – the 2600 and up 60′ flyer coaches do have a feature that I like – which is having the transsign keypad within reach of the driver in a sitting position (on Gilligs and 2300 Flyers you have to unbuckle and stand up to change the transsign).

      That also said, whatever knucklehead put the climate control panel behind and over the left shoulder of the drivers so that you have to turn completely around to make a temperature adjustment deserves to have his Cooper Mini rear-ended by a driver of said bus responding to a passenger request to turn down the heat.

  9. Why not allow pass-backs but deduct for anything beyond the first tap? That’s how CTA turnstiles work for farecards. Passes don’t allow pass-backs, but ORCA is a hybrid product and should probably make accomodations for a simpler UI on the driver or passenger side.

    On CTA buses a farecard user does have to tell the driver in advance but only takes about a second to charge for two passengers vs. one.

    1. Because of both undercharging and overcharging. The purpose of “Pass Back” is to prevent two people from tapping the same card and one of them getting a free ride on the other’s pass.

      But it also protects passengers because it’s hard to coordinate the messages and lights with people’s hand movements. Sometimes the reader goes directly from “Try Again” to “Pass Back”, indicating that the transaction did go through at one point but it couldn’t tell you quickly enough to avoid a second transaction. If it weren’t for the Pass Back, you’d be double charged.

      As for lack of fare enforcement, one driver wrote earlier that Metro couldn’t recruit enough drivers to fill the routes if it insisted drivers be security guards as well as drivers.

      There’s also the fact that seems to be lost, that transit is a public service. People who can’t afford to pay shouldn’t be forced to walk all across the county. Maybe they’re going to a job interview so they can earn more money. Maybe they usually have a pass but forgot they didn’t this month, or forgot they were out of change, and they’re twenty miles from home. I buy a pass even when I don’t need it partly to avoid those situations (and to avoid constantly calculating, “Is this trip really worth $2?”)

  10. I’m a pretty short guy so I can’t even reach to switch my signage while I’m on the move. I like to keep my seat all the way down. Someone told me people use back scratcher to poke at the buttons. :)

    1. Seems to me that the design could have more of a wraparound style panel that allowed all controls to be within reach of the driver without having to take one’s eyes off of the road. The transsign controls, as well as climate controls, etc. *should* be down on the panel in front or to the left – not hither and yon as they all are.

      There’s really plenty of room on the dash for those things – currently taken up by widely spaced toggle switches and knobs that look like something out of a 1950’s space opera.

      Here’s hoping the new buses we get next year take some of this into account.

  11. In the ideal world the driver would have one job- driving the bus and keeping it in motion consistent with passenger safety. The driver would not collect fares, but there would be lots of transit police checking for fare evaders.

    When transit began, vehicles had a driver and a conductor. Over the years transit companies and agencies worked continuously to give the driver the fare collection and conductor jobs. This was the premise of the Birney Safety Car, a vehicle so wretched that Detroit retired their newly-purchased fleet after one year of service.

    I think most riders would be vastly reassured to see more transit police on their vehicles, and judging from my own feelings when I see a speeder tagged by the State Patrol, I also think the people who paid their fares would get some pleasure from seeing fare evaders caught.

    The modern bus is a considerable investment, and the exposure to liability goes way beyond “considerable”. The driver operates in an environment that is complex, confusing, and usually changing. Take the fare collection task away from the driver and give it to someone else.

  12. somebody at our base made little stick things-like a drumstick-to use to poke the luminator buttons, now we don’t need to, the signs change automaticly when choose the next trip on the ddu.

  13. I don’t know if they’re common per se, but they seemed to work well in Chicago.

    Also, I actually saw Tranit Police on Metro for the first time yesterday. It was on the 41 northbound in the tunnel around 11 between Pioneer Square and University Street. One boarded in front, one in back. They rode the one stop and got off.

    I’m not a driver so I don’t have as much experience as those of you who are, but it seems as though most of the fare-evasion I see is on pay-as-you-leave buses. Does that seem to be accurate?

    1. Yes. However some people will refuse to pay just because they are only riding a short distance, even inbound. They figure since they are too lazy to walk half a mile, that they shouldn’t have to pay. The 3/4 outbound is particularly problematic, as many board at 3rd and James just so that they don’t have to walk up the hill to Harborview, or who get off at Broadway and Jefferson. Violations are frequent, massive, and flagrant.

      1. Yeah, I see this every so often. In Chicago riders would make it clear to the fare-evader that rear-door entering wasn’t allowed or tolerated. Here, there are so many possible combinations that there is enough potential for confusion to be taken advantage of, and it seems to have caused an atmosphere where it is generally tolerated. Pretty amazing considering the tax revenue losses.

        That reminds me – sometimes when a flash-pass such as a Puget Pass or U Pass is presented the driver presses a button and there is an audible beep indicating that the pass has been counted. Other times there is no such indicator. Is this because there is a problem with the farebox or because the driver isn’t doing something?

      2. Rob,

        The keypad on the farebox is used to set up the fare box for each trip and run, as well as to count types of fares – like flash passes, senior fare payers, youth fare payers, etc. as well as non-payment.

        For non-payment or under-payment, the driver is supposed to hit the “3” key; for seniors the “4” key, for youth the “5” key, for people who use a pass plus cash the “7” key, and for people who show rather than swipe their pass, the “8” key.

        I use my buttons religiously – in the vain hope that someone is actually keeping track of that data. I have however ridden with drivers who NEVER press a button on their keypad.

        Me, I think that it’s probably important to count these things, but again – I don’t know if anyone is really monitoring that data or not.

        In direct answer to your question – it’s because the driver isn’t doing what they’re supposed to do with regard to use of their keypad.

      3. Jeff-
        Yes I beleive it is good to keep track of the data, I however don’t use the 8 for flash passes, but eveything else I do. I heard a rumor though, that Metro isn’t looking at farebox data anymore. I may be wrong. But now with ORCA the non-payment button and lift use button are all counted up, and downloaded each time the coach returns to the base. So, not sure if you use ORCA buttons buttons religiously, but it may be a good time to start. They can tell now how many non-payments for each trip…..and if every driver records it correctly, over time, it creates an average that mabye the Transit Police can investigate certain trips. Plus I hear (again don’t believe everything I hear) that when GPS comes online next year, that each time you hit the non-payment button on ORCA, it will know which bus stop it happened. And again, if everyone records it correctly, the data downloaded will show patterns on problem spots at certain times of the day. Hopefully this data can help Transit Police assist us better.

      4. When I found out that Metro just collects the farebox data, but hasn’t used it for anything useful in years, I quit pushing the buttons for the last 5 years I worked there. No bells or alarms went off, and I was never questioned about lack of data in the box, so I guess my source was right!

      5. Thanks for all the farebox info. So is the general consensus that this type of info is still logged by some drivers but is not actually used by Metro?

        Does that mean that there is really no accurate count of flash-pass use, or fare-evasion data for that matter?

      6. Yep, nor apparently has there been in some time – possibly years.

        As I said earlier – Metro doesn’t care. All you need to ride a bus are the words “no fare disputes” and your middle finger. No arrests, no fines, no consequences. Go nuts.

  14. Casey,

    I however don’t use the 8 for flash passes, but eveything else I do

    Why not? When you don’t do that – you’re not counting riders. It’s also what we’re supposed to do.

    I’ve heard the same rumor about not cataloging fare box data. But the book still says to count data, and rumors are just rumors. If I’m operating a run that’s standing room only – it’s great if there’s on-spot data to back that up and hopefully be used to ease congestion on crowded routes. Of course if Metro isn’t monitoring the data – all that is moot.

    Funny how we should even have to speculate about this as operators.

    Orca includes a button to count lift use? News to me. I always just hit the “9” key twice (once for up, once for down).

    Also – Orca includes a button to count fare evaders that don’t pay using either Orca, transfers or cash? Where? If I need to find that stuff and use it – I certainly will, but was unaware of them, and can’t find that in my Orca manual.

    1. I was told by training, that counting flash passes with the “8” key wasn’t needed.

      Ridership isn’t tracked by the farebox anyway. It’s done by putting the APC coaches out and the APC data is collected using the tracking system to know where the coach is and on what trip. These buses if you’re not fimilar with, but I’m sure you are, count people boarding/deboarding. They go out, and collect enough data overtime to create an average weekday or weekend boarding for each trip so planners know when to add coaches or what type of coach to use. Ridership isn’t counted by the farebox.

      On ORCA……on the ORCA menu screen……the one you uses to reverse transactions, override the zone fare for one transaction, etc. The top right button (where PRTT is on the home screen) has a broken coin picture…..that is the new non-payment button. Uses that everytime you would normally use the “3” key. And I believe two buttons down on the right is a wheelchair picture…..that iws the new “9” key. Just like the button with the Star picture, is for special event service like Huskies, you push that for every passenger to total the ridership for the event service. There are many buttons on the ORCA menu screen. Maybe thats why I get ORCA to be so easy, because after I change my trip, I keep it in the ORCA menu screen so I have everything I need. The only reason to back out of it, to the Home screen, is to adjust Volumes, or hit PRTT, but thats easy to just hit the home button once and you’re back.

  15. Good tips, thanks – I’ll definitely incorporate them into my routine, though I think I’ll still use my “8” key on the farebox, just for fun. Will check in with training on whether the data is still being used – the procedure is certainly still in the Book.

    1. Yes, it is. I asked in both PT and FT training when we were down there at South Training. They said it was in the book, because it’s an old policy and hasn’t been taken out. Not sure if thats true, or just what the trainers think.

  16. I would think they look at some of the data. Otherwise what was the point to ask us to hit B to count bikes for those couple of days in the summer? I pretty much hit B and 8 and that’s about it. Used to hit 3 a lot when I drove the 174 but on the eastside.

  17. Cam,

    I talked with Atlantic/Central training today. Apparently the fare collection data – including non-payment – hasn’t been pulled in *years*. If you’re pushing the “8” key – or the “3” key for non-payment – apparently you’re just doing it for the exercise.

  18. Well that saves me time!!!! Thanks for checking on that. This thread turned into Drivers helping Drivers. :) I guess I’ll just count my bikes and that’s it.

  19. Only count bikes when they’re doing a survey. Oddly – this is apparently the ONLY data that is now collected through the fare boxes – and then only semi-annually on a couple of specific days. Also oddly – the Orca system has an option to do the same thing – it’s the “STAR” icon on the expanded menu screen. Why isn’t Metro using that feature for the newer bike counts, you ask?

    Dunno.

  20. Also – Casey’s suggestion about having the expanded menu screen as the default (has all the necessary buttons for group fares, etc. – everything but volume control and trip change) was spot on. Works great and I’m doin’ it his way now. Thx Casey!

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