KC Metro Transfer (Image by Oran)

On May 17th Kitsap Transit may bring back paper transfers, permanently (see page 98 of this):

Kitsap Transit staff are hereby authorized and directed to make certain changes to the agency’s fare policy, effective July 1, 2011, to permanently reinstate the use of the paper transfer system for one-way travel, as outlined in the revised fare policy attached and incorporated by reference herein as Exhibit D.

The meeting is from 9:30-11:15am at 345 Sixth St. in Bremerton.

I think the current level of ORCA adoption is a miracle given the lack of incentives (and often, disincentives) provided for its use.

H/T: Mike Fisher

99 Replies to “Kitsap Bringing Paper Back”

  1. “I think the current level of ORCA adoption is a miracle given the lack of incentives (and often, disincentives) provided for its use.”

    As an occasional rider, paying cash or ePurse, I totally agree. ORCA may work well for monthly passes but for occasional pay-by-the-ride riders, it doesn’t provide enough benefits.

    There is no discount or other incentive given for using ORCA, unless you are doing an interagency or ST transfer. Metro’s paper transfers have much greater value.

    If you are low on your balance, it takes 24-48 hours to add value via the web, and there are few TVMs other than along Link.

    The website to add value to the ePurse is terrible. You can’t even enter a credit card number without tabbing between four fields. It doesn’t remember card numbers for future use. If you set up autopay and the expiration date of your card changes, the card is blocked.

    And now agencies are backing away from it?

    Widening adoption ought to be an agency goal since presumably ORCA speeds up boarding and reduces cash handling costs. There are 2 or 3 simple things to do. Increase the ORCA transfer time to be roughly equivalent to the paper transfer and then do away with paper transfers. Add an automatic daypass price at two times the in-county fare – this would let them do away with the RFA in Seattle, too. Improve the website and guarantee the fares loaded by 9pm are available the next day. Reduce the cost to buy ORCA to $2. And give a 5% bonus for adding $30 or more to the card (which should reduce credit card fees.)

    1. Agree. Although I suspect Kitsap doesn’t have to worry too much about long lines to board.

      1. Agree, make the discount for loading the card with more than $25 similar to the discount level given for passes.

        There need to be more places to get an ORCA card or load value.

        Monthly passes should have a 30 day rolling window option. That way I could either load my June pass early or start a 30 day pass today.

        Perhaps less than one-month passes could be offered. Say maybe 3-5-7 days?

    2. Carl,

      I just couldn’t not respond to your post. You said a lot of stuff that I just think is a little off the top. I have to apologize that I do not know how to quote you, so my responses are in ALL-CAPS. Here goes:

      1) As an occasional rider, paying cash or ePurse, I totally agree. ORCA may work well for monthly passes but for occasional pay-by-the-ride riders, it doesn’t provide enough benefits.

      There is no discount or other incentive given for using ORCA, unless you are doing an interagency or ST transfer. Metro’s paper transfers have much greater value.

      ARE YOU LOOKING FOR A DISCOUNT OR SOMETHING? ORCA IS NOT INTENDED TO DISCOUNT FARES, THAT’S WHAT MONTHLY PASSES ARE FOR. ORCA HAS MANY BENEFITS, INCLUDING IT TAKING LESS THAN 1/3 THE TIME TO PAY YOUR FARE, WHICH MEANS FASTER LOADING, YOU DON’T HAVE TO CARRY EXACT CHANGE AROUND, YOU DON’T HAVE TO HOLD ON TO A PAPER TRANSFER. FOR KING COUNTY, ONE OF THE BIGGEST BENEFITS IS THAT THERE IS NO DEBATE ON WHETHER A TRANSFER IS VALID, AND THE DRIVER DOESN’T HAVE TO ARGUE ABOUT IT WITH THE PASSENGER. YOU MIGHT CONSIDER THIS TO BE A NEGATIVE THO, IF YOU’RE USED TO FLOATING BY ON AN EXPIRED TRANSFER. YOU’RE SAYING THAT PAPER TRANSFERS PROVIDE MUCH GREATER VALUE…PLEASE DO EXPLAIN ONE VALUE BESIDES “I CAN FLOAT BY WITH AN EXPIRED TRANSFER.”

      2) If you are low on your balance, it takes 24-48 hours to add value via the web, and there are few TVMs other than along Link.

      IT IS UNFORTUNATE HOW LONG IT TAKES TO ADD FUNDS VIA THE WEB. THERE ARE WAYS TO CIRCUMVENT THIS. THE ORCA READER TELLS YOU WHEN YOU HAVE 5 BUCKS OR LESS ON YOUR CARD. THIS IS PLENTY OF TIME TO GET TO THE WEBSITE…IF YOU CAN’T GET TO A TVM OR ANY BARTELL DRUGS OR QFC. DO YOU NOT LIVE NEAR ONE? DO YOU NOT LIVE ANYWHERE NEAR SEATTLE??

      3) The website to add value to the ePurse is terrible. You can’t even enter a credit card number without tabbing between four fields. It doesn’t remember card numbers for future use. If you set up autopay and the expiration date of your card changes, the card is blocked.

      I JUST ADDED VALUE TO MY CARD IN ORDER TO EXPERIENCE THIS INCONVENIENCE. IT’S REALLY NOT THAT BAD. TABBING BETWEEN THE 4 FIELDS WASN’T A BIG DEAL, BUT IF YOU THINK THIS SHOULD BE FIXED, WRITE THE WEBMASTER. I IMAGINE THEY DON’T SAVE CARD NUMBERS BECAUSE OF PRIVACY ISSUES…SOME COMPANIES DON’T WANT TO SAVE THIS INFORMATION. AS FOR THE EXPIRATION DATE, THIS IS A LAUGH. FIRST, YOUR CARD EXPIRES ONCE EVERY 3 TO 4 YEARS. WHEN IT EXPIRES, YOU ARE LITERALLY ISSUED A NEW CARD…MIGHT AS WELL BE A TOTALLY DIFFERENT NUMBER. THIS IS WHY WHEN A NEW ONE IS ISSUED, THE OLD ONE DOESN’T WORK ANYMORE. NON-ISSUE!

      4) YOU GAVE SOME SUGGESTIONS ON WHAT SHOULD BE DONE WITH ORCA, INCLUDING PROVIDING DISCOUNTS TO ORCA EPURSE USERS, WHICH I DISAGREE WITH. SOUNDS LIKE YOU WANT A DISCOUNT FOR NOTHING. YOU CAN CONTINUE TO USE YOUR CASH IF THAT IS WHAT YOU LIKE. SEEMS LIKE PAYING THE FARE ONLY ONCE SHOULD BE INCENTIVE ENOUGH. YOU ALSO RECOMMENDED INCREASING ORCA TRANSFERS TO A TIME COMPARABLE TO PAPER TRANSFERS. I CAN’T SPEAK FOR OTHER AGENCIES, BUT KING COUNTY METRO PROVIDES PAPER TRANSFERS FOR 1:30 TO 1:59 FROM THE TIME THE TRIP IS SCHEDULED TO END. ORCA IS 2 HOURS FROM THE TIME THE CARD IS TAPPED. DON’T FORGET THAT A TRANSFER IS FOR SINGLE TRIPS WHERE YOU HAVE TO TAKE MORE THAN ONE BUS, NOT FOR A ROUND-TRIP. THE FACT THAT IT’S POSSIBLE TO USE A TRANSFER FOR A ROUND-TRIP IS A BENEFIT IN ITSELF. IT REALLY SEEMS LIKE YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A HANDOUT.

      1. [Ad hom]

        Many agencies discount smart-card fares compared to cash-box fares, as it’s much cheaper for them to handle card fares rather than cash and, as you note, makes boarding much quicker for everyone. No-one is looking for a handout here. We are looking for cash users to pay the extra costs they impose on the system and other riders.

        Many websites retain credit card information safely, and there’s no reason ORCA can’t either.

      2. It is virtually impossible to read your shouting in caps, and I won’t try to respond to all of it.

        Monthly passes and cash riders are two separate markets. The monthly pass is marketed to and priced for someone who commutes to a school or workplace 40 times a month (20 roundtrips). The rest of the riding is thrown in for free. Cash riders are people who don’t commute daily.

        I agree that speeding up fare payment is important. I hate sitting in a Link train before Westlake or on a 255 bus leaving town while a route 7x is loading at Westlake for 10 minutes after 7pm. However the benefit of faster loading goes to people other than the cash fare payer, or to put it the other way around, we all suffer because that person hasn’t converted to ORCA.

        It’s a marketing problem to make ORCA attractive enough to drive adoption – so I’m saying remove all the barriers. Make it cheaper and easier than today’s cash and paper transfers. Other transit systems provide a financial incentive to use the electronic products – NYC Metrocard used to provide a 15% bonus, this year reduced to 7%. Boston provides roughly a 15% discount on fares. Over time as you have driven adoption you can decide to reduce or eliminate it. But for now the evidence shows that we haven’t given people enough incentive to use ORCA and we have too many useless obstacles, like not being able to automatically reuse a credit card. So you think that Alaska Airlines, Amazon, and Starbucks can figure out how to do this, but Metro & Sound Transit have an unsurmountable security or privacy problem? And maybe you don’t mind not being able to cut and paste a credit card number or even when typing it in, having to manually move the cursor to the next field, but it gets old and irritating, and it’s just unnecessary.

        It’s not rocket science, if the agencies want adoption, to have a product manager that figures out why people aren’t using it and addresses the objections and obstacles and creates the necessary incentives. No one’s doing it.

      3. Boston gives a discount for using their RFID card:

        http://mbta.com/fares_and_passes/charlie/

        And New York City MTA has always given a small percentage bonus for purchasing a larger value Metrocard.

        There is NO reason ORCA cannot implement these incentives to get people to use the RFID card, especially given the HUGE investment it took to install all the card-dispensing and reading equipment around the system.

      4. @Bruce — I think all caps was because Kerry didn’t know how to do a block quote.. Don’t think it was intentional.

        I think that in order to truly incentivize ORCA use, paper transfers need to be abolished. Having grown up riding metro and used my fair share of expired transfers/collected transfers, its easy to get used to cheating the system. Other agencies that make you put your transfer in the fare box after one transfer (Honolulu’s TheBus) or simply don’t hand out transfers seemed weird to me at first but if we truly want to push ORCA we need to do so. Eliminate the RFA, increase TVMs. It’s obviously a process that will take some time, but it will undoubtedly be helpful in the long term.

      5. All of the benefits you list are for the agency, not for the customer. Another benefit for the agency is more widespread adoption of using credit cards instead of cash. Cash is incredibly hard to deposit in the bank for a large organization.

        Therefore, the agency should have two prices: the cost of service+cost of handling cash (including longer dwell time) and the cost of service+cost of credit card processing.

        That’s where the 15% bonus comes from

      6. The numbers show that ORCA use is higher among agencies that have eliminated paper transfers.

        Personally, I think paying twice in cash on interagency transfers without ORCA is a good enough incentive.

        Most of the complaints I hear are about the difficulty in getting a new card and reloading it (not online). If all the Safeways and QFCs already reloading cards were able to sell new cards, a lot more people would get it and use it. And more awareness of where cardholders can add value.

      7. There actually used to be a discount factored into pass and ticket sales for some agencies. One i know of factored the pass price on something like 30 trips, so if you used it more than 30 trips you in essence were getting a discount, the same went for ticket sales, you paid the price of say ten trips, and got an 11 trip ticket book. Obviously there has to be an incentive to using this system, and you do that through a price break off regular fare for some products. The rest of carl’s statements are valid. While i’m slowly warming up to ORCA it does have its problems, mainly their website is horrible, they have a lack of TVMs at transit/transfer stations, and very limited phone support. I also think the technology could be reworked a little to allow the coaches to update all day long instead of only at the garage. Its a great technology because it significantly reduces fraud in the system, however one has to wonder what the overall return on the investment actually is. How much are you spending on this system vs. what’s it actually bringing in, and how long will it take to pay off vs. replacement/upgrade cost when it is time.

      8. Next time use <blockquote> </blockquote>. Or hell, even quotation marks.

        (The way WordPress recognizes caret characters REALLY bugs me… remove my previous comment, would you?)

      9. I just set mine to $25 auto-load and never had a problem when I was using it during the week to go from Kent to Seattle on Sounder.

        Now I drive for my commute but I still keep it on me for emergencies or occasional use.

        As a bicycle rider it’s a “must have” when riding in case of getting stranded or if my legs are too tired to make it up Kent East Hill!

      10. Kerry:

        1. Most of the benefits you list are benefits to the organization, not the user. As a life long rider, the paper transfer is much more valuable, since there is fudge factor for the time. If a driver challenges you, you pay but otherwise if you’re over by an hour you’re likely to be able to get away and not pay the fare. That might not be what’s supposed to happen, but that alone is a BIG disincentive to using the OCRA.

        2. There are plenty of times where I don’t have time to spend hunting down a place to refill my ORCA. In the ideal world, what you say makes sense, but in the real world there are competing priorities. Having to hunt down a place or wait for the website is a hassle, which is a disincentive to use.

        4. On average, I pay more when I use my ORCA card because of the transfer issue. That’s an economic disincentive, which is why I pay cash and use the ePurse as a backup or when I know I’m only going one direction (or will be there long enough that there’s no way I can fudge the transfer). If they want me to use only the ORCA, they need to make it more appealing.

        A better solution would be to also have a numerated system, where you can purchase X trips in advance at a set rate, or even X days (where on the first tap, it gives you a 24 hour pass). It would also allow occasional users to hedge against fare increases in the same way that the forever stamps let people hedge against postal rate increases. There should be some way to do that that produces an economic incentive for users and the organization.

      11. I’d like to point out that paper transfers aren’t better only because you can cheat the system. They’re better on their actual terms—no cheating required.

        Metro paper transfers explicitly state that you simply need to reboard before expiration, whereas ORCA requires you to retap before expiration. So if you get on a pay-as-you-leave bus at 2:25 with a paper transfer that expires at 2:30, you can ride that baby to the end of the line without worry, whether that’s 5 minutes or 50 minutes later. With an ORCA transfer that expires at 2:30, you either need to get off that bus within 5 minutes, or get dinged for a whole new fare. Getting rid of the RFA and making all buses pay-as-you-enter would eliminate most of this advantage.

        An even bigger advantage is Metro’s OWL transfers. If you board after 9:30 or so and pay cash, you get a paper transfer that’s good all night and on the first bus in the morning. That’s a basically a 7 hour transfer. Pay with ORCA, however, and your transfer expires at 11:30.

        Metro doesn’t necessarily need to give ORCA users a discount—despite the fact that those users are costing the system less money and despite the fact that many (if not most) agencies around the country and the world do give such users discounts. But they most certainly shouldn’t continue to incentivize cash transactions which slow down buses and increase costs. Using ORCA needs to be at least as cost efficient for consumers as cash, not less.

      12. @Andreas

        You can also hand paper transfers off to friends. That’s something you can’t really do with ORCA.

        Metro should use paper tickets, either those elusive temp ORCAs or the kind the fareboxes are designed for. That seems like the best of both worlds to me.

      13. I forgot to add:

        What do you do when the epurse is running low and you owe $.50 extra? When you transfer you’d have to pay the $.50 again.

    3. I’ve complained about the same things and here’s the replies from the powers that be and my thoughts.

      Metro has paper transfers but CT doesn’t. If you do ANY transferring on CT the ORCA is better.

      The last time I added ORCA money at 9 pm at night it was on my card the next morning. Seems they’re working on that. I don’t need immediate transfer of money but the night before is good. A lot of times I remember that I need it before going to bed and I put money on it.

      The website is slowly getting better. I manage 5 ORCA cards and I have to put money on each independently so magnify your complaint by 5x for me. There should be a shopping cart for ORCA.

      The ORCA transfer time is exactly what the paper transfer time is SUPPOSED to be. Just because drivers are more lenient doesn’t mean they didn’t mean well with making ORCA transfer 2 hrs. I agree though that it needs to be 3 hrs. With pay as you leave you might not be able to transfer if you’re coming from say Olympia then going north on any pay as you leave buses. Three hours would take care of just about any transfer.

      I don’t think the cost of the ORCA card is that big of a deal. They do need to do a one day pass though somehow.

  2. Having read through all the WHEREAS’s to the Kitsap resolution, it’s pretty clear they have concluded that ORCA is a good thing, but doesn’t really work for a lot of occasional cash riders and visitors. It says the Metro and the other agencies have pretty much decided that too.
    I was startled to see how few regular adult ORCA cards are sold in comparison to reduced fare cards – something like only 1/3 are full fare.
    Does anyone know what the splits for MT,PT, or CT are?

    1. Is this death by committee, where no one owns driving ORCA adoption?

      They haven’t given regular adult riders enough incentive to use it. If the cost were $2 and it was easy to buy, and you give 5% bonus for $30, that would change the equation, even for a visitor and occasional rider.

      Instead they say, we like ORCA but because it’s not being adopted let’s give more features (paper transfers) to cash riders. That’s backwards – they should work to fix what’s wrong with ORCA instead.

      1. Does it differentiate between monthly passes loaded on ORCA, and ORCA ePurse boardings? Since monthly passes have increasingly migrated onto ORCA, and aren’t available any other way, that would show increased ORCA adoption. The relevant data would be what portion of full adult fares are paid by cash vs. ORCA, especially since it is cash payers that generally slow boarding time.

      2. See page 14 of the report I linked to.

        Only 24.9% use e-purse. The rest use some kind of pass. 35.5% use PugetPass. 26.6% use Passport (FlexPass), 14.9% use an agency-specific pass.

        I’ve heard from somewhere a long time ago, that most fares were paid with passes, not cash. I can’t find a source to support that claim but Metro does take in more money from passes than they do in cash/tickets.

      3. So the penetration of ORCA on monthly passes is high and for cash (or pay by the ride) is still very low. Operationally, cash payers have to be the bigger part of slowing down boarding. The difference in time for a passholder to tap their pass vs. show it to the driver is minimal. Perhaps there is some fraud reduction.

        But the adoption of ORCA by per-ride paying riders is unharvested low-hanging fruit. And if the monthly pass gives a 10% discount on 40 rides, ORCA could give people who buy $30 of rides a 5% discount or bonus in order to drive adoption.

  3. This is one giant step backward, and a tremendous disincentive for a significant percentage of the population in Kitsap county from ever getting an ORCA card.

    1. having made a few trips to bremerton before, i dont think a significant percentage of the population takes the bus so the point is moot… With KT, you have a fair amount of commuters, but the rest of their ridership seems to be based on those who cant otherwise get around.

      1. I think the past six months’ of serious outreach to social service agencies KT has done has something to do with this stat, too.

  4. I would just get rid of the monthly pass. It is really not fair for the poor.

    Instead of the monthly pass, there should be a credit after 40 rides of 4 times the average fare. In this way, you get the advantage of a monthly pass whether you take 40 rides in two weeks or one year.

    Another option might be to put machines on the bus (perhaps toward the back door) that would allow you to add value to your ORCA. This way, someone who is poor who could receive an ORCA card through some social agency could keep a bare minimum on the card to use on their next ride and then replenish the card with the $2.50 – or whatever. Basically, they are paying in advance for the next bus ride. But with this program, then can use the card as a transfer and they would get the discount after 40 rides.

    1. The trick is finding a way for this to work for businesses. The current system lets my employer pay once for a pass. If they have to somehow pay just for what I’ve used, or pay more if I use more would be an administrative headache. We should have incentives for businesses to offer free or discounted passes to their employees, since it raises revenue for transit systems, increases ridership, and creates transit users out of car drivers.

      That said, keeping the pass system and adding a separate “buy 10 get 1 free” system could work.

      1. Businesses could still keep the monthly pass for their employees. That is the advantage of ORCA.

        All I am saying is give people who cannot afford to buy a monthly pass the same benefits as those who can.

      2. Those who don’t buy a monthly pass still benefit from the faster travel time, thanks to the increasing number of passengers not paying with cash.

        But why should only the employed have access to a monthly pass?

      3. Passes and pay-as-you-go discounts can coexist, it seems to me. Establish a deposit level that triggers an unlimited discount. An $90 epurse deposit (from an individual or an employer) could trigger 31 days of unlimited $2.50 rides. Folks who put less in their epurse could get a per-ride discount. Or just establish a maximum monthly ORCA fare, as others have suggested for daily charges. Employers could pay that fare upfront for their employees, and individuals could simply pay as they go and if they hit the ceiling they get free rides for the rest of the month.

        This makes me wonder, actually: why are we still doing monthly passes? It’s always seemed silly to me that a May pass cost the same whether you bought it on May 1 or May 29—shouldn’t it get progressively cheaper as the month goes on? With ORCA, instead of making them progressively cheaper, we can simply make passes good for 31 days from date of purchase. Put $90 down on May 1, you get unlimited rides till June 1; pay on May 15, unlimited rides till June 15.

      4. Andreas,

        It is easier for employers to reload passes once a month. It is easier for passholders to remember when the pass runs out, because it is always the end of the month.

        If Metro/ST were to go to rolling monthly passes, expect them to do it for 30-day periods, so as not to lose revenue.

        But don’t expect Metro/ST to offer both versions of monthly passes. The idea is to simplify the fare system, not make it more complicated.

  5. In transit privatization discussions, “Run it like a business!” usually means “Cut wages, fire half your workers and work the other half to death, junk your operation, and sell the wreckage back to the government at a profit.”

    But transit’s own chief competitor, the automobile industry, has always understood one thing: People will forgive being overcharged for something they like- and often even enjoy it- if you make it easy for them to pay.

    Every time I visit Portland or Vancouver BC, the excuses here get older. Get off Talgo, get a Day-Pass, get on transit. For the last thirty years. They can do it. We can do it. Period and paragraph.

    I can instantly move a dollar between bank accounts online. Why can’t I load a dollar on my e-purse? You’ve got my credit card number: why do I have to wait 24 hours for my transit ride? No airline would dare tell me that.

    And what part of “The Fact There Are Separate Agencies Is Not Your Passengers Problem” do us passengers’ employees who run these agencies not understand?

    This isn’t comparing different fare items. It’s about a design philosophy that the convenience of the transit system’s accountants overrides that of the traveling public. My question is, “How much would the system have to raise my fare to stop making a nuisance of itself?”

    I’m willing to deal.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The reason for why there is a “24-hour” warning has been explained on this site. With over 2,000 mobile card readers, the 24 hours is necessary to make sure all those mobile card readers have downloaded the internet transaction into their memory. Try this as an experiment: Load $10 onto your card through the internet. Then go to a card read at any of the train stations (or use the TVM at Bellevue). Because these readers can be hard-wired into the database, your $10 would download onto your card just minutes from your internet transaction.

      Or try this – the next time the ice cream man comes through your neighborhood with his truck, try buying an ice cream bar with a debit card (or credit card).

      1. “Or try this – the next time the ice cream man comes through your neighborhood with his truck, try buying an ice cream bar with a debit card (or credit card).’

        I have and he has a 3G capable credit card reader linked through his Android phone.

        your comment = FAIL

        other agencies throughout the world can support this capability, we ARE NOT DIFFERENT.

      2. failboat’s comment reminded me of that Verizon ad where the little girl’s lemonade stand becomes a small-business powerhouse after her dad gives her a Verizon phone…

      3. Actually failboat, now imagine nearly 2,500 ice cream sellers in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties using their Android phones about 20,000 times an hour…

      4. J.Reddock and your point is?

        A transaction takes very few bytes probably less than 2KB each. Not much data going over the air per transaction. This is quite doable.

        Further, transit agencies should be planning for deploying “Near Field Communications” capabilities that are going to be enabled in consumer phones.

      5. Realistically, the coaches could be equipped with 3g aircards for orca to download data in near real time. However, the cost per month would be $30 or so per coach, not counting capital expense for the eqipment. So, per month for an agency with 150 coaches would be around $4500, at what point does the cost of collecting the fare cost more than the revenue you bring in through fare collection? i think that overall, transfers need to be abolished period, orca or not, and either single trip, or day, week, or monthly, etc passes implemented.

      6. There’s a simple solution to this. The buses update their database via wifi (or similar) each night when they get back to the base correct? Why are we doing this ONCE a day and only at the BASE? Why not do incremental updates of changes to the DB at every major transit station? I could put money on my card and the buses would update about every 30 minutes. The data transfer wouldn’t be huge since the full update would still be happening at night. It would require radios at the transit stations but if it’s wifi that’s easy.

    2. @failboat,

      All it takes is money. Certainly the technology exists, but imagine the cost to equip each bus with the equivalent of your Android phone (and associated account), along with air time and transmittal equipment.

      Feel free to break out your checkbook and make it happen. People in this state don’t even want to pay an extra nickel for a can of soda to fund services.

  6. Giving a 10% ORCA discount is the same thing as raising cash fares by 10%. Who’s to say what the “right” fare is? Since the agencies have gone to 25c-based fares, just charge a quarter more for cash riders. The farebox can list the cash price, and ORCA users will already know they’re getting a discount.

    As for transfers, just increase the transfer length to three hours as a compromise. That’ll solve the problem for ppl who ride from north Seattle (pay-as-you-enter) and transfer to Federal Way or Tacoma (pay-as-you-leave) and one of the buses is fifteen minutes late. They may even have a third bus if they live in a residential neighborhood (as they probably do).

    Metro transfers are cut for anywhere from 1 1/2 to 3 hours, and some evening drivers just give you an uncut transfer (which ends at 10:30pm but is good all night). So the people asking for longer transfer lengths aren’t asking for something for nothing. They’re asking for something that Metro has done for at least thirty years. They’re asking not to lose money by switching to ORCA.

      1. Making all buses pay as you enter only works if you elminate the Ride Free Area – and why the City and County remain reluctant to do this is a huge mystery.

      2. The City of Seattle has a (perpetual?) contract purchasing the right to have the buses be free in the CBD, for $400,000 a year.

        If the city gave up this contract, I think Metro administrators would be very delighted.

        We should be talking to that Mike McGinn guy about it.

      3. That $400,000, BTW, ought to hire enough fare checkers to turn the CBD into a POP zone.

      4. Isn’t there a way to keep the RFA on the surface and make the tunnel pay to play? I honestly can understand the desire to have the RFA in downtown. It does create some problems but it promotes mobility downtown and speeds boarding. In the tunnel you just change it to pay on entering the tunnel. That’s how it works in London. I know we have a goofy fare structure but that can be dealt with.

      5. If you make all buses pay-as-you-enter without first doubling or tripling ORCA adoption, you end up with constant backups at the downtown hub – a line of 20 people fumbling for change at the stop, holding up every other bus in line on 3rd ave.

        We could totally do it, though, if we could actually kill the cash fare. We could even eliminate the RFA.

        Make the cash fare $1 more and install an ORCA vending machine at every major transfer hub, problem solved. All it takes is money.

      6. The CBD can be turned into a Cash-Free POP zone. What that would mean is that in order to legally board a bus downtown, you’d have to tap an ORCA on a reader at a bus stop, possess a paper transfer that is still valid, or possess a valid flash pass. Egress and entry would be at all bus doors, of course.

        Don’t have an ORCA? Signage at each stop would point to all the downtown TVMs.

        Don’t have enough cash to get an ORCA? Walking to the next stop outside the POP zone and paying cash is still an option.

        I’m hoping the TMP and the arrival of the C/D and E lines will drive installation of readers at all bus stops in the CBD, not to mention dedication of transit-only lanes and alteration of traffic signals to be timed to bus flow.

      1. @Morgan,

        Some drivers may be handing out “Owl” tranfers for expedience, or because even though a passenger boards before 8:30, they reach their outbound terminal after that time.

        ORCA does not do “Owl”. 2 hours per transfer, 24/7.

      2. Yes, citing The Book September 2010 edition, Section 6, Number 15 D, page 602:

        D. ORCA cards & Owl transfers – ORCA users are entitled to an Owl transfer on trips on which cash customers are entitled to an Owl transfer. The ORCA transfer window is only two hours. Owl transfers are good for all Owl service and the first trip on any route the next day. When you give the ORCA card user an Owl transfer, remind them NOT to tap the card reader again that night, otherwise they may get charged another fare if the two – hour transfer window has expired.

      3. Why the hell isn’t that publicized? Well, I know why, it’s a pain for drivers and Metro would lose a chunk of change. But damn, I’ve been discouraging lots of folks who mostly ride at night from bothering with ORCA for exactly this reason. Is there any reason not to simply get rid of OWL altogether, or to set up ORCA to do OWL? It seems like it wouldn’t be very complicated code to give the same benefits on ORCA.

  7. Regarding the lag time of online funds:

    If this was a system that was being developed in the early 2000’s why wasn’t it developed in a way in which it could adapt and use the ubiquity of wireless services? Back in 2004 I could transfer funds in my BoA account via text message while walking to the store, and when I got to the store I could use the funds. This was a reality for business back then, it should be a reality for ORCA today.

    1. Metro’s radio system is quite antiquated, so constant updates to the readers on-board is not possible. Getting cellular internet on every coach is the easy solution, but way too expensive.

      We just need to wait for Metro’s eventual radio upgrade and the additional data channels it will bring. If it ever happens, that is.

      1. The city and government agencies have “allocated” radio spectrum. They wouldn’t really need to utilize cellular data networks. They’d need to acquire modern equipment and that would be a significant capital expense.

        Also, Seattle is a bit unusual in that it has a voice radio system for buses. Chicago operates without radios but drivers do use cell phones for emergency calls. But, their buses are also wired for satellite and GPS information relay.

  8. I see that the resolution references KC Metro and Pierce paper transfers.

    But Pierce paper transfers are only good for one hour (really 1-2 hours in practice, which at least keeps them from being a financial incentive to use cash).

    And, as is evident here, there is deep opposition to the continued use of paper transfers in King County. I’d hate to see the decision in Kitsap become justification for keeping paper transfers in KC Metro.

    I could see a legit reason why paper transfers might make sense in Kitsap, from a standpoint of operational savings: If it is clear that no matter the incentive to use ORCA, lots of riders will still use cash, then offering the paper transfer at least cuts a big chunk of time from having someone fumble for cash twice on a two-legged trip. But wouldn’t one hour be enough, since the goal is that they be used for immediate transfers, and Kitsap has no nuisances like the Ride Free Area?

    Nor does it appear that Kitsap Transit has actually had a trial period in which paper transfers haven’t been used, or at least been less valuable than ORCA transfers.
    .
    .
    I commend Kitsap Transit for making a real effort to get reduced-fare passes into the hands of various income-limited clientele. The bus service exists to serve them as much as anyone else.

    I also commend Kitsap Transit for being ORCA-only on their RRFPs. Since the ORCAs can be flashed to pay a reduced cash fare, too, there is no use for non-ORCA RRFPs. Kitsap gets this. KC Metro doesn’t, unfortunately for those who waste their time getting non-ORCA RRFPs, only to find they are much less useful.
    .
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    I do hope Kitsap Transit at least moves to limit the paper transfers to one hour, like Pierce Transit does.

    1. I owe Metro an apology for portraying them as being so inept as to still offer non-ORCA RRFPs. It turns out I’m the inept one who misses important details on webpages.

      http://metro.kingcounty.gov/tops/accessible/reduced_fare_permit.html#orca

      Scroll down to the red text.

      My bad.

      Also, the PDF forms one fills out to apply don’t give an option between ORCA and non-ORCA. I should have figured out my goof just from paying attention to the form.

      It appears that the RRFP is allowing ORCA to get a beachhead in ORCA-non-accepting counties.

  9. One historical point needs correction in this post: Kitsap Transit isn’t bringing back paper transfers. They are making the restoration of paper tranfers, that occured in mid-2010, permanent.

  10. I’m vacationing in Europe right now (Currently in Poland). EVERYWHERE I go, cash costs more to use than purchasing advance tickets or a smart card. There are no transfers. I saw a couple of people pay cash in Amsterdam and one here in Poland. Going forward, cash fares need to be higher than ORCA, we need more retail outlets to buy/reload ORCA, we need temporary ORCA cards, and we need day/multi-day ORCA passes. (A 5 day pass in Amsterdam was about $35).

    1. Agree with the need for day passes. When considering the costs of transfers between agencies here (ST 2 county fair $3.50, MT local bus fare $2.00, roundtrip = $11), a single day pass valued at $7-10 is a very good incentive for for tourists and occasional bus riders without having to load money on to an e-purse.

    2. I don’t know about Poland, but most buses in Europe are proof of payment-based and while you say that there are no transfers, in effect the ticket you buy is good for about 2 hours of riding on any vehicle – bus, subway, tram, and local train. Often it is stamped or validated with either the purchase location or the bus route and the ticket is uni-directional, so it may have a 2-hour limit but only in a generally consistent direction and not a round trip. And generally there is an all-day pass available for somewhere around 2-3 x the one-way fare. Most of these systems have zones, and the daypass is for certain zones. It becomes pretty easy to understand after a couple of uses.

      1. I didn’t check in Amsterdam, but in Poland you validate a ticket in a machine on the vehicle. It stamps the vehicle number on it so it can’t be used on other vehicles. No idea how their smart card system will work since it appears to be in the rollout phase.

        Heading to London today and will pick up an Oyster card. Apparently the zones are all gone; the entire tube system is effectively one zone – can’t wait to see that.

      2. Nope. TfL still operates on a zone system.

        Make sure to pick up one of the snazzy Oyster Card holders to use with your Orca Card when you get back home, they make a great souvenir.

    3. I’m pretty flat-out opposed to reintroducing cash day passes. We’re trying to encourage ORCA use, not provide more ways to avoid it.

      Day caps on ORCAs might be of use. But I still don’t know what benefit a day cap would be to any of the agencies.

      1. Day caps are simply another incentive to use Oyster. Given the confusing mess that is London’s fare structure, I’m not sure how I feel about them. (The brochure explaining Oyster and all the fare systems is 19 pages long. Of course most of that is aimed at the Tube and rail networks. The bus is just a peak and off-peak price. Given London’s traffic, TfL probably figures nobody will take the bus for long journeys unless absolutely necessary.

  11. I drive for CT, orca usage was low before we eliminated transfers, now it is much higher and fewer fare disputes and no transfer cheats. If metro gets rid of paper, the customers will adapt, just do it. There does need to be more places to Get the cards though, in snohomish co. we have only 2 outlets to get a card, not counting sounder stations (2 more).

    1. Sounder stations would be 3 more, wouldn’t they? Unless you were already counting one of them as one of the other 2 locations. But if, for example, you have a customer service office inside Everrett Station, that’s quite different than having a TVM on the platform.

      1. Yes – at Everett Station you can get a reduced fare ORCA and a youth ORCA. The same is true for the Lynnwood Transit Center.

    2. As part of the E-line ramp-up, I’d love to see a TVM placed at Aurora Village. This would serve what will hopefully be a busy transfer point between SWIFT and E.

      Also, I hope E and SWIFT are timed for immediate transfers, which means their frequencies need to be synchronized. Let their bays be next to each other, or even share a bay.
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      For Kitsap, if Washington State Ferries wants people to use ORCA, place a TVM in the Bremerton, Bainbridge, Kingston, and Southworth ferry facilities. This might also enable KT to save an FTE on a customer service specialist selling ORCAs (along with the RRFPs) the old-fashioned way. Or at the very least, the line for the RRFPs could get shorter.

      Once ORCA has filtered through the ridership sufficiently, those WSF TVMs could be moved to other locations. (Yes, I know there are TVMs at, or close to, the west-Sound termini of those WSF lines, but who wants to take a 2+hour ferry trip just to get an ORCA?)

  12. I have had to use KTs paper transfers once since I got the ORCA card. It was a couple weeks ago when my card would not scan. It worked for quite a while, then one day, it did not register on the ORCA reader. I did have enough change to get on and needed a transfer to get from Port Orchard to Bremerton. If the transfers did not exist, I would have been stuck. That little card that’s so convenient failed. The person at the KT desk said it happens every once in a while and they do not know why. If there were machines that dispensed and loaded ORCA cards at the big transfer centers, more people would have the capability of getting them. There are a lot of people who take the bus from their house to a store and back. There is one store in Port Orchard and two in Bremerton that can add value to the card. There is one Kitsap Transit office Downtown Bremerton that can issue and load cards. Because of the low service that KT has, it can take somebody who does not have a credit/debit card or the internet upwards of 2 or 3 hours just to get a card in the first place. For those who use the bus to get around and do not go to the stores that sell the cards, it would make no sense for them to take such a long trip to get a card. Kitsap Transit needs another office (which won’t happen), machines need to be installed that issue cards, more stores need to be able to sell them, or KT needs to have paper transfers available. I don’t think they are stepping backwards, they are just using the lowest cost resource that is available to them.

    1. That little card that’s so convenient failed. The person at the KT desk said it happens every once in a while and they do not know why.

      Happened to my son’s Orca card last time he came down from B’ham. Did your’s work again when you tried a different reader or is it dead dead?

    2. I once fell down and my card stopped working. I landed with most of the force on the pocket where I kept my card, and though the card looked perfectly fine with no bends or cracks, I guess the impact broke the antenna or chip. (The only reason I can pinpoint the failure to the impact is that it happened as I was waiting to transfer buses; it worked on the first bus, then 15 minutes later it was dead.) Considering that many or most people keep their ORCA in their wallet in their back pocket, and then do an awful lot of sitting (or falling) down on it, I suspect quite a few folks have wound up with dead cards this way.

    3. Zman,

      Is there a reason for KT paper transfers to be good for two hours (on paper, meaning they may actually be accepted three or so hours), or could KT emulate PT’s policy of making paper transfers good for only one hour?

  13. There is no central list of locations to purchase a new ORCA. It may be that there are no such places in Kitsap County, so only cross-sound commuters have access to TVMs.

    That said, Kitsap County has nine libraries from which anyone with a credit card could order an ORCA.

    Cash still presumable requires crossing the Sound (and paying ferry fare), or being in the right place at the right time when cards are being distributed to groups. Or do Kitsap offices that sell RRFPs also sell regular ORCAs?

  14. At the risk of sounding like a traitor in the War on Cash, I would like to suggest that we push KC Metro to adopt Pierce’s one-hour policy for paper transfers, as an interim step while we work on dismantling the RFA.

  15. Ah, this brings back memories of seeing folks standing at a bus stop filing through all sorts of colors of transfer slips waiting to see which color was currently being used so they could get a free ride.

    Paper transfers = going backwards

    1. Island Transit is free for everyone. There are no administrative expenses giving out RRFPs or other fare media. Nobody has to make a special trip to get a bus card. The buses get to use all their doors at every stop. Drivers don’t get assaulted in the line of duty for asking people to pay.

      Somehow, that has not drawn a platoon of tent cities to move there.

      1. Brent, you said it! IT does a fantastic job, and then some. I ride IT everyday, and I gladly vote for them when it comes time for the ballot.

        Way to go Kitsap. They realize that the general public needs paper transfers, ORCA isn’t for everyone and people should start realizing that, its not that hard.

      2. But people don’t need de facto three-hour paper transfers. There is a difference between allowing those who need to use cash to do so, and encouraging those who don’t have a monthly pass to use cash. PT does the former. KT and Metro do the latter.

  16. I just talked with a Kitsap Transit staffer who graciously explained their paper transfer system.

    (Yes, the Board voted to accept the staff recommendation to continue using paper transfers indefinitely.)

    As has been covered here, the transfers are unidirectional, meaning you can’t use them for a return trip (which could be done with an ORCA transfer, as he pointed out).

    Papers are given at the time of boarding, but are only good at transit centers, and only at the time of deboarding. So, they aren’t good for even a half hour, much less an hour, two, or three.

    The transfer policy and centers are listed here:
    http://www.kitsaptransit.com/BusTransferCenters.html

    .

    I’m quite satisfied that there is no incentive for ORCA holders on Kitsap buses not to use their ORCA, and that the only thing stopping more widespread use of ORCA there is the obstacles to obtaining them.

    But if someone cites Kitsap as an example to defend Metro’s de facto three-hour paper transfers, we now know that the comparison is apples to blueberries.

    Furthermore, with Pierce’s official one-hour (de facto two-hour) transfer papers, King County Metro is demonstrably without peer in the generosity of its cash transfers. Indeed, it is the only transit agency that sells ORCAs and provides an incentive not to use them.

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