On Board TVM

We are quickly coming up on the opening of the RapidRide A line. While I’m very excited that Metro is testing a proof of payment (POP) system, I’m worried that the trial is set up in a way that makes eventual adoption less likely.

From my understanding the trial is set up like this. All RapidRide stations will have ORCA card readers. When boarding at these stations ORCA card users tap their card at the station and then board at any door. Those that don’t have an ORCA card board at the front door and pay with the driver. At normal stops all riders must board at the front door either using the ORCA card reader onboard or paying with the driver. All riders will be required to have proof of payment, with the implication that fare inspectors will ask to see it. I’m not too clear on this last point, and I get the feeling Metro isn’t either.

The problem with this design is that you have all of the problems associate with either fare systems without getting all of the benefits. Traditional pay as you board systems are good because drivers enforce fare payment (sort of), but as everyone knows it can be painfully slow, especially when people pay with cash. Conversely POP systems are bad because you have to employ fare enforcers, but are good because they significantly decreases dwell times by eliminating fare transactions with the driver, allowing for all door boarding, and improving internal circulation. In the case of RapidRide Metro will have to employ fare enforcers but won’t see all the time savings, because cash payments will still be processed by the driver. Additionally, this system is incompatible with the ride free area which will affect lines C, D and E and is confusing since payment process varies from one stop to the next.

More after the jump.

Again, it’s good to see Metro trying this but they are trying to force a solution that just isn’t ideal. Unlike Link or Swift, Metro’s RapidRide lines simply have too many stops. As the system expands the problem will be compounded. While Swift has 15 vehicles and 22 stations, Line A will have 16 vehicles and 52 stations and stops. See the problem?

However there is a workaround. While every POP system I have seen in the North America is designed with fare transactions occurring at stations, there is no reason that transaction can’t occur in-vehicle. An in-vehicle system could use TVMs like the one in the photo above from Gothenburg, Sweden, or less costly parking pay stations (Swift does this) that take cash, coins and credit card. Many cities in Europe (Brussels, Berlin, Karlsruhe, Gothenburg, etc.) use this type of system on their old tram lines.

An in-vehicle POP system could have ORCA card readers at all doors as well as one TVMs onboard. The TVM should be located near the door but in an area that will not impede boarding of other passengers. At busy stations such as downtown or at LINK stations additional TVMs could be added at the station. The trial fare system for Line A has 44 ORCA card readers and 16 fare box machines. A vehicle based system would probably have 48 OCRA card readers and 16 TVMs. Thus the major cost difference between the trial system and a vehicle based POP system comes down to the cost difference of the fare box machines versus TVMs and the installation costs of ORCA readers along the corridor vs in vehicle. I looked up the cost of both the fare box machines and pay station machines and from what I was able to find they are in the same order of magnitude.

In the long run it’s critically important that Metro gets this right. Without exclusive ROW to speed up buses, keeping buses moving as much as possible needs to the top priority, and that essentially means TSP and a POP system. As ridership increases, especially ridership of non-ORCA card users increases, a well designed POP system becomes ever more important. A vehicle based POP system, unlike station based system, could concievablely work on other core routes as well.

76 Replies to “RapidRide Trial Fare System”

  1. Last Friday there was some sort of major traffic disruption on 99 that stopped any Swift buses from reaching Everett for about 40 minutes. I was on that first SB bus and consequently there were quite a few people waiting at all the stations – a few had between around a dozen and by the time we got about half-way down the route, the bus was pretty packed.

    Despite this, I think the maximum dwell time was 30 seconds. Seriously. Other than leaving Everett Station waaaaaay late, it didn’t take noticeably longer to make it the full length of the route.

    Offboard payment works really, really well. I’ve been on similarly crowded buses leaving Sounders games and boarding the same number of people takes forever. The difference in experience is pretty remarkable.

    1. The post-Sounders experience in the tunnel is even more insane. New riders arrive faster than than the cash-payers can pay, and the bus just sits there for up to 10 minutes, only leaving when packed to the gills with people (many of whom get off elsewhere in the tunnel and thus didn’t need that precise bus). Invariable, a train is stuck behind the bus, negating its P.O.P. advantage and probably making it late for its return trip.

      If Metro wants to show that has the slightest interest in high-capacity service with high service speed, it must institute off-board payment for all tunnel routes at all times (after leaving the tunnel, these routes would be pay-as-you-enter at any time of day). As inertia-based operations procedures currently stand, I have no reason to believe they care if MetroRapid is actually rapid.

  2. I agree in concept that TVM’s on board would simplify POP, but from a practical standpoint, I see some operational problems.
    1. TVM’s are (I’m told) way more expensive than the current Metro farebox.
    2. Confusion and congestion of passengers trying punch buttons on a TVM could be rather chaotic on a congested bus. Please don’t ask the driver for help, as they are kinda busy.
    3. Safety issues arise by having people queue up to wait there turn at the TVM, which means a line of some sort, and the higher likelihood that someone is going to fall down in a moving bus. (Metro Safety people take there job seriously, and have veto power over ideas like this.)

    As an aside, I’ve preached fare integration and simplification since day one, and it seems to get more complex with the passage of time. Here’s another ‘tweak’ to the system that adds more uncertainty about what, how, and when to pay for a transit trip in the Puget Sound.

    1. I generally agree but on the flip side this is the only way POP will work.

      1. I would expect so although from what I found TVMs (aka parking paystations) aren’t astronomically more expensive.

      2. The machines certainly need to be easy to use. Metro could also specifically target these users and try to get them to use OCRA cards. Riders on the A line transfering from RapidRide to Link need it anways, and most downtown riders have corporate ORCA cards. So you’re relly only going after a subset of total user population. One advantage of European fare sysetms is they almost always force you into time period cards because if you use transit more than once or twice a day it simply pays off, sometime very quickly.

      3. Again I agree this will be an issue but the degree really depends on what kind of queueing you have. Remember we do have people standing on buses every single day. Of course if an old woman gets on and is paying the driver shouldn’t move but that is an exception.

      1. Hmmm…

        The idea of “targetting” passengers who use change to educate them on ORCA has a grain of merit.

        However, rather than put one more task on the operator, I’d just make ORCA brochures, redesigned to catch the attention of cash users, available next to the route schedules at the front.

      2. Or, you know, start with some actual benefit for using ORCA rather than having to pay $5 and add value at only a few locations for… the same fare.

      3. … or less fare, since they’ll be paying for the correct number of zones.

        Nevertheless, I can see the value in giving ORCA users a per-ride rebate. To assuage the social justice concerns, let cash users collect their payment stubs and/or transfers, and turn them in for up to $5 credit when buying an ORCA card.

      4. Yeah you really have to give riders an incentive to switch over, and then make it easy to do it. The market based approach would be raise fares by 25-50 cents but make ORCA cards free and give riders bonuses or a full discount for that increased fare. Another way could be to offer shorter time period cards, like 1,3, 5 and 7 day passes. That certainly would add some value to ORCA cards.

    2. Adding to Mike Skehan’s list:

      4) Metro riders are already confused about when to pay, and they aren’t used to TVMs.

      Europe and the US have vastly different bus cultures. The Gotheborg TVM may have slipped in quite smoothly given Europe’s bus-riding norms. But here, riders are confused on a normal day, so adding too many new things at once will just compound the confusion. Give people a year to get used to ORCA and off-board payment, then we can think about adding TVMs to buses.

  3. So if you wanted to cheat the system, would you just stand by the TVM, and if you noticed somebody about to start asking for proof of payment, be the first to buy your ticket before the enforcement staff make their way to you?

    1. Yeah this is an issue but it can be addressed by having fare inspectors that keep and eye out for that. Also you could set up the OCRA readers to not read a few seconds after the doors close so people can’t run to use them. With POP the way you stop evation is by having enough enforcement. Do that enough and only the most brave will attempt something like this.

    2. quite frankly, I would rather the enforcement emphasize compliance rather than punishment e.g. if there is a tvm onboard make them purchase a fare. If they forgot to tap their card (or the card didn’t register) have the fare enforcer charge the fare to their card.

      Unless they’ve actually programmed in the probability of revenue in the form of tickets, I think this is a better way to go and creates a less adversarial atmosphere.

      1. I think they do factor in the fines.

        The fact of the matter is if people, even normally law abiding people, make a utility decision. If people aren’t fined when they don’t pay, they will figure, “hey if I can ride ten times and only pay one time at the normal rate why should I pay the other nine time?”. You have to make it so that 1 fine is significantly more than those 9 other times.

        You certainly should give some leniency at the beginning but after that you have to make breaking the law more expensive that following it.

  4. The Bx12 Select Bus Service in the Bronx has two types of TVMs setup at each stop: 1) the first type takes your MetroCard and dispenses a small paper receipt and 2) the second type takes cash and dispenses the same receipt. The idea is that you pay before you board (when you get to the station), board through any one of three doors, and keep your receipt in case you get checked.

    My biggest complaint is the paper receipt which feels like a real waste. It’d be better if you’d only get a paper receipt if you paid in cash and using a MetroCard it would just be electronically recorded on the card.

    The only reason one might want an onboard TVM in this case is for those people who are racing to catch the bus and want to jump on and not make the bus wait — instead they have to go swipe their MetroCard at the TVM. This happens fairly frequently. Sometimes the bus driver will wait, other times he’ll drive away anyway (the SBS 12 runs every 7 minutes, so missing it isn’t a huge deal).

    Anyway — I think the combination of the two types of TVMs at each station works pretty well.

    1. Although I’ve heard the way that the SBS runs fare-checks in that a transit police car drives up behind the bus and the bus stops, and the transit police go through and check everyone while the bus sits there for a few minutes, then they get back in their car. Pretty ridiculous.

      1. The only time I’ve seen a fare-check was at a regular stop; everyone getting off at that stop got checked. That was just last month and that might be new.

        The most ridiculous part of the SBS 12 service is that the “dedicated” transit only lanes are completely unenforced and therefore completely useless.

      2. Somebody should arrest them for that. Oh wait….

        Actually, though, the Transit Police *do* have the power to arrest other police.

  5. There should be a relatively easy way to make payment before you board the bus on the Rapid Ride routes. Swift is great that way; each time the bus stops, it is only for a short time. If someone is running and misses the bus due to having to pay, then at least it is only a (hopefully) 7-10 minute wait for the next one. That way, the bus moves as many people as fast as possible.

  6. There are on-board TVM’s on the SLUT. Get more of those.

    (And thus no need to have a picture of one from Sweden as above)

      1. Yes, it’s from Europe, complete with “2010.08.02” dates and messages like “Ticket is under print!” It also doesn’t accept ORCA or any Metro tickets. However, these do count as “proof of payment” so in effect if you have an ORCA card the SLU Streetcar is always free until they get readers. I’d hoped new TVMs would come with RapidRide, but maybe not until the First Hill Streetcar… or even later!

        By the way the platform SLU Streetcar TVMs are modified versions of the electronic parking meters.

  7. Taking a step back to look at the several elements of bus rapid transit, I would note the rapid progress being made in employing three of these elements for all Metro routes, to wit:

    1) During a conversation I recently had with an SDOT transit planner, he confirmed that Metro is purchasing only buses that have a level front-door entrance. Lifts are disappearing as old buses are retired during the fleet replacement cycle. Given the recent million-dollar judgement over someone slipping on wet stairs while getting off the bus, this is not just a big time-saving advancement but a safety advancement as well.

    2) Metro has been proposing stop spacing improvements, or, shall we say, bus stop diets, at a decently good pace. Given that these bus stop diets are the only revenue-positive element of bus rapidization, I’d love to see Metro start going through stop-spacing improvements on many more routes each month. I bet the extra staff time would easily be justified by the savings as service hours are reduced on each improved route at each pick.

    That said, it is unrealistic to expect the sort of once-a-mile stop spacing that SWIFT has on any of the Metro RapidRide lines, unless local parallel routes are also deployed. The money simply is not there to do that.

    3) HOV lanes are becoming more commonplace, including on lots of lines not designated for RapidRide treatment. As the road diets proceed, I hope SDOT looks for opportunities to create HOV or transit lanes where road width permits it. As the debate on the Roosevelt diet unfolds, it appears that SDOT is overlooking how some of the diets are negatively impacting bus travel time and dependability. During the McGinn administration, and with a council that will grouse over but not block HOVization, this is probably an area in which we can get a lot of progress that otherwise would not have happened for a little bit of lobbying.

    That said, things are moving quite slowly on two other elements of bus rapidization:

    1) Frequency improvements are going to come only after a large infusion of annual ongoing revenue, or with the removal of low-performing routes. Expect proposals for route pruning to come from several official sources this year. FWIW, I consider capital improvements (especially Link construction) to be a better use of available money.

    2) The offboard payment is apparently too expensive to be done right on all RapidRide lines as they come online. So, I’d give up the offboard payment on Lines B-F to get full offboard payment on Line A done right first. And really, Line A needs the security the most. Implement offboard payment for the Lines one by one, and do them fully. Only then will we see the true benefits of the system.

    1. How much can a stop diet actually save in terms of $$$?

      I’m not seeing much of an improvement on the 3/4 in terms of travel time. Passenger behavior causes most of the non-traffic delays: not having pass/fare ready, moving slowly, and asking for directions (personal fav – “does this bus go to Safeway?”).

      Plus, lots of drivers still stop in the old zones – the red/yellow curb paint has not been covered with gray, so parked cars are largely absent, and the stop poles are still bolted into the sidewalk, sans signs. Why can’t Metro just remove everythin in one weekend, like it was supposed to?

      1. Send Metro a comment on the locations of the zones that haven’t been painted over or had poles removed. Could be there was a communications snafu between work crews. All I know is that in Ballard the poles were taken out and the curbs painted over within a day or two of the effective date for Rt 28 stop removals, so I assume that’s what’s supposed to happen when a stop is removed.

      2. I watched as part of the bike lane on Roosevelt was painted recently and saw just how easily communications screw-ups can occur. Someone had laid down some sort of chalk marks indicating where the lines were supposed to go, and where the bike or parking lane switched from being a solid line to a dashed line, they had demarcated the switch like so:

        going the other way around when switching back to a solid line. But apparently the guys making the chalk marks got confused at 45th. Before the addition of the bike lane, the parking lane became an additional through lane, and right turns would file into a short turn lane that split off from the through lane at an angle, leaving a triangle devoid of traffic. I guess the plan had been to put sharrows in this extra through lane, but it could just as easily have been to somehow move the bike lane to the other side of the extra lane, considering how much they seemed to want to enlarge the triangle by. Regardless, the chalk marks just depicted the bike lane widening to become the new through lane. At the end of the bus stop (a good distance away from the intersection itself), both sides of the bike lane were indicated like so:

        <- Skip |

        The next indicated transition was at the tip of the triangle, where at least one side, and IIRC both, was indicated like so:

        When the painting crews laid down the first of these lines, the right side dividing the bike lane from the parking lane, they laid down the dashed line indicating the bus stop, and then decided that the mark for the end of the dashed line meant they should switch to a solid line, only to realize when they got to the tip of the triangle that the people laying down the chalk marks intended for them to lay down a dashed line for that stretch, and hadn’t given them a heads-up where they really needed it, at the start of that stretch. Or at least, that was their interpretation they groused about the rest of the way to Campus Parkway, but they seemed to forget that the start of the section in question was the end of a dashed section, and it didn’t make sense to indicate a change of line from one type to the same type – not to mention that the switch didn’t indicate what the people making the chalk-marks wanted in the first place, and it was the painting crews’ assumption that they wanted a solid line in the first place.

        My inclination was and is that they intended for that stretch not to be painted at all, but they could have also intended for the bike lane to cross over and got confused which side of the bike lane was which – or heck, they could have even left out a transition from a solid to a dashed line. Regardless, when I left there was a solid line that angled inward and crossed the parking/through lane and eventually lined up a short distance away from the existing triangle that could not have been what was intended. I haven’t been back since the other side of the bike lane was painted, so I don’t know if it’s been fixed or even could be fixed once the line has already been painted (or how they interpreted that stretch on that side)…

      3. Really need either an edit or a preview. The first “like so” was supposed to introduce this:

        and the second one this:

        Why we even allow commenting out lines in comments is beyond me…

      4. Gah! The first this:

        {- Solid | Skip -}

        and the second this:

        {- Skip | Solid -}

        Just replace the curly braces with arrows in your mind – I don’t want to risk wasting even more comments testing <.

  8. The solution for making the Lines C, D, and E compatible with the Ride Free Area is the same solution Sound Transit Express buses already use: The RFA doesn’t apply to those routes.

    The issue then is getting the information out to riders so the need to pay offboard hits them over the head (proverbially speaking).

    1. Last time I was on Metro and Pierce operated ST Express buses, it was free in Downtown / pay as you enter-pay as you leave depending on the direction

      Link OTH is always pay, even for in-tunnel trips

      1. My apologies. My memory has failed me. The website doesn’t really specify when fare is paid.

        Nevertheless, if someone gets on the RapidRide and plans to ride out of the RFA, it is their responsibility to pay before they get on.

      2. The problem with RapidRide is leaving downtown. If you are going to pay with cash but can exit without paying then fare inspectors can’t do their job. I guess one way of making that work is make all downtown stations pay before you board. If this was used here are the scenarios

        Into downtown
        station (w/cash) – front door pay on entrance
        station (w/ORCA) – any door pay at station
        stop (w/cash) – front door pay on entrance
        stop (w/ORCA) – front door pay on entrance

        Out of downtown
        station (w/cash) – any door pay at station
        station (w/ORCA) – any door pay at station

        That could actually work. It does at least solve the issues with downtown cash boardings but certainly does complicate things. I could see people running up at the last minute and getting on and trying to pay with cash rather than using the machines.

      3. Thankfully (I suppose), we have a couple more years to sort out how to make RapidRide offboard payment work with the RFA. Maybe by then the RFA will be gone.

    2. Specifically, the 550 is pay-as-you-leave going to Bellevue, the same as Metro buses.

  9. Aren’t they already putting ORCA readers at all doors on the entire fleet in the next couple years? If so, why not just install those on the RapidRide buses right now, and not have the extra expense of TVMs at the stations that are only for tapping your ORCA card?

      1. Here is a quote from Kevin Desmond from the SunBreak on September 23 of last year:

        “in the bus environment, we might have 900 to 1,000 buses we would have to monitor. But we do have federal money to install rear-door ORCA readers on the entire fleet. We should be able to do that in about three years, but the key is we have to think through the fare evasion problem.”


  10. “As ridership increases, especially ridership of non-ORCA card users increases”

    Is this really happening? What percentage of riders are using ORCA? Has ORCA adoption leveled off?

    1. Sorry I wasn’t clear. I was just making a broad statement that as ridership of cash paying customers increase the benifits of a POP system increase.

  11. They should just adopt Swift’s payment technology. Then they’ll have the option of paying Community Transit to extend Swift to Seattle instead of creating a second BRT line for the King County portion of Aurora.

  12. I agree that the RapidRide fare collection system (or combination of systems?) is only going to confuse things more. On the other hand, I don’t know that onboard TVMs are the way to go. TriMet experimented with on-board TVMs in the 80s and there’s a huge BTS report about the results of their experiment at http://oscdl.research.pdx.edu/resources/20060601/1149186431PZBBXOT.pdf

    TriMet found that the “anticipated savings in dwell and travel time did not materialize” (p. 109) and that the cost to maintain the equipment was about a million dollars (p. 112) with an additional $1.5M spent on fare-enforcement staffing and infrastructure to collect about $330,000 of evaded fares (p. 114).

    Granted, some aspects may have changed (more reliable equipment, perhaps less expensive to maintain, and maybe some of the processes can be performed by existing equipment that is already on-board for the ORCA readers, etc.) but this didn’t appear to work for TriMet way-back-when.

    I really wish we were going to have something closer on the order of Swift with fewer stops and the same payment process at every location.

    1. Thanks for the info. I tried to find some info about this in the BRT literature but it all focused on off-board payment. Off-board payment certainly is ideal but RapidRide just has too many stations to do a full POP system.

      1. No problemo. I think on-board TVMs would be interesting to test and I am surprised that the RapidRide coaches won’t initially be equipped with ORCA readers at all doors.

        Also, if nothing else I would like to see TVMs (like the streetcar TVMs or parking pay-stations) at the stops designated as “stations.” Stations could be designated as pre-paid as locations, helping to reduce additional dwell time being incurred by cash-paying riders at what will presumably be the busiest stops along the RapidRide routes.

      2. Thinking about it more maybe some combination of the trial system and TVM at specific, high ridership locations might be a compromise. Problem with that is you are adding more and more equipment, and that is what you want to minimize, especially equipment out in the field.

      3. It won’t matter much on the “B” route because the stops are at obscure places where not many people get on anyway. It’s a bigger issue on Aurora and Pacific Highway where somebody is getting on at every single stop and it takes forever.

    2. Hmm so interesting report. 1984! This report is older than I am! Back then Trimet really was on the cutting edge of fare transactions/media/structure. I believe they were one of the first places to use POP system on light rail. That was pushing the envelope back then but it is pretty standard now. I wonder if there is anything more recent.

      I do think it is hard to do a POP system like this system-wide as Trimet did. If you focus on the core routes RapidRide plus Core network, and focus enforcement at transit nodes you could probably get higher enforcement rates and a higher cost/benefit ratio. There are certainly a lot of routes that simply don’t make sense having a POP system on. They just have too little ridership for it to matter.

      Its hard because this is about diminishing returns. Once you get to two or three door boardings, with off-board payment dwell time really goes down and are almost not related to rider volumes (just look at subway systems). So getting all door boarding is huge, but after that cash transactions and people exiting the front door really determine your dwell time.

      How about this? Use the system Metro is testing but,
      – At high ridership stops have POP machines for cash (maybe the top 10 ranked stations (by boarding) on each line?)
      – Institute front door entrance only for everyone except elderly and disable
      – Push OCRA card use with some kind of pricing incentives
      – Install passive restraint systems on all buses (unrelated to fare structure but huge or reliability)

      1. Hmm so interesting report. 1984! This report is older than I am!

        Hmm… or should I say harrumph? I graduated from the UW in nineteen hundred and eighty. 1984 is when I bought my first house. There’s a system of fare enforcement even older than I am (no, not beheading), turnstiles.

  13. Is what is being forgotten here is that this is basecally the same system employed by the San Francisco Municipal Railway on the N Judah, L Taraval, J Church, K Ingleside, T Third Avenue. As memory serves they have freestanding kiosks in the Muni Metro and MMX, CLIPPER (aka ORCA) Onboard the equipment, as well as fareboxes in the drivers compartment. Those who have passes, clipper, etc board at all doors, those who need to pay fare board at the front door. Dosent add that much time at all to the stop. The bigger issue is not so much but the fact that you have such a long line; with so many stops. However, a local shadow service would certainly cost too much money to operate, and IMO looks somewhat tacky (I still have a problem with SWIFT running every ten minutes, and the 101 shadowing it on a 20 minute headway, with a combined fifteen minute headway inside the city limits – Its my thought if that you have that much shadow service than there is a problem with your BRT implementation.)

    And besides, who knows if the magic carpet area will still be around in a couple years time when Rapid Ride comes to downtown.

    1. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as though RapidRide will have ORCA readers anywhere other than at the fare-box and at those stops designated as “stations” … so if you have a card, you can pre-pay at stations, but stops will still require front-door boarding for everyone. Riders will have to learn to distinguish between stops and stations and change their payment process accordingly. This is a bummer as it would make sense for there to be a single (streamlined) process for RapidRide branded service.

    2. “stops will still require front-door boarding for everyone.”

      At least on the “B” route, the stops are at obscure places where half the time nobody is there, and the other half it’s only one or two people. So the stops may not be that big an issue. But I worry about Aurora and Pacific Highway because sometimes the bus stops at every single stop and it takes forever.

      “I still have a problem with SWIFT running every ten minutes, and the 101 shadowing it on a 20 minute headway, with a combined fifteen minute headway inside the city limits – Its my thought if that you have that much shadow service than there is a problem with your BRT implementation”

      Both routes have the highest ridership in the county. That’s just the nature of 99, and the fact that there are no other transit-friendly streets in the county. What would you do, add stops to Swift?

  14. So people are saying “why don’t we do RapidRide like SWIFT; SWIFT has wide station spacing and off board payment etc…”

    Do we have evidence that SWIFT is successful? If yes, then why doesn’t Metro change RapidRide to be more like it (since it works). If no, then why do people say we should change things to be like SWIFT?

    1. I won’t pass judgement on whether SWIFT is “successful”, but I’ll point out again that SWIFT is shadowed by CT 101, which has close stop spacing.

      Some of the ST Express buses in King County have stop spacing on SWIFT’s order of distance, but they all also have parallel local Metro service.

      The Line A is providing the local service on S Highway 99 while Link is built out to provide the wide stop spacing. It would be bizarre to end up with South Link, the Line A, and a restored 174 all serving S Highway 99.

      I don’t see 1-mile-ish stop spacing as viable on the remaining RapidRides without keeping the co-located local bus routes, which is just not in the budget. As it is, the RapidRides are not budgeted to have high frequency (which explains where the money was “found” to create the Line F).

      1. What’s bizarre is that it’s the “BRT” that’s providing the local stop spacing. I thought RapidRide A was supposed to tide over the area’s rapid transit needs until Link opened? It’s going to be weird having a “rapid transit” service that’s basically the local equivalent of the 8 in Rainier Valley (or CT 101).

    2. Yeah SWIFT and RapidRide really are different implementations of the BRT concept. RapidRide is on the “local” and “lite” end of spectrum while SWIFT is on the “rapid” and “heavy” end of the spectrum.

      1. That’s fine, but isn’t it the “Rapid” part that means anything in BRT? Otherwise you have, what, “Bus Transit”, which is pretty much, well, what we have.

        I appreciate better local bus service, I really do. But in my case, when I take Swift to Everett in 45 minutes (17 miles) and the 358 to downtown (12 miles) in (often) almost double that, something seems broken. Granted, RRE should be better, but given 1-2 minute dwell times with cash boardings, I really wonder just how much better.

        Once the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station opens, I won’t go near Metro’s Aurora service ever again.

      2. You have no argument with me. I think BRT is a huge misnomer and I like names like core network, trunk routes, or buses with a high level of service (BHLS)


    3. “why doesn’t Metro change RapidRide to be more like it”

      Metro doesn’t have the money. It’s trying to do BRT on the cheap. And it seems to believe that off-board payment and three doors and a nice paint job matter more than frequency and stop spacing. I don’t know if it’s because the Metro execs really believed it would work, or if they just didn’t have any money and wanted to do something.

      At least it’s a step in the right direction. When the budget improves, we can channel more service to RapidRide routes, and that will provide the “frequent bus” network people have advocated. Especially if more RapidRide routes are added. Then, someday, we can do something about making them rapid.

  15. I’m starting to think that RapidRide’s stop spacing is okay. Based on all the various elements of this project, it’s definitely not Bus Rapid Transit as has been done around the world. However, it makes for very, very good local bus service, with 5 (sometimes 10) block stop spacing, some elements to make boarding faster, branded service, and great frequency. We should try to change more and more routes to RapidRide, such as the 44 (RapidRide-branded ETBs would be so cool!!!) and SR 522 service from Roosevelt Station to Woodinville, among many others. Link will go down along a couple of these corridors, but won’t stop very often, so RapidRide’s quality local service will complement Link as a feeder service very well.

  16. RapidRide is pretty similar to the POP system used in Ottawa, where I’m originally from. Monthly passholders board at any door, and cash users pay the driver at the front, and must take a transfer (POP receipt) for random fare inspection.

    Dwell times are actually pretty good there, but pax seem to be better at having their fare out and ready. The fact that Canada uses $1 and $2 coins also probably helps, since it’s much faster to dump a fistful of coins in than to fumble with feeding dollar bills into the farebox.

    Point is, while off-board payment would certainly be better, on-board cash payment doesn’t necessarily doom it to failure. What I would like to see is a more incentives to adopt ORCA, to drive the card/cash split higher, and speed up boarding on all buses in the region.

    1. How about if cash payers had to pay for the maximum number of zones they might travel on that bus? That is to say, payment for fewer zones would no longer be on the honor system. If they would like a refund for the extra zone(s), the operator would advise the passenger that that can only be done with an ORCA card, and point at the ORCA brochures.

      Also, the transfers would need to stop being a way to cheat the 2-hour limit. That would require more leniency or a longer transfer time allowance on ORCA, or a shorter transfer time allowance on transfers. Or, get rid of paper transfers, and have paper receipts specific to each route, which would mean more dead trees in the short term.

      1. . NO paper transfers
        . Payment with cash is for maximum fare only – POP receipt is issued with coach number and time issued punched on ticket – no zones, peak, baloney. “Just Cash fare paid for this trip.”
        . Far more ORCA retail outlets as well as temporary ORCA passes for tourists are needed to make this work. TVMs at RapidRide stations? ORCA needs to be *easier* and more convenient than cash.

      2. Install TRiM units on the fareboxes and have them print up electronic transfers. Takes the driver out of the equasion and enables cash fares to have the same rights as orca riders.

        And the orca retail outlets, and TVMs at major stations should have been addressed before the launch.

      3. Unless RapidRide will involve distance-based fares, fare zones won’t be an issue until, what, will RapidRide E be the first to cross the city limits?

    2. Good points. It certainly won’t doom a POP system, but it certainly doesn’t take full advantage of what you have spend a lot of money trying to do. Certainly getting more people on ORCA is one important goal that transit agencies should see as not only a better way to track their money but as a speed and reliability issue.

  17. From ST’s latest CEO Report:
    “To make sure fares are paid, onboard fare enforcement officers have stepped up their inspections. Combined through June of this year, fare enforcement officers on Sounder and Link trains have handled more than 415,000 fare inspections. Of those, only 2 percent of passengers were found to be riding without proper fares and more than 1,700 citations were issued. Failure to pay the proper fare can result in a $124 fine.”
    Doing the math, about 8,300 riders didn’t have POP, and only 20% of those got a citation.
    That works out to about $160,000 in lost revenue on Link each year (8 mil riders x 2% x a buck fare avg), which is a lot less than the cost of enforcement, which is needed to keep the system ‘honest’. I’d say that POP on Link is working extremely well.

  18. Rapid Ride is starting to sound more and more complicated. K.I.S.S.

    Swift is simple, fast and easy. I’ve seen some data that supports about an even split between ORCA card and TVM usage. Any sort of TVM activity costs time, you want all that completed before the coach arrives.

  19. Better yet, get rid of the Ride-Free/Rolling-Homeless-Shelter service.

    If needed, sell a fare/ticket that costs 25 or 50¢ but is only valid for a trip within downtown. Give out passes to convention guests and maybe also hotel guests of hotels in downtown Seattle. (This is done in many cities around the world already).

  20. Here is a possible solution:

    1) Place ORCA readers at each Rapid Ride station

    2) Install recharge stations on each bus similar to the ones in Houston. Make the minimum payment a one-zone peak ride from these machines. This way, people who can only afford enough for one fare can recharge their ORCA card after using it for boarding Rapid Ride to pay for the next ride.

    3) The last two weeks of September until October 2, have an extensive outreach program giving out ORCA cards with a one-zone peak value on it. They will also have to forgive the $5.00 fee for the card during this time.

  21. I was reading with interest about the new plans for Rapid Ride Lines A,B,C,D&E in Seattle. Firstly let me say, there are no examples to my knowledge of bus ways or BRT Systems that have upgraded to light rail.It is a proven fact that light rail has a proven record of getting people out of their cars, somewhere between 25%-35%. Trolly buses also show they can attract new ridership from 15%-20%, so far buses have shown to draw about 5%-7% new riders.
    Any systems must be convenient ,fast and comfortable.It must be able to compete with the auto.
    We must realize that oil will not get cheaper, only more expensive. We should be looking at more electric powered transit vehicles in the future.
    If you would like a good example, just look south to Portland, Oragon, they have done a great job!
    It’s only too bad that it’s taken so long to get any real transit solution in Seattle. Don’t wait until its fatal, act now!

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