If, for some odd reason, you don’t have an ORCA card and want a chance to win a free one, Sound Transit has a promotion in anticipation for Dump the Pump Day this Thursday.  Winners get a free ORCA with $10 loaded onto the E-purse.  More details about rules and eligibility for the promo here.

Entering is rather simple and even easier if you already have a Twitter.  Simply tweet:

I dumped the pump @SoundTransit #STContest

But since most of you probably already have an ORCA card, it’s best to relay the word onto friends and family who don’t, especially those who aren’t regular transit users.  ST will also be out at area transit centers and park-and-rides on Thursday for small promos and free giveaways, so the very least you could do is take the bus or train then.

27 Replies to “Sound Transit Launches ‘Dump the Pump’ Promo”

  1. All these promos are nice, but the effort is undercut by Metro’s pricing structure that encourages everyone who doesn’t have a monthly pass to pay with cash, whether or not they have an ORCA.

    Tell all your friends to contact the county council and request elimination of the paper transfers, or at least reduce the paper transfers to be good for only one hour (like Pierce County does), so that they aren’t always more valuable than ORCA transfers.

    Every other agency has given up the two-hour paper transfers. It’s time for Metro to get with the program.

    1. Elimination of paper transfers is a necessary step but not a panacea. I’m driving the 550 again and am surprised at the large number of cash fares. Allowing ORCA holders to skip the next fare increase, whenever that happens, would be the next logical step.

      1. King County Ferries charges a serious premium (especially for youths) paying with cash *and* do not give paper transfers.

      2. A little anecdotal evidence in favor of paper transfers:

        A few weeks ago, I was hiking with a large group of people along the beach of Puget sound. With paper transfers, the group was able to do a 3-seat ride back to the starting point to pick up their cars for just $2.50 a person. Given that most of the people in the group almost never ride the bus, almost nobody had an Orca card (and no one was going to make a special trip downtown to get one for this one trip), so had paper transfers not been an option, the cost would have risen to $7.50 a person.

        Given that, with carpooling, we could have made the trip with taxis for under $10 per person, $7.50 would have been high enough so we probably wouldn’t have ridden the bus at all. Thus, KC metro got about $100 of revenue from our group that it wouldn’t have gotten had paper transfers not been available.

        I used to favor getting rid of paper transfers, but this incident changed my mind.

      3. @Eric

        Would having the paper transfer be good for only one hour (from the tear time, which is to say the scheduled end of the first bus) made a difference in this situation?

      4. Velo,

        It occurs to me that I keep forgetting to mention that Metro-operated ST routes do accept Metro paper transfers. So, with the 550 riders, we have evidence that riders who have plenty of access to TVMs (walking right by them twice a day) are opting to take advantage of the more valuable cash-based transfers (and perhaps getting to transfer to higher-fare buses without paying the difference).

        Could ST tell Metro to cease and desist with distributing and accepting paper transfers on ST routes, since ST supposedly gets to set its own fare structure?

        For that matter, could ST unilaterally convert the 550 to POP in the DSTT? (which could be done on the cheap by installing backdoor ORCA readers and having the existing fare inspection teams focus on the 550 while they are in the DSTT, or maybe convincing Metro to let their tunnel security do fare inspection).

        Are ST, CT, and PT actually subject to an agreement with the City of Seattle regarding the Free Ride Zone, or do they just honor it by tradition?

      5. “It occurs to me that I keep forgetting to mention that Metro-operated ST routes do accept Metro paper transfers.”

        No, we don’t, or at least that’s not policy. There is a training poster at work that makes it very clear that Sound Transit buses do not accept paper transfers. I can’t say what percentage of drivers “feel safe” to remind people of the fare policy, but I do and I know many other who do as well. YMMV.

      6. Oops, I was thinking of the Metro tickets, which are accepted on Metro-operated ST routes. But if a transit nerd like me can occasionally get confused by all the fare media, it’s no wonder the general riding public is confused.

        The confusion that some ST routes accept Metro tickets, and others do not, and the confusion I just exhibited with the paper transfers, may be one of the reasons ticketbooks are going off the shelf at the end of the year.

        BTW, Velo, have you had anyone pay with Metro tickets lately?

  2. I’d like to rephrase Mike Orr’s suggestion from the previous cash-bashing discussion on the open thread, in the form of a question.

    Would it harm anyone if ST turned off the ticket feature in the TVMs, so that all the machines could do are dispense ORCAs and add value?

    1. Consider also a softer approach: Turn off the ticket function at Sounder stations, see if the complaints go away within a few months, and is so, then turn off the ticket function at the Link stations.

      And remember sister/fellow transit nerds, that the ticket function could always be turned back on if the experiment is a flop.

      1. It costs real money to perform that experiment. Why? What would it prove except to make some people angry?

      2. aw,

        Reprogramming the TVMs is done any time there is a fare increase. This is no different.

        The point, of course, is to get ORCA into more hands. Those who ride regularly might complain *once*, and then they’ll have the card, be able to use e-purse, get a free bus transfer every time they ride the train, and have nothing left to complain about, at least on this topic. For most regular train riders, pushing them to get an ORCA will *save* them money. They’ll be thinking something like “I can’t believe I wasted so much money buying tickets and then paying again to get on the bus.”

        Those who don’t ride often will hardly notice the difference. They’ll pay the extra $5 one time, and then have a free bus transfer after riding the train. They are more likely to be annoyed at the spooks who told them to avoid ORCA then to be annoyed at the TVM for having pushed them to finally take advantage of the free transfers.

        People who have never used a TVM before won’t know there ever was a printed-ticket feature. The extra $5 investment may push them to get their money’s worth by finding a bus to ride to take advantage of the free transfer. The extra revenue will hardly be missed by tourists, and will be just a little bit more revenue for the transit agencies.

        Of course, getting ORCA into more hands doesn’t do a whole lot unless Metro stops incentivizing cash payment at the bus door. But for frequent train riders, turning off the ticket feature probably will get them to use ORCA regularly.

        Also, with ORCA in more hands, the fare teams will probably be able to check more fares more quickly. Tickets take longer to inspect, and are occasionally used to try to evade the fares, using old tickets.

    2. The sounder riders who use the sports trains on the weekends buy paper tickets at the TVMs (assisted by station agents who assume that no one has ever used them before, which is truer than I’m led to believe). Based on visual evidence alone, I’d estimate that the weekend sounder rides are paper ticket riders by about 3 to 1.

      On the normal weekday runs, however, (of which I ride 2 or 3 round trips a week), it’s all ORCA all the time — I’d say at least 97%, and probably more.

      1. Good point, downtownintacoma.

        The ideal time to try turning off the ticket feature is in the middle of the summer, with a couple months’ worth of advertising (mostly at the stations) leading up to the conversion. Then, yes, have a few ambassadors there during the run-up and for the next month after.

        We might convert some park&riders into bus&trainers.

        I must say, though, that Central Link is a long way from all-ORCA, all-the-time. I see people get caught every time the inspection team comes through. The professional fare skippers simply refuse to show ID. That might require a policy change (while being cognizant that a few are fishing for a lawsuit).

        I see roughly half the riders tapping. Oddly, I don’t see the non-tappers buying tickets, except the tourists at Airport Station. Hmmmm…. Well, at least when all the flash passes are gone, we’ll be able to notice the fare evaders in action.

  3. wow lets create another layer,cut the paper tranfers, as is whith other cities same fare box, issue a printed tranfer that the customer puts back in fare box of transfer bus, fare box reads if not customer pays additional fare.Like the Orca card it allows intertransit,and that transit agency gets credit(payment),that is what all this is about money(or fighting among agencies).This is costing money to the public.

  4. People need to accept that the ORCA card isn’t the only viable means of payment aboard ST and etc.

    Yes, I have one, begrudgingly. But lets face it, we need paper transfers for some runs. There will always be situations where a rider won’t have a clue about this card, and provisions need to be made for such.

    At the start of summer now, I’m seeing a fair amount of families boarding the Sounder southbounds for Sea-Tac, they have no clue about ORCA for the most part. All they care about is getting on-board, understandably.

    1. Do you mean they are boarding Link southbound for SeaTac? What are the points of confusion that you’ve noticed?

    2. To be blunt, the provision for people who don’t know about ORCA would be that they pay cash every time they get on a new vehicle. Free transfers could/should be an incentive for using a more efficient payment method.

      However, having said that it would help immensely if there were more locations to pick up a physical ORCA card. Many Safeway locations will sell you a Good-2-Go pass, and some can already re-load ORCA (though that website makes it almost impossible to figure out where).

      1. Instead of forcing people to do one thing or another we should find a reason why they should. I don’t really see that paying cash and not getting a transfer is slower than paying cash and getting one. Boarding the bus with a transfer is at least as fast as boarding with an ORCA so where does the ORCA actually make things better? I can think of one instance, that person standing at the front of the bus digging through their purse/wallet looking for change. So since we’ve gone to ORCA how many routes have gotten faster? I think that number is zero so maybe the accumulative time taking cash isn’t THAT much?

        What’s even more irritating than not giving transfers is not taking them. CT allows you to buy a ticket at TVMs for the SWIFT but doesn’t take the transfer on any other bus. Why? I’d like the explanation there since taking the ticket wouldn’t be slower than ORCA. Taking Metro transfers also wouldn’t be slower. The only thing I can think of is each agency getting *credit for the ride. That’s it.

      2. Grant,

        The problem with transfers isn’t how long it takes to flash the transfer, but how long it takes to fumble the change when getting the transfer.

        The point of eliminating paper transfers (or making them worth less time than an ORCA transfer, rather than more, as Metro transfers are now unfortunately) is to discourage the original cash-fumbling transaction, and encourage using value from an ORCA e-purse.

        My experience is that the routes are getting a little bit faster due to faster boarding. But the number of people opting to pay with cash is still significant because we haven’t made the disincentives to doing so irritating enough to those doing it.

        But I assure you that the cash fumbling is irritating many of us who use ORCA.

        The real time savings won’t come until proof-of-payment becomes more widespread. That would mean treating our two- and three-door buses like two- and three-door buses, rather than one-door buses. But having a line of cash fumblers at the front door, along with any wheelchairs in front of them, would defeat the time savings of POP.

      3. It’s also important to consider that the ORCA e-purse adoption rate is dismally low.

        If you want to see what it would be like if everyone used ORCA, ride the 545 and get off at Overlake. During rush hour, there are easily 60+ passengers getting off, and yet the whole process goes quicker than a single use of the wheelchair lift, or 1-2 particularly obstinate cash payers.

      4. “I don’t really see that paying cash and not getting a transfer is slower than paying cash and getting one.”

        Then you obviously don’t drive a bus for a living because I have learned to loathe cash payment. The individual transaction may not be any slower but the whole process of accepting cash slows things down, sometimes pretty dramatically.

        If the Bureau of Engraving and Printing would stop printing $1 bills and switch to $1 and $2 coins then we might have something to talk about. But believe me… Cash payment takes longer and holds everybody up – even when people are really organized.

  5. Yes and Sound Transit issues a computor generated ticket with time, date that should allow a Tranfer to other agencies,instead of the separated payment schedual
    system currently in place,you get if have an Orca card how silly to expose your effiency of multible agencies scwabble over simple transportation.

  6. Printed tickets are outdated technology compared to ORCA. We are not going backward.

    As for confusion in how to use ORCA, ST and Metro need to amp up the education. Simply having the easily confused pay with cash is not a reasonable option. ORCA is really easy to use, once you’ve used it once or twice.

    Cash fumbling is the bane of bus speed. It should be limited to necessity, not incentivized.

    1. My favorite story from this week:

      I typically count to 5 – if the fare isn’t well on it’s way into the box I inform the customer that “It helps keep us on schedule if you have your fare ready” – Quiet, polite, and non-judgmental.

      While unloading a packed 550 at BTC yesterday this guy, who did not even have his wallet out, said to me, “Oh, I do.” Um, yeah. I looked in the mirror and saw about 20-30 people standing in the isle staring at him. Somebody actually got frustrated enough to push past him and reach around him to tap their ORCA card. Classic. I wish I had a video of this interaction as it illustrates my point very clearly.

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