Photo by Oran

In May 19th’s post on Metro’s Fare Evasion Report, Martin made the utilitarian argument that “net revenue maximization” should be the primary goal of fare policy.  Evasion rates per se, he argued, are less important than the larger revenue picture to which they contribute; furthermore, enforcement often cannibalizes the revenue it seeks to protect,

“…however unjust it may be, fare evasion in itself is not the problem here. It’s the concurrent loss of revenue, and to a lesser extent the tendency of some fare evaders to disrupt the bus in other ways. As a result, any attempt to address the problem needs cost/benefit analysis to see if it actually improves the budget situation.”

Many commenters passionately disagreed, bristling at cost-benefit analyses when principles of fairness and integrity are at stake. As a brief footnote to that conversation, let me add a cautious word about operators. The conversation to this point has involved two types of operators: (1. Those who follow policy by passively allowing fare evasion in the interest of occupational safety, and (2. Those who for reasons of principle break policy and choose to actively confront evaders anyway.

I suggest a third type of (rare) operator: s/he who actively solicits fare evasion. In the six weeks since I moved back to Seattle, I have experienced three occasions in which operators stopped people about to pay with phrases such as “Hey, don’t worry about it. Have a great night,” or “This one’s on me”. On one memorable occasion, the operator provided free rides to members of her own ethnic group but no others.

My hope is that this happens rarely, and I grant that arguing from such anecdotes is usually unwise.  It is impossible to quantify how fairness, policy reliability, and operator integrity contribute to ride quality and the retaining of ridership (and by extension, revenue). But as almost all untapped transit demand lies with choice riders, I suspect that such qualitative considerations make lasting (and potentially pernicious) impressions on the market segment we most need to attract. So yes, as Martin correctly argued, in the end revenue should be our primary concern.  But when transit agencies undermine themselves they lose more than money.  Tolerating fare evasion is defensible, but contributing to it is not.

85 Replies to “Driver-Assisted Fare Evasion”

  1. I’ve experienced this many times while carrying one of my daughters. I especially remember one operator who told us to “keep our $2 to buy that baby some milk!” I don’t think it’s happened since ORCA, except once when my card ran out the operator told me to not worry about the $1 I owed, but he may have been more interested in me sitting down safely so he could get the bus moving.

    In my of these cases I think the operator is more interested in seeming like a friendly human being than maximizing revenue, sort of like if a server forgets to put an item on your check at a restaurant he’ll give it to you for free.

    This also reminds me of all the times I’ve ridden on a bus with a broken fare box. How many fares does that lose for Metro?

    1. A broken fare box is another cost/benefit situation. Obviously switching out a bus mid route isn’t going to make economic sense the majority of the time. More maintenance might result is less out of service boxes but probably would cost more then it saves.

      1. Higher cash fares and a partnership deal with Coinstar to issue and load ORCA cards would help too. Many fareboxes get jammed when passengers shove too many coins in or ram too many bills/tickets into the bill slot. The more passengers can be encouraged to use ORCA cards, the better. The bugs are getting worked out of the system, at least from my perspective as a driver.

        The big issue is a lack of ORCA outlets. Since I’m driving tunnel routes I always encourage passengers to use the ORCA vending machines in the tunnel since they are relatively quick and easy.

      2. Good ideas. I think OrcaCards should be available in pre-packaged amounts from convenience stores and supermarkets.

        In my travels last weekend, I suggested to 2 first time riders on Link that had paid cash but now needed to transfer to a bus that if they purchased an OrcaCard, their future transfers would be free. But when they considered it, the cost of the OrcaCard was a deterrent to acquiring one even though there are real benefits to be had to having it.

        I realize that there is a substantive cost to providing the OrcaCards but maybe somehow a decision could be made to wave the $5 fee in all cases to spur adoption?

      3. Set up the machines to eat the card and refund the $5 plus any unpaid balance. Might not be worth the cost though. When on vacation it’s not that big a deal. We didn’t bother with an Oyster card when visiting London. It might have save a tiny bit on some fares but overall it would have cost more and been harder than just paying cash.

      4. Now that ERG has been assimilated by the CUBIC Borg, why are ORCA cards selling for more than $2?

        Both the TAP card in Los Angeles and the EASY Card in Miami are $2.

        Right now the newly-re-branded Clipper card in the Bay Area is free.

        And the Charlie Card in Boston has always been free, but then that is a Scheidt & Bachmann product and we all know they are “dirty furriners” which CUBIC has sued endlessly to bar them from the USA market:

      5. Eat the card! How would you like to be the driver dealing with that passenger? You are strapped into the seat. He’s standing there big and mad.

      6. No, no. I’m talking about the ticket vending machines. Have them set up like an ATM and when the out of towner wants to cash in their card they push a button that says cancel & refund and the card disappears and the remaining cash balance is either transferred to a credit card or given out as printed transit tickets. Like I said though, probably not worth the effort and expense.

    2. Of course all this largess will be quite fun once fare-inspectors start riding the Rapid Ride or other buses and these patrons will not be able to show any fare-paid media.

      Citation and frog-march? Thanks!

  2. About a year ago I became a wheelchair user. Since then I have noticed major inequality in fare enforcement at least in my situation. A large majority of the time if I forget to tap in as I board, nothing is ever said by the driver. On quite a few of these occasions when I forget to tap my ORCA and nothing is said, the same drivers will turn away subsequent riders who don’t have the fare. And a handful of times when using cash and forgetting to pay as I board, subsequent riders have been turned away and then the driver will say “it’s ok” when I try to pay upon exit and just waive me along.

    As a completely capable and independent wheelchair user in my 20s, the last thing I want and I’m sure I’m not alone, is being treated differently. I’m not sure if the drivers are just trying to be nice, or are uncomfortable asking a guy in a chair for the fare.

    1. It may be more a question of loading/unloading expediency. Wheelchair users take longer to board/deboard and waiting additional time for them to dig out their pass (when it’s obvious that they have one) slows things down even further.

      Drivers as often get people who are elderly and/or have an obvious disability who get angry when a driver “treats them like everyone else” by waiting for them to produce a pass/fare or asking to see their RRFP. This can be a lose-lose situation for the driver, depending on the expectation of the passenger.

      We are responsible for the safety and timely transportation of passengers. When it comes to fare collection, it’s a factor most of us would rather not deal with at all, given the complications, expectations, confrontations involved. Regrettably – we don’t read minds.

      1. I guess that the expediency bit makes sense to a certain extent. If a driver is on the late side they may feel like they already spent enough time with the ramp they would rather not spend even more time asking me for fare. In reality though, it takes just as long to ask an able bodied rider for fare as it takes to ask me.

        I don’t think I have ever been asked to show my RRFP when paying cash fare, but it’s not as obvious whether I have a pass or not.

    2. Have your fare ready and then you won’t have anything to complain about. Drivers get too short breaks as it is and that extra time waiting while someone who obviously has a pass spends digging it out comes right off his break at the terminal.

      Also what Beavis said is right on the money.

      1. My complaint was about being treated differently then able bodied passengers, and it wasn’t really too much of a complaint. Just stating from the observations I have made, drivers are way more lenient on wheelchair users, and in a few cases even refused my cash fare. Now that I have an annual pass on an ORCA, occasionally I will forget a bus is pay as you enter, board, secure my chair, and eventually realize my mistake normally without the driver saying anything.

    1. It was actually Lipsky (sorry – former Social Work major here):

      This article re: “driver-assisted fare evasion” is actually an example of the GOOD kind of “street level bureacracy”.

      BTW – feel free to explain the concept (the Wikipedia link above has a good, understandable description) to the County Council. It might enhance their respect for the driver’s role on a daily basis “in the trenches”.

  3. I once overheard a Metro driver expressing her philosophy that things that have the word public in them, such as public transit, should be free, and felt it was wrong for people to have to pay a bus fare.

      1. I hope she seta hwe personal fealings aside. It is part of her job to collect fares. MAybe public transit should be free, but it is not.

      2. It is not part of the job of transit operators to collect fares, just to let passengers know what the fare is.

  4. I wonder if Metro’s thought about the PR possibilities of institutionally assisted fare evasion.

    Occasionally I’ve seen drivers waive off fares when their buses or the entire system was completely off schedule, especially when the cause wasn’t just regular traffic. The only reason I didn’t like this was the inconsistency, as it was up to driver discretion. I think it would be awesome if Metro had an official policy that any bus running more than 30 minutes late was free. The best is when the bus I went out to catch would have been off-peak, but because of the delay, it’s now peak. I just waited 30 minutes in the cold and rain and I had to pay more for the pleasure? Screw you too, Metro. If you’d let me ride free, I might’ve come away feeling alright about the situation, but instead I’m left hating transit more than before.

    Actually, has anyone seen those ads from AmEx or Discovery about how they’ll randomly pay for a purchase? (The ads show folks knocking on wood, rubbing a rabbit’s foot, etc, before using their card to buy a latte or a tank of gas.) I wonder if Metro could try something like that with ORCA: pay with ORCA, and every now and again you get a free ride (or $2 off). They could even make it every 10th or 12th fare. Of course, this would be the equivalent of ticketbook discounts, which Metro has never seen fit to use, so I see no reason they’d bother with this either.

    1. It’s a difficult balancing act. As a new driver I tried to follow policy verbatim: If I felt safe, I asked *every* passenger for the correct fare if they didn’t willingly offer it up. After a couple of weeks doing this on the 550, I quickly realized waiting for people to shuffle through their pockets for lose change was making me late, my bus overloaded, and most of my passengers cranky – for good reason.

      I then switched to a “The fare is X, just remember it next time” method for first and possibly second time offenders” with a “Management makes me write you up if you don’t pay” on the third time. This worked well… Until I went to Atlantic base. All bets were off. Passengers using flagrantly invalid transfers laughed when I asked for the correct fare – “I’ve never had a driver check my transfer”. They seemed legitimately surprised.

      I still try, but I’ve become a lot more mellow about it. I’m conscious of being fair and even – If I’m asking, I ask *everybody* – which means I need to be confident that I’ve got time to do that without unduly delaying the other passengers. I try to (safely) stay between 1-5 minutes late. Anything beyond that and people start missing connecting buses – hardly worth the extra $0.50 for a 2 zone fare from one passenger.

      1. Amen, once you get behind 3 or 4 minutes on a route with 10 minute headways, your doomed. Now you’re picking up 30-40% more passengers, which makes you even later, which….. ; especially if your follower is lazy, and hangs back just out of sight, until it’s too late to help out.
        Fare? What fare!

      2. The public doesn’t get it. They just don’t understand that bus drivers are constantly at risk of being assaulted. They just don’t understand that this country imprisons millions of its citizens and when those citizens are released from the culture of violence that is prison and return to the streets unable to find a job and with little money they use public transit. And, for many of them, their default response to a fare dispute is violence. I don;’t know of any other occupation outside of policing in which workers are at more risk of assault by the public.

      3. I agree with your points, we appreciate your efforts and your position. However, you don’t need to “offer” free rides to avoid the risk you are right to bring up. That was a main point of this discussion.

      4. When I was new at Metro, one driver told a story of driving the 7 late at night in the Rainier Valley. A passenger pulled a knife on him for some reason at which point several of his regular passengers pulled the thug from the bus and proceeded to beat the hell out of him.

        I don’t know for a fact that any drivers offer free rides as a way of buying “protection” but if this story is true, I’d be first in line to do just that. At a minimum, I wouldn’t be hassling somebody for a fare when they say they “don’t have it” – something we aren’t supposed to do anyway.

  5. I’ve been on very crowded buses where the driver started waving people off the fare box. Thing is, this made load and unload quicker, and we were able to make up a bit of time. Makes sense to me.

  6. Just last week, I was traveling to downtown on the #11 at mid-morning on a nice day w/ no traffic problems, and the driver announced happily that she was handing out 4 hour transfers that day. She was not reticent or secretive – announced to all paying with cash what she was doing. I’ll assume, after my call to Metro, that she has since had the benefit of a chat with a supervisor.

    If it is snowing or there’s a huge traffic mangle and all coaches are off schedule, it is one thing to waive the fare, but this example of “largesse” was uncalled for.

      1. Further, given the special rights and powers accorded to transit operators, would this not also be “Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law”?

        Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242
        Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law

        This statute makes it a crime for any person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom to willfully deprive or cause to be deprived from any person those rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution and laws of the U.S.

        This law further prohibits a person acting under color of law, statute, ordinance, regulation or custom to willfully subject or cause to be subjected any person to different punishments, pains, or penalties, than those prescribed for punishment of citizens on account of such person being an alien or by reason of his/her color or race.

        Acts under “color of any law” include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the bounds or limits of their lawful authority, but also acts done without and beyond the bounds of their lawful authority; provided that, in order for unlawful acts of any official to be done under “color of any law,” the unlawful acts must be done while such official is purporting or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. This definition includes, in addition to law enforcement officials, individuals such as Mayors, Council persons, Judges, Nursing Home Proprietors, Security Guards, etc., persons who are bound by laws, statutes ordinances, or customs.

        Punishment varies from a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both, and if bodily injury results or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire shall be fined or imprisoned up to ten years or both, and if death results, or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

        With privileges come responsibilities.

  7. Fare evasion is much more of an issue in the US and Canada, where a (comparatively low) flat fare is involved, than it is in the UK, where fares are graduated according to distance travelled and therefore every passenger is required to state their destination when boarding. The other, very significant, difference is that in most cities outside of London it is the operating company that carries the revenue risk and not the subsidising authority – and, as a result, the operating company takes a much tougher line in dealing with its drivers if they fail to collect fares.

    It does make you wonder what the effect would be if drivers were to be paid a bonus based upon a percentage of the farebox revenue that they take……

    1. When I lived in Leeds (West Yorkshire), I found the boarding process to be very inefficient and time-consuming. Not only did we have to state our destination, but all drivers made change. And the lack of transferability between contracted operating agencies (First, Arriva, etc…) made a joke of network intelligibility. I loved British trains, but I never again want to experience cash-based, distance-based bus fares.

      1. A note on cash-based, distance-based fares from Asia:

        In Thailand, where labor is cheap, most buses have a separate conductor whose job was to collect fares, direct passengers and enforce rules. People board the bus and have a seat (or stand), then the conductor will come to collect your fare. Most air-con buses collect distance-based fares, cash only, passes are rare. Buses with single operator fare box are rare, too. However, the public transit agency has been operating at a loss since it was created because fares were so low.

        In Singapore they have distance fares too for both cash and smart cards, but the cash fare structure is simpler and higher (rounded to the nearest 10¢) than the tap-on, tap-off card which has a discount. Exact-change fare box or tap-on/tap-off only. Transfers only with smart card. You get proof-of-payment after paying cash so I assume they have roaming fare inspectors.

        In Japan, many buses are distance-based fares and take cash or a card. When you board you take a slip with a number printed on it, there’s a display on the bus that shows the fare for a particular number, updated as it runs it route, when you leave you pay the correct fare as indicated. Their fareboxes made change, too.

      2. I agree with Zach’s perspective on the disproportionate effect of fare collection and change handling on city bus routes; however in those conurbations (eg Birmingham, West Midlands) that combined distance-based fares with exact-fare boxes, there was huge customer resistance – especially on out-of-city routes with higher fare values. London has now adopted kerbside ticket machines for the small percentage of passengers (mainly tourists) who don’t have pre-purchased tickets or OysterCards. Smartcard technology is [very] gradually overcoming the lack of transferability – but the reality is that the problems you describe don’t occur on contracted bus routes (where the sponsoring authority normally obliges the operating company to accept other operators’ tickets) but on the 70% or so of bus routes that are operated commercially, where fare revenue is the sole source of income to the operating company. First and Arriva have been ultra-sensitive on this issue since the British Government’s Competition Regulator fined both companies many thousands of pounds for ‘collusion’ in route sharing in West Yorkshire – regarded as ‘anti-competitive’ and therefore (?) against the public interest!!! Never mind the customer…..

    2. Here in London the Underground is distance based, tagging in and out (through a gate) as you enter and exit the system. The busses however are one fare (£1.50)regardless of destination. Most people use Oyster cards as opposed to cash, especially since cash fares are more expensive on the tube than using an oyster card. Using a pay-as-you-go oyster card also has the benefit of not charging any more once your individual fares have totaled the price of an all day pass. This is something I hope the agencies that use ORCA adopt in the future (of course they’d have to offer an all day pass first).

    1. Drivers don’t even collect fares – they just let people know what the fare is. Collection is the responsibility of inanimate objects – the fare box and the ORCA reader.

  8. I’ve noticed the “don’t worry about it” or “it’s on me/Metro” typically when the farebox is busted or if there’s been a delay or the bus is super packed or really late.

    Back when I was paying cash I did notice a difference in the length of time on the transfers different drivers handed out. In my experience female drivers were more likely to give you a transfer for longer than two hours. I’ve been back on a pass for over a year now – not sure what it’s like now.

    1. Transfers are based upon the time of the end of the trip. The driver will set the transfer to 1.5 hour to 1h 59m after the scheduled terminal arrival time. If you board the bus at the beginning of the trip (say 2pm) and the trip ends at 3pm your transfer will be for 2.5 to 2h 59m. An hour longer because it includes the time of the trip.

      These are transfers intended to be used to transfer to another route. 1.5 or 2.5 hours is more than adequate for that. Some people view them as round trip tickets and complain about them not being long enough. You, the driver, can argue with them about it and risk assault, or you can give them a longer transfer, get them off the bus and continue your route.

      Any discussion of fare payment should always include the risk of assault for the driver.

      1. But with ORCA if you pay as you enter (i.e. going toward DT) you never tap off of a bus so I’m pretty sure you get shorted the time of the trip.

      2. Don’t blame the passengers for getting angry when they (rightly) feel they’re being short-changed, blame Metro for having such a convoluted system and not training its operators to uniformly implement it. Different drivers give transfers of different lengths; some give OWL transfers at 9 p.m., others not until 10; some adjust their transfer length as they go, others set it at the beginning of the route and don’t touch it until they turn around. If I ride 5 blocks at the beginning of a 1-hour route, I get a three-hour transfer. Or maybe a 2.5-hour transfer, depending on how the driver feels. But if I ride 5 blocks at the end of that route, I get a two-hour transfer, or maybe a 1.5-hour one. Until Metro fixes these inconsistencies, you’re going to have confrontations over transfer length.

  9. A couple of experiences for me. When I was in Seattle last summer, with my newly acquired OrcaCard, the autoload didn’t work immediately but the drivers on two occasions waived me aboard. I was appreciative since I didn’t have cash on me to cover the fare.

    Another time the farebox was broken apparently so the driver was waiving people aboard and saying if cash people didn’t have to pay, OrcaCard holders shouldn’t either.

    I’ll also chalk some of the “Mai pen rai” attitude to the Scandinavian roots of Seattle where it could be viewed as the driver extending a small kindness that will be repaid in society in some fashion. I would surmise that is maybe why the policy is stated as such to avoid confrontations, to keep things moving. After all, if it does cost upwards of $2/minute or more to operate the bus, the cost of delaying the bus or the risk of a confrontation is far greater than the fare collected.

    Lastly, I’ve noticed a significant change in the attitude of Link fare enforcers between Christmas and presently, (yes I’m visiting now). They seem so much more polite now. Must have been put through charm school.

  10. The fareboxes do make mistakes, especially counting dimes. One time I had 20 dimes (this was pre-ORCA and pre-having a job), but after feeding them into the farebox 1 by 1, it only showed $1.80. The driver didn’t care, which was fortunate.

    I’ve since noticed that most people who throw enough metal into the farebox are not bothered by the driver.

    1. Back before the electronic fare-boxes, it was easy to not pay the full amount.

      BTW, when those electronic fare-boxes were installed, Metro promised that they would be able to give refunds for over-payment in the form of a paper magnetic ticket. I am still waiting to see this over 15 years later.

      1. they are getting old. PT, KCM, and ST all use old Cents-a-bill fareboxes, the oldest of which are 20 years old now. (and due for an upgrade) Everett transit still has manual dump boxes, along with KT i think, but i dont remember what they use.

        If the region could go in on electronic fareboxes (with TRiM units for magnetic transfers) i’m sure a good deal could be had across all 2000+ buses in the ORCA network.

  11. When catching the shuttle back from the Fremont Street Fair, two busses pulled up at the same time. The one in front opened front and rear doors, filled the bus and was off. The second one (mine) made all enter and pay through the front door and it took about 10 minutes to fill the bus before departure.

    Ovbiously there’s lots of personal variation.

    1. I think if you have a bus that is so late that they are bunched together drivers should try to expedite boarding/aligning, especially on commuter routes where a vast majority of people of puget passes or Upass.

    2. The second driver was probably a new driver. He’ll figure it out. You’ll be pleased but others will complain that passengers were allowed to ride for free. Don’t ever be a bus driver. Everyone can do it better than you can.

      1. or a transportation planner. Hang around here long enough, and you’ll hear every screw ball reason to do this or that – including mine!

  12. Just yesterday a driver let me board with my expired U-Pass. I knew it was expired, but I didn’t want to pay $2 since I was on my way downtown to buy a $77 Puget Pass!! I almost threw up. The U-Pass spoils me…

  13. Seems to me the transit system would have fewer problems with fares if it made them easier to pay.

    1. Before making ORCA cards mandatory for interagency transfers, transit should have made the cards available at every Bartell’s and 7-11- at $2, $$1, or free.

    2. I should be possible to load money to ORCA – any amount, not minimum $5- at an equal number of places.

    3. Does it still take 24 hours before a mailed card kicks in? If so, would any other business sell you something that won’t work until 24 hours after you get it?

    4. Every other system I’ve ridden on the last twenty years sells all-day passes, every day. ORCA cards should make this a cinch. For visitors and residents alike, a day-pass seems like the most natural way to pay cash for transit.

    Fact we can’t get ourselves these passes after all these yearrs shows the transit world how thumb-sucking neurotic Seattle really is. Everybody reading this, please immediately e-mail your County Councilmember and your ST Boardmember to get a regional day-pass onto ORCA by next week, to save our reputation, let alone make transit riding easy. Portland charges $4.50- for four light-rail lines as well as buses. $5 is fair. I’d pay six or seven just to finally get these passes here.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I don’t think $5 is high enough when the maximum Sounder fare is $4.75. I think a day pass should be at least $9.50.

      1. Kaleci, thank you for responding. I didn’t intend to finish my comment with such a nasty tone- though it’s always really bothered me that we can’t give passengers a convenience that so many other transit systems have offered for years.

        Frankly, I won’t argue very hard about the price. My average work day can easily include long rides on Metro, ST Express, LINK, and Community Transit- sometimes on the same trip. I usually buy a monthly pass, but delayed doing so this month. This last Thursday’s transportation pulled $12.75 off my ORCA E-purse.

        It was good my afternoon ride to Lynnwood took me through Beacon Hill LINK station- I don’t think Lynnwood Transit Center has an ORCA machine.

        I’m back with a monthly pass now, and will continue so from now on. However, when my wife needs an occasional day of bus travel, or when I have visitors from out of town, I wouldn’t argue with $10 for a day-pass- just so I could buy it either from a driver or from the 7-11 across the street.

        Reason this discussion sets me on edge is that as someone who’s driven some pretty rough Metro routes, and ridden many more, I think discussion of fare evasion often strays into the old prejudice that all society’s- and especially transit’s- problems happen because poor people get away with too much.

        Especially in the current depression, I’d much rather watch a driver give somebody a break on the fare than “get into it” for not having enough money- especially if I miss a connection over time spent arguing.

        But in my driving days, if I thought someone was clearly taking advantage, I’d write a service report with the details. I’ve never seen any driver do racial profiling- but would report anyone who did, and put my name on the complaint.

        I was glad to see ORCA come in- but I honestly think that the way it was introduced put the convenience of a needlessly fragmented group of agencies ahead of the needs of the passenger public, creating real hardship on the very passengers who could afford it the least. Which created difficulties for transit, particularly drivers and other workers on the front line.

        I also know Seattle isn’t completely to blame for regional bad habits, but because of its unusual creative potential bears a disproportionate responsibility for curing them.
        First step: “Almost Live” should return to TV immediately.

        Mark Dublin

      2. 99% of riders never use Sounder so $9.50 is excessive. It would make more sense to have a special policy for Sounder. Can ORCA count the number of Sounder trips in a day? Perhaps if you’ve bought one Sounder ticket and reached the maximum in non-Sounder fares, it could take $4 off subsequent Sounder tickets.

  14. Hey, I’m all for drivers occasionally letting people off easy. When I was in San Francisco in May, I had to get across town at 1130 pm and didn’t want to take a cab. I had a dollar bill and a $20, and I had google mapped transit directions and the bus was leaving too soon for me to get change anywhere (nevermind that I had no idea where to get change from). When I got on the bus, I told the driver of my problem and he let me on anyways. I know it might not be great for the transit system, but it’s not like I was overcrowding the empty bus, and the bus got one more dollar than it would’ve gotten than if I had had to take a taxi.

    1. In San Francisco it is unlawful to board through the back door yet at every bus stop a dozen people will force there way through the back door as it is closing.

  15. I don’t think collecting fares should be part of the driver’s job. It should be up to the passenger to make sure they pay, and fare enforcement officers should go through the bus occasionally and check everyone’s pass or transfer.

  16. I didn’t read 100% of the responses…so, forgive me if this is a repeat, but why don’t they have fare enforcers on the bus like on Link? Or, why not have the self-service machines like they have on the streetcar?

    I got busted on a bus in Salzburg for fare evasion…and it wasn’t by the driver, it was a plain clothed transit dude. I never cheated after that.

    1. Fare enforcement on the bus only works if every passenger is required to have proof of payment. Our current transit system doesn’t have a system like this setup but RapidRide will and will have random fare inspections.

    2. Most routes are pay-as-you-leave when outbound, so passengers wouldn’t have proof of payment. If we got rid of the RFA and switched to pay as you enter, then it would be no problem to require everyone take a transfer as POP.

  17. So far, I see no actual evidence to suggest that handing out an occasional free ride doesn’t encourage transit use… Most other businesses give occasional discounts of various kinds to customers (and at least sometimes, they give them differentially – I got a very nice free appetizer at a restaurant the other night, but they weren’t giving them away at every table…)

    I see no reason to leap to the assumption that drivers who give away free rides now and then are bad for business in the long run.

    1. Most of the riders who are evading fare, usually tend to bring other personal or criminal problems onto the transit system with them. I agree, letting some old grandma whos a quarter short ride is one thing, however many of the fare evaders are habitual re-offenders who take advantage of the system at every turn, and than bring other criminal problems along with them.

  18. In many locations the stops could be set up so that people pay before getting on the bus. Just takes some thinking skills.

    1. This is common in europe, where you have ticket machines or validators at the stations. But also in europe most routes are shorter, plus most stops are spaced 1.5 to 2x as far as they are in the US, but the routes are shorter and the ped access is a lot easier.

  19. All this beneficence would be hunky dory except that the typical fare evader is a drunk, druggo or bum who is “riding the rails”. Thus LINK at times appears to be more of a mobile homeless shelter than transit conveyance.

    Are there any numbers available for how many scofflaws are ticketed each month?

    I see conductors on Sounder more often now, though I have not seen a ticketless passenger confronted. And unless the person has I.D. I’m not really sure what they can do about it (“What’s your name?” “Joe Blow…”)

    1. I have never seen a drunk/druggo/bum on Link. The worst I’ve seen is loud girls. The troublemakers seem to be sticking to buses, as are poor people generally.

  20. Most transit agencys have a non confrontational policy when it comes to fare evasion. Sound Transit is an exception to this. Usually is in place so the operator dosent get assulted, the protocol is to let people without full or proper fare ride the coach. Usually this is accompanyed by a report the operator has to fill out (but seldom does). In my humble opinion, it’s this kind of policy that lets the less desirable riders onto the buses wherein more problems ensue. If strong fare enforcement (aka POP) were implemented on our buses, and anyone in violation removed and ticketed i think you’d see not only a uptick in revenue generated, but a major decrease in vandalisms and other crimes on the system.

    I’ve posted befor on my idea of POP, but basecally, you have the farebox cut you an electronic transfer (like vancouver bc) with full rights in line with ORCA. Granted every bus would need to be equipped, and LINK stations re-equipped with transfer validators or some such. However, like with ORCA the transfers dont lie. Also it helps take the operator out of the equasion, i.e. the other driver gave me 2 hours and you’re only giving me 90 minutes! or the other driver took it! etc. either the farebox takes it, or it doesent. the operator has nothing to say in the equasion. And if the coach is inspected, and you dont have proper fare. whoops!

    1. SF MUNI requires POP, with the operator simply handing everyone a paper transfer. Drivers (and apparently Metro itself) would certainly have to be more consistent with transfer length, but there’d be no need to upgrade any equipment.

      1. As an itnerim yes, this would be a good step. However, i think you want to remove the human element from it as much as possible. If you removed the operator from much of the equasion, it would help reduce and eliminate disputes (so and so cuts their transfer for 2.5 hours, the last driver dident check, last driver, the guy last week….. etc.).

  21. I lived in Finland for a few years which definitely convinced me of the benefits of a POP system. When I lived there they had yet to implement an e-card based system and most passengers used either a monthly pass or paper tickets that they mechanically stamped when boarding trams/busses or descending into the metro.

    The trams were patrolled (very very infrequently) by teams of fare enforcement personnel all of whom wore matching blue outfits and were therefore referred to as “smurfs.” Which led to the delightful but expensive form of civil punishment: “to get smurfed.” The fines were pretty bad and the enforcement pretty obvious – think 3 or 4 “smurfs” at each tram door all rustling up nice $150 plus or so fines. The other odd bit is that they were very outright about high enforcement periods. Somehow every one would know that Wednesday or this particular week was going to be high-smurf factor.

    But I digress….the point is that the POP system made everything move smoothly. 97% of the passengers never had to interact with the operator – even before electronic cards. You had a paper ticket (single ride (as defined by time interval – 2 hours?) or multi-ride) and you dipped the pre-paid (*any* quickmart/kiosk) paper card into a mechanized reader/stamper located by any door. And that was that. The reader knocked off the next chunk on the ticket and stamped the expiry time of your fare.

    Of course the scofflaws would always go into a big dog & pony show about trying to “find” their valid stamped fares when threatened with smurfing but that didn’t a)threaten the operator or b) slow up the works.

    I don’t see why this system wouldn’t be a great way to transition from the highly problematical RFA we have now with its pay when!?!? or don’t bother….outcomes. Oh and fare simplification would be ideal – why SoundTransit and Metro busses charge different amounts is beyond me. Then again why aren’t they all just Metro! No doubt simplifying the fleet paint and axing agency-specific but otherwise redundant management would make up for a lot of those service hours about to be axed. But then again maybe that would mean less fancy reading lights for the East Side types.

    And then there would be all the extra ebay cash from selling those vintage punches and transfer cutters. Probably enough to buy half a transit grade tire!

    1. I disagree about merging the systems. you might save some by eliminating the executive layers, but most of the line jobs would get transferred somewhere, and probally you’d have to add a layer of managers to boot. Also trying to intergrate the various information technology systems of the agencys, and resolve union issues would eat up any potential savings really quickly, if you could get around the funding issues (king co. and ST tax bases, vs the two PTBAs and how their service areas are diffrent from sound transit and KCM)

  22. From my visit to Helsinki three years ago, I remember HKL fare inspectors. I also seem to remember that the tram drivers could not only collect fares, but also make change- granted, from enclosed compartments. As systems modernize worldwide, fare-collection gets more sophisticated- but I think any third-world small-bus operator would say our system makes it too hard for honest passengers to pay.

    You couldn’t keep an espresso stand in business if you refused to make change- even if you took credit cards. I wouldn’t advocate drivers handling money here- safety problem, and also slows down service. But it is fair that what transit demands- in this case, exact fare payment- transit should make easy. Hence my impatience to get all-week day passes onto ORCA, and ORCA easier to get.

    The large mezzanines in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel were designed for fare collection. If we made Tunnel Proof of Payment areas, both bus and train service would improve instantly after 7, when bus fare collection slows down both Metro and LINK. Especially on “Game Nights.”

    Speaking of transit worldwide, I notice that LINK passengers from Europe, Asia, and South America are perfectly familiar with fare inspection, and have no problems with ours.

    Mark Dublin

  23. Most times, the rush-hour 71/72/73/74 from downtown to U-District do not collect fares as people leave at the first two U-District stops because of how crowded they are (it is more time-effective to open the back door).

  24. I have had a few drivers refuse to make there card readers show 2 zones. Don’t know why.

  25. Whenever I’ve seen active fare evasion, it has almost always been for speed. Either a lot of people are getting off at the same stop, or the driver feels late. Sometimes s/he’ll tell me “Don’t worry about it” when I’m trying to get my ORCA card to register.

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