We’ve recently learned that Sound Transit is planning to put a handful of spare Ticket Vending Machines (TVMs) at major locations around the region to spare transit users a trip to a Sounder or Link station.

The only location that we’ve heard is sure right now is the Bellevue Transit Center, and that TVM should come in April. Sound Transit has up to four TVMs to spare, so they’ll be having a regional discussion about where to put the other three in the next couple of months.

Most regional trips do start, transfer or end near a TVM already, but commuters to places like Federal Way and Northgate have to order an ORCA online or by phone if their employer doesn’t provide one. This will make ORCA a little easier.

While we’d like to see more TVMs in the future, they’re apparently quite expensive – Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor informed us at the Swift opening that they were $700,000 – hence Swift’s use of $20,000 Parkeon ticket vending machines that can’t dispense ORCA.

I suspect that the $700,000 number includes administrative, back-end, and maintenance costs, but it hasn’t been examined deeply. TriMet in Portland and TransLink in Vancouver BC use nearly identical systems.

70 Replies to “TVMs Coming To A Few New Places”

  1. $700,000?!?! Holy crap that’s espensive. And those parking things are $20k each?! I wouldn’t have guessed any higher than $5,000.

    1. Where’s ZIG when you need him?
      I liked my idea of adding a TRANSIT button to the Seattle Parking TVM’s to dispense a “Ride anything – anywhere” ticket lasting 2 hours.
      Nothing fancy, just basic seamless transportation. Let the bean counters divide the revenue by formula.

      1. So the minimum charge would be $4.75? Not including the ferries, that is the highest one-way fare in the region. If you included the ferries, you might have to charge $6.90.

      2. No Way!, Two bucks .. Tops.
        ST Link averages 93 cents of revenue per ride, Metro about a $1.35, Commuter Rail about 3 bucks, etc.
        Charge $2, allocate by formula who’s riding what, to where, and divide the revenue to the various agencies, so that everyone is made whole. Spot check the mix of riders annually to adjust the revenue split, combined with known travel patterns like PSRC OD, mode split, commute to work data, and now ORCA data and transfer habits. It’s not rocket science.

      3. Since most fares from downtown Seattle on all agencies are $2.00 or higher, I don’t they’d go for a $2.00 fare.

      4. Maybe, but the price would rise over time like anything else. The $2.00 is the base 1 zone fare, so I’m sure some will game the system to get a 2 zone peak ride out of it, but the other side of that coin would be weekend traveler with kids that plop down 2 bucks a head, and go ride transit to see Seattle.
        It’s probably just a King County thing, and you wouldn’t want a bunch of Seattle parking machines outside the city limits. Maybe other jurisditions could offer similiar transit tickets.
        Anyway, knowing how Seattle works, this is just as silly an idea as the Disney clip, but what a promo for transit…. at a parking TVM no less!

  2. Yeah, that’s a number about ten times as high as I expected. Does anyone know how much the metrocard machines in NYC cost? Aside from the rfid reader stuff, they seem to have all the same functionality as the Orca TVMs…

    1. Do the TVMs shut down at night when Link’s not running, or can you go buy a ticket then? I’m not about to find out. Either way, they’re not really “working” outside their 20-hour day, so their making $95.89 an hour. With eight TVMs at some Link stations, full-time station agents seem attractive, although I guess that would just be a person in a booth operating a TVM for you. I would walk to the other end of the platform to talk to a real person, though!

      1. Not my year – Tim’s. It’s less than totally arbitrary, because one year is an easy number to conceptualize, and to divide it to cover 20, 50, or 95.89 years – which is how long I hope the TVMs last! – is cognitively very easy.

      2. I meant to divide a one-year figure over whatever the expected life cycle is. I also realize that the TVMs don’t actually receive a paycheck.

  3. Sound Transit had a budget of $6.7 million for buying and installing the 40 Sounder TVMs. That works out to about $170,000 each all-inclusive. I’d guess the machines themselves probably cost around $100,000.

    1. I doubt the TVM is any where near that expensive. As an Computer Engineer, I’d expect most of the cost is for the software on the TVM and the backend behind it. Designing and validating this type of system is were the expense is the hardware is relatively cheap. The terminals are probably an closer to 10k.

  4. Damn those TVMs are pricey.

    I think the remaining 3 TVMs should go to the 3 busiest transit centers/park & rides/transfer points without a nearby Sounder or Central Link station. Some possible candidates would be: Ash Way P&R, Lynnwood TC, Aurora Village TC, Northgate TC, Overlake TC, Federal Way TC, and the 10th & Commerce transfer point in Downtown Tacoma.

    What is really needed is a lower cost solution that can vend ORCA cards as well as add passes and value to existing cards. These should be placed in every transit center, transfer point, and park & ride with enough passenger volume to justify a machine and enough security to minimize vandalism.

      1. That is a pretty good list!

        The bus area of Tacoma Station has one which is good. I agree 10th and commerce in Tacoma could really use one.

      2. Given the list, I believe they should prioritize the locations without agency outlets.

        Lynnwood Transit Center has the Ride Store that is open from 7 AM to 6 PM Monday through Friday and 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM on weekends. Other places in Snohomish County include Everett Station and Edmonds Station.

        There is also a Bus Shop at 10th/Commerce. While the hours are only 7 AM to 4 PM, there are a number of grocery stores in Tacoma where ORCA cards can be revalued.

        If I were to prioritize the remaining machines, I would think Northgate, Federal Way and Renton. There is already an outlet in Burien (SAAR’s on 4th Ave SW).

      3. Here is a perfect opportunity to take a hint from one of the world’s “big” transit systems, London. Oyster card running low? Stop in to almost any corner shop/convenience store, and they have a card reader and machine on the counter. (It’s not automated-TVM style, though. A little human interaction never hurt anyone.) Safeway, QFC, 7-11, and their ilk would be perfect candidates. Even the occasional bar or nightspot to encourage less drunk driving. It’s wishful thinking, at best, and far-flung future ideas, but here’s hoping.

      4. If you look on the ORCA site, they do have a growing list of stores that sell ORCA fares. Still only a one-page list, but it’s a longer list than it was a month or two ago.

      5. A complaint about the ORCA website: Why do they provide that list only as a PDF? It would be better if it were a full webpage with links to the trip planner or map that’s updated more frequently. PDFs are not very accessible and not everyone might have a PDF reader on their computer. Then offer the PDF as a printable option.

      6. PDFs are more accessible than .docs, at least. But even if you have a PDF reader, it’s much sloooooower than a simple HTML page! I hate it when websites do that — PDFs for everything. Ugh.

      7. Agreed, Oran, that there’s no reason for it to be a PDF. OTOH, what computer doesn’t now come with Adobe Reader installed on it, and it’s a free download that some browsers will even prompt you to do.

      8. There are huge accessibility issues with PDFs, especially for the visually impaired.

        Besides generating a text list (with links to a map provider) from a database is way easier than maintaining a PDF.

    1. I’d like to see one in Northgate but that’s because that’s where I live. I’m not sure Overlake would be a good place for one — granted it gets a lot of traffic but the vast majority of people going through Overlake are Microsoft employees who already have a transit pass available to them.

    2. I heard somewhere that 10,000 people pass through Northgate TC daily so that’s probably a good one. 10th & Commerce is also really busy, but it has that Pierce Transit store which probably dispenses ORCAs. So I guess the best other ones are Federal Way and Overlake.

      1. The bus shop isnt open all the time though, Basecally business hours M-F so you miss the weekends and weeknights.

  5. They need to get pre-fixed ($10.00, $20.00) ORCA cards in many retail outlets say Bartells or Starbucks.

    1. Because the cards are RFID, without installing a reader, you’d never be able to verify the amount on the card when you bought it. I’d imagine it would be very expensive to put readers at every cash register where an ORCA could be sold.

      1. That could be addressed in packaging. you have envelopes with ten or twenty dollar pre-loaded ORCA cards each with a seperate UPC number. Of course it would actually be $5 more to cover the cost of the card.

      2. How do you know the vendor hasn’t used the card? With Metrocard in NYC, they’re magnetic stripe, so if you buy a packaged one you know it can’t have been used. But a Bartell’s employee might swap one with an empty one, and there wouldn’t be a physical difference.

      3. Well they could use lined envelopes like the ones you get with your Enhanced Drivers License… Theoretically you can not read the RFID chip through the envelope, have these available in various denominations at the retail chain of your choice

      4. Ben,

        Ever bought a gift card at a grocery store? They’re “inactive” until activated when purchased at the register. While I don’t think that type of functionality is part of the current design – seems like the same kind of “activation code” could be encoded on an RFID as well as a magnetic stripe.

        Or as suggested – they could just be in a sealed envelope until sold.

      5. Another thought – when a card that has been reported lost or stolen is used on any Orca reader, the message “CARD BLOCKED” appears. All pre-loaded cards sent to retail locations could be default coded as “blocked” (a status tied to the card’s unique identification number) until activated – which could be done online through the Orca site itself if retailers are provided a unique activation code to access a segment of the site to activate/unblock cards.

        All of this is naturally another layer of complexity and functionality which may or may not have been considered already by Orca tech mucky-mucks, but the concept doesn’t seem insurmountable.

        The more this kind of thing comes up though, the more I wonder if this rollout isn’t premature or at the very least, the goals/timelines for benchmarks unfortunately unrealistic.

      6. Actually, smart cards *will* work through an envelope, as long as they have been activated. I keep my ORCA card inside my wallet, hold my wallet up to the reader, and it reads just fine. This makes sure I don’t misplace my card.

      7. The card cannot be read if its wrapped in aluminum foil.

        I did that so I could keep both my employer-provided and personal ORCA card in the same wallet. Make sure to keep the two cards apart or none of them could be read.

      8. I don’t think It’s very likely an employee would take one, use it while it’s in a package, then return it. Maybe steal one sure, but that’s a whole different thing.

        My concern would be if they made preloaded orca people would treat them like they were disposable. And that would undermind the whole point.

      9. I think you just trust the retailer. I trust that Bartell’s sells legit transit passes just like they sell legit drugs in the pharmacy. Either way, I can’t tell until I try to use them.

      10. The envelopes would be treated by the retailer as a cash item accountable to the agency. If they lose it or it is pilfered they either have to report it or take a loss. Since the card would be sealed, tampering would be evident. They could also be blocked until they are purchased and validated as someone pointed out similar to the gift card procedures.

        There also needs to be a massive effort at education and PR around use of the card and where to buy it. I took the train back to downtown yesterday and ended up talking with a guy returning from the airport after a flight. He was expecting to transfer to a CT bus in downtown (on Sunday) using his paper ticket to get him to Lynnwood. I told him that a paper transfer would not likely work today and should consider getting an ORCA card for future trips. He thought he wouldn’t use it enough to justify purchasing one. Even after I told him that the card costs nothing additional until February. People are not “groking” why they should have a card and how it saves them money even if they won’t use it often.

      11. they do it in hong kong, every 711/ circle Ks, fast food places, vending machines, parking garages

      12. Also I don’t think the little ERG read/write thing for the cards is all that expensive. Especially since most outlets that used to sell passes did so only at a single register.

      13. I thought they have readers at the retail locations that sell ORCA. I know they did at the Walgreen’s where I bought a Translink in San Francisco.

    2. This might be doable if they can get a temporary card. If I recall, there were plans for a disposable ORCA card (perfect for retail sales) that wouldn’t have a card cost of five dollars.

      1. Does the ORCA card REALLY cost $5? Or is that a fee made up to “help” patrons to look after their cards and not lose them?

      2. Probably both. I doubt that the actual production cost of the Orca RFID card is $5.00, there *is* some cost with supplying this technology. Add to that the idea that the card is supposed to replace petroleum-based renewable/disposable cards, and you have your second part incentive.

  6. Now they just need to expand the deployment to cover all Transit Centers and P&R lots. In addition to adding ORCA service centers at major shopping malls, and facilitys to load product or e-purse onto ORCA cards at all major coffee, drug, and grocery outlets. Not to mention 24/7 phone support to ensure the successful deployment of the system. Still dosent address some aspects of the regressive fare policy (in regards to specialized transportation and cash fares) implemented on 1/1/10, however it does address the access issues.

    Of course, it also makes one wonder if the capital costs outweigh any potential of cost savings, or farebox equity….

    1. The capital costs are lower. Printing all those cards all the time, not to mention paper transfers, was incredibly expensive.

      I think that uptake on ORCA has been very good. By late in the year, some half of Link users had one. I think it’s going to be very quick, and I don’t think going overboard on support is really going to help. People get a clue quickly when they have to.

      1. From what i hear busiess has been quite brisk as people are getting the cards, and i agree once things settle down it will be a bit easier. However, you still need convient access to reload your card should you forget, or are not able to do it online before your trip. Having universal access to the system makes it easy for everyone of all kinds to make sure they are ready for their trip on their terms. You dont want your potential riders to have to go out of their way to use the system, that will not make your service attractive and you will loose riders becasue of that. Same thing goes for having 24-7 phone support. They might not be able to help much at 2 am, however they are there if you need to call in and get something fixed. You can atleast get things started on your terms. Again, its about making the system available to everyone. Having such a complicated system is bound to scare some riders off, but if you have universal support for both retail operations, and phone support 24/7 this will help mitigate some of that. Otherwise more transit optional riders are bound to say “to hell with this” and go back to driving as they dont want to mess with it.

  7. I’m just amazed that each TVM costs only $100,000 less than I an entire New Flyer bus like those used on Swift.

    1. It really sounds like that wasn’t the case – perhaps the machine, plus lifetime service, plus lifetime media replacement, cost $700,000?

    2. I’m guessing the number the CT person quoted was for an entire system including all of the back-end and administrative support averaged out over each machine. I doubt the incremental cost of each machine is so high.

      On the other hand secure vandal and weather resistant enclosures aren’t cheap and likely aren’t produced in high volume so I could see the incremental cost of a TVM being around $75,000 or so.

  8. I am still holding out for our local drug store Bartell’s to jump on the ORCA band wagon. During the last week, Metro sent announcements out that ORCA was available at the store at 3rd & Union. Maybe they were testing the waters – as Bartell’s are in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Surprised their map didn’t show one in Bremerton or Poulsbo.

    1. From what I was told, Bartell’s is only planning on putting a few machines in some of their stores, not all of them and I don’t think they have any stores in Kitsap County.

  9. Current Locations for Revalue in person:

    Island County:
    Freeland Liquor/Ken’s Cubby
    1614 E. Main Street
    Freeland, WA 98249
    10:00am – 7:00pm

    Snohomish County:
    Everett Transit’s Everett Station Customer Service Center
    3201 Smith Ave.
    Everett, WA 98201
    6:30am – 6:30pm, weekdays

    College Station Customer Service Center
    2200 Tower Street
    Everett, WA 98201
    7:30am – 11:30am, Monday to Thursday

    Mall Station Customer Service Center
    1330 SE Everett Mall Way
    Everett, WA 98208
    1:30pm – 5:30pm, Monday to Thursday

    Safeway Store
    7601 Evergreen Way
    Everett, WA

    Safeway Store
    4128 Rucker Ave.
    Everett, WA

    Safeway Store
    1715 Broadway
    Everett, WA

    Community Transit’s Lynnwood Transit Center
    20110 46th Avenue W
    Lynnwood, WA 98036
    7:00am – 6:00pm, weekdays
    8:30am – 4:00pm, Saturdays
    8:30am – 4:00pm, Sundays

    ***Any TVM at a ST Sounder station

    King County:
    King Country Metro Transit’s King Street Center
    201 S. Jackson St.
    Seattle, WA 98104
    8:00am – 5:00pm, weekdays

    Westlake Customer Stop
    Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel
    Westlake Station (west end on the Mezzanine near Macy’s)
    Seattle, WA 98101
    9:00am – 5:30pm, weekdays

    3rd and Union
    Seattle, Wa

    Saar’s Market Place
    14905 4th Ave SW
    Burien, WA 98155
    Mon-Sat, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

    Saar’s Market Place
    9000 Rainer Ave S
    Seattle, WA 98116
    Mon-Sat, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

    Vashon Thriftway
    9740 SW Bank Road
    Vashon, WA 98070
    8:00am – 9:00pm

    ***Any TVM in the DSTT, at stations along the ST Link or ST Sounder

    Kitsap County:
    10978 SR 104
    Kingston, WA 98346
    7:00am – 10:00pm

    Kitsap Transit’s Customer Service Office
    10 Washington Avenue
    Bremerton, WA 98337
    6:00am – 7:00pm, weekdays
    8:00am – 4:00pm, Saturdays

    Pierce County:
    Pierce Transit’s The Bus Shop Downtown Tacoma
    930 Commerce St.
    Tacoma, WA 98402
    7:00am – 4:00pm, weekdays

    The Bus Shop Lakewood
    3720 96th St SW
    Lakewood, WA 98499
    8:00am – 5:00pm, weekdays
    10:00am – 2:00pm, Saturdays

    The Bus Shop Tacoma Dome Station South
    505 E. 25th
    Tacoma, WA 98421
    6:00am – 6:00pm, weekdays

    Saar’s Market Place
    6411 Lakewood Towne Ctr Blvd
    Lakewood, WA 98499
    Mon-Sat, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

    Saar’s Market Place
    13322 Pacific Ave S
    Parkland, WA 98444
    Mon-Sat, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

    Saar’s Market Place
    6414 Yakima Ave
    Tacoma, WA 98408
    Mon-Sat, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

    Saar’s Market Place
    1015 N Pearl St
    Tacoma, WA 98406
    Mon-Sat, 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

    ***Any TVM at a ST Sounder Station

  10. It would be sweet if the RFID chip in ORCA cards worked with WiFi so you could load your card using your own laptop on the Web site. I suppose other people could more easily hack your card, and there would probably be a whole slew of other issues, but how sweet would that be?

  11. For $70,000 you could subsidize Clearwire broadband use to all those people and let them charge up their ORCA cards over the web.

  12. So I went to try and add money via coins at 2 TVMs at University Station and was sad to find that while the computer is setup and the slot is there it is blocked from the inside.

    Anyone know any info on this?

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