On the rear door of a Metro bus

If you ride a Metro bus at night you’re probably familiar with the “front door exit only after 7 pm” rule. It states that “after 7 p.m., for extra evening security, board and exit buses via front doors only.” Metro calls it a safety feature and a way to cut down on fare evasion. CORRECTION: Pittsburgh does this. They have a downtown Ride Free Area in effect until 7 pm like us. This is a rule unique to King County Metro. I have not yet found another major metropolitan transit agency in North America that does this Most major cities don’t do this and for good reason, because the cost of delay caused by forcing everyone to exit through the front door outweighs the security and revenue protection benefits.

The rule is now effectively rescinded after a Metro bus driver was assaulted last year for not letting more people out the back door. There is no longer any mention of the front door only rule in The Book, Metro’s transit operator manual. Section 6.19 (Ride-Free Area) and 6.20 (Fare Collection and Loading Procedures) tell drivers that “customers may exit through either door.” Metro spokesperson Linda Thielke confirmed to me that “bus drivers do have the option to open the rear door to allow passengers to exit the coach during [7 pm – 6 am]”. Meanwhile, signs on the rear door, inside and outside, continue to say “Use Front Door Only 7 PM – 6 AM”, even on RapidRide buses.

For the sake of consistency*, safety and speed, this policy should be completely wiped off the face of Metro’s buses, literally. The stickers and references on the website should be removed. Customers should be encouraged to exit through the rear door whenever possible*. San Francisco and other major cities do this with automated announcements and signs. Drivers should be clearly instructed of the policy change, again. Many drivers now open the rear door but some didn’t seem to get the memo, not letting passengers exit through the rear door in broad summer daylight with no apparent security hazards. Old habits do die hard. When there’s a real security threat caused by opening the rear doors the driver always has the judgment to keep them closed.

Metro’s Fare Evasion Report found that whether or not a fare was paid, “less than 0.8 percent of systemwide boardings exit through the backdoor outside the Ride Free Area on pay-on-exit trips.” It concluded that “[rear door] fare evasion makes up a small share of total fare evasion.” It’s not possible to say this is because of the back door policy. The driver can’t do much to stop determined fare evaders, front door only or not. In San Francisco, back door fare evasion appears to be a significant problem but their buses are already the slowest in the nation due to other reasons. This is a trade off between the cost of delay and the cost of fare evasion.

Another problem is “Back door!” or a passenger who wants the rear door open. Many other cities’ transit systems allow passengers to open rear doors through motion sensors, push bars, pressure mats, or manually pushing them open. A green light indicates when the door is unlocked. By giving passenger control of the rear door, the door will only open when needed.

Not since the days of Seattle Transit has this feature been offered on Seattle buses. Metro’s reasons, according to Thielke, are “due both to our Ride Free Area and the fact that we have so many different coach types, it would be confusing and aggravating to the general public if some coaches employ this technology and others don’t.”

San Francisco has a more diverse bus and rail fleet than Metro’s and the feature is present on most (if not all) vehicles. Instructions are clearly given on how to open the rear doors. Vancouver, BC, does too. On our own Link trains the operator has the option of opening, closing, and enabling doors for passenger control. There is no technical reason why something similar can’t be done for buses. With the new on-board systems being installed across Metro’s fleet, the back door opener can be controlled automatically on a per-trip basis like the ORCA reader, stop announcements, and destination signs.

To end, I have this funny and fitting analogy to the back door/front door exit issue:

Exiting out of the front door is like a human throwing up; it just kind of disrupts things. When a human upchucks, he / she can’t really take on any new food. The human must wait for the throw-up to come out… and then think about maybe eating some food.


*except “Pay-as-you-leave” trips leaving the Ride Free Area, which deserves a post of its own

88 Replies to “Back Door Exit Please!”

  1. This is the least of time-wasting issues w buses to worry about…

    Far greater efficiencies can be found in: reducing number of stops (really, every other block? Seriously?)
    Requiring the folding seats to be up to accommodate more passengers during rush hour.
    Having dedicate but random ticket checkers and letting the drivers drive. They should not be enforcing fares, it is a massive waste of time. Every functional transit system I’ve been on have machines that validate fares, which can easily be verified. Seriously, metro buses waste half the time of a route loading and unloading passengers. This isn’t the case in any other transit bus I’ve ever used.

    1. This is the least of time-wasting issues w buses to worry about…

      But it has a disproportionate effect on the perceived efficiency and pleasantness of Metro. If you’re a choice rider on a busy route, and are forced to wait in the rain while the bus disgorges its passengers through the front door, while the back door remains closed, you have a needlessly negative experience with Metro.

      Requiring the folding seats to be up to accommodate more passengers during rush hour.

      What do you mean, require them to be up? Have we repealed the ADA?

      Having dedicate but random ticket checkers and letting the drivers drive. They should not be enforcing fares, it is a massive waste of time.

      Not gonna happen until we have offboard fare collection. It’s a political and practical nonstarter.

      And KCM drivers don’t officially enforce fares. But a lot of people wish they did. In other cities, drivers will refuse to move the bus to stymie fare evaders.

      Every functional transit system I’ve been on have machines that validate fares, which can easily be verified.

      Er, that big black box standing next to the driver? That’s the thing that validates fares. The time spent by the driver validating transfers is on the same order as the time a machine would take to do it.

      But it’s another one of those perceived inefficiencies. Now that we have ORCA, we shouldn’t have this problem at all; paper transfers should be extinct.

      1. In Budapest all three large doors open and you can enter and exit at any door you wish. On board the bus there’s ticket stampers. This was by far the most efficient way of getting on and off a bus in any city. I was shocked at how many people were turned over at each stop. To dump 25 people using our articulated buses by forcing them to exit at the front door THEN the new people enter and show/pay their fare would take a significant amount of time.

        After experiencing that it’s my opinion that the driver needs to drive the bus, and fare collection needs to be the handled by the rider and checked by someone else.

      2. To Grant:

        This is just financially untenable. The reason they can do that somewhere like Budapest is because labor is cheap. It’s just like how in India you have 4 people to carry your luggage to your room. It only works when you have a relatively poor country with more people than productive jobs. Here, you’d have to pay the fare-checker at least $20 an hour probably (plus benefits and all that), and you’d need at least one on every bus. There might be a few routes during a few hours of the day where something along these lines might actually be financially justified, but it wouldn’t do much system-wide.

      3. [Shane] I think you’re misunderstanding. The ticket stampers are just a time clock – not a person. What [Grant] is describing is a proof of payment system. They have them all over Europe – I experienced them in Germany, which has higher labor rates than we do. The extra wages for someone to hop onboard occasionally and check peoples’ tickets is far cheaper than the money you save from faster service.

      4. > What do you mean, require them to be up? Have we repealed the ADA?

        Kyle, having the folding seats default to “up” — or not exist in the first place — significantly speeds boarding for those in wheelchairs. Not just because of the seat-flipping seconds saved, but because restraint systems (passive or active) can be designed in a much more user-friendly way with the folding thing out of the way.

        The space would provide standing room on our otherwise little-standing-room fleet when there are no wheelchairs present. Getting standees to move out of the way is also much faster and easier than clearing those slumped in seats.

        As for those with mobility impairments but without wheelchairs: there are plenty of other seats in the front for which they can be given priority.

        Otherwise, +1 for everything else you said.

      5. @Shane it’s not finincally unattainable, many countries in europe do just that. Moreso with tram lines than buses, however there are some bus lines where theres POP. It would be fairly easy to implment honor system/pop with ORCA. Install a orca head at the rear door on coaches, and advertise that front door is cash/orca and rear door is orca only. implement random fare checks, which will keep the orca non payers and cash non payers guessing where a guard is going to be at any given time. you only really have to do this on downtown lines, on many of the suburban lines a single door works just fine. to keep the commuters honest, simply have a guard at the P&Rs on random days checking people as they alight from the buses. Easy to do.

      6. The RFA is subsidized by the City of Seattle (not the downtown merchants) and at a rate closer to $400,000.

  2. I think the “front door only” policy created more problems than it prevented–glad to see that it’s officially gone.

    Seattle Transit’s push-to-exit rear door system was great as long as you rode only in one zone. Before the RFA days, my trips home would require paying 20 cents as I boarded downtown, then paying another nickel and having my transfer re-punched as I exited at Genesee, because downtown to Genesee was a 2-zone trip. Seattle Transit’s zone lines were (approximately) Galer St. on northbound coaches and Hanford St. on southbound coaches, so the rear door exits actually weren’t very useful.

  3. Drivers on the routes I ride most seem to have invented a new permutation of the rule: front door only, downtown after 7 PM. I’ve heard it announced in precisely those words on routes 2, 11, 13 and 43.

    1. That actually seems sensible because of the potential confusion of pay on entry/pay on exit depending upon the hours the RFA is in effect.

    2. Yes, I’ve seen it on the 2. Only one person wanted to exit downtown. The driver shouted over the PA. The passenger apologized for not knowing. Then the driver opened the back doors after leaving downtown. It’s the inconsistency and lack of instruction that bugs me.

      1. I know people have suggested it before but the RFA seems to cause a lot of inconsistencies in the way the buses work. What’s the thoughts on it’s being disbanded in the name of convenience and consistency? Convenience and constancy builds ridership on transit. People who hop on/hop off downtown aren’t paying anyway so what’s it’s purpose? Are we assuming that if we give free rides downtown more people will leave their car home?

      2. People who ride the bus all the time still can’t get the concept of paying your fare when you enter going towards town and paying your fare when exiting if you’re leaving downtown.

      3. [Grant] The Downtown Business Association pays a subsidy to allow the RFA to exist. The idea is that a city is more productive and people spend more money when they can get around easier and faster. Finding $2.25 (exact change required) to ride 6 blocks might just keep someone from making that trip to lunch, where might have stopped by and bought a $100 dress.

        That’s what downtown gets out of it. But everyone gets a faster ride. Bus stops downtown have to have a high throughput to be useful as transit hubs, which means people have to get on and off quickly. Making the mass of people on 3rd and Pike at 5pm each hunt for pocket change would make 3rd a parking lot.

      4. “The Downtown Business Association pays a subsidy to allow the RFA to exist”

        The amount of that subsidy hasn’t changed since 1973.

      5. It’s still $700k a year in free money for Metro. Though it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to renegotiate and index it to inflation.

      6. It isn’t “free money” at all, as Metro operates at a substantial loss in the CBD due to providing at a significantly lower rate of compensation than straight fare payment would bring in.

    3. That wasn’t invented by drivers – it was the directive included in a memo issued not long after the assault in South Seattle. Drivers have been instructed (by official memo) to permit exiting through the back doors OUTSIDE THE CBD after 7pm. Inside the CBD, it’s still (as far as I know) front door only. I’ve seen no subsequent memo eliminating the policy altogether and if Oran and others would think about it – as the CBD becomes “pay as you enter” – it doesn’t make sense to open both doors in the CBD after the RFA expires.

      No, “drivers” did not invent this “permutation”. It’s what we’ve been instructed to do.

      1. The riders didn’t get the memo.

        Instructions on the buses still make many believe it’s front door only after 7 pm ANYWHERE where in fact it is not. If the policy is front door only after 7 pm only in the CBD then make it clear to the user. NONE of the public information available makes the distinction between CBD exits and non-CBD exits.

      2. Oran,

        Have you run that comment past Linda Thielke? Obviously she answers you guys’ calls. How about hitting her up for clarification on this? It woul be helpful, particularly as drivers are taking a lot of crap for following the rules as they’ve been given them to the point of being accused of “inventing” rules that don’t exist.

        I agree that Metro has a responsibility to stand behind their policies – and that they frequently don’t. Fare enforcement is another such issue. Metro won’t come right out and tell drivers to give people permission to ride for free if they refuse to pay – instead substituting the vague “no fare disputes” rule, sometimes punishing drivers for attempting to collect due fare or to view a valid pass.

        This thing with the doors is another rule/non-rule where Metro refuses to “man up” and declare a system wide policy to public and Operators alike so that everyone understands what’s expected.

        Give Linda a call and get back with a follow up. You make a valid point.

  4. Get rid of the ride-free zone while you’re at it, Metro. It was a great idea 30 years ago, but it’s time to move on.

    1. It’s still a great idea. The time penalty involved in getting rid of it will dwarf any back door time savings. Plus it makes it really easy to get around downtown.

      1. That’s a terrible idea. We currently have a horizontal elevator on 3rd and another in the bus tunnel, with frequency on the order of a minute. It’s easy an convenient – and something that would be amazingly difficult to replicate for downtown users only.

        Go take a ride on the 99. It comes once an hour or so, but it’s free. And nobody rides it.

        Let me turn the question around. Why would Metro run a seperate service with new buses and more drivers when they don’t have to? And why do you care? Your commute is partially subsidized by those people downtown riding your bus for a few blocks for free. Remove them, and your fare goes up.

      2. Does the $700k annual payment for the RFA subsidize the other routes, or is it the other way round? How much fare evasion is enabled by the RFA?

      3. [aw] It’s both! The RFA is a win-win-win situation. Free rides use excess capacity to move people around. The $700k goes to new service that wouldn’t exist without it – let’s call it 7 extra buses. So the downtown riders get a free ride, downtown businesses increase sales, and commuters get a bit more service. There is no downside.

        “How much fare evasion is enabled by the RFA?” Fares not collected that would be collected if the RFA didn’t exist? I’d say little to none. The type of person that hops on downtown and refuses to pay at their destination probably wouldn’t have paid anyway.

        Don’t forget that the RFA is a great starter drug to get people hooked on the bus. I’ve used it many, many times with people that don’t normally ride the bus. When their trip across town turns out so easy, it’s not hard to imagine some of them giving up their car commute.

      4. Nobody rides the 99 BECAUSE it’s once an hour. People aren’t going to look at the schedule to see if the next one is in 5 minutes or 55 minutes; they’ll just avoid that route. And thus they don’t show up in the ridership statistics for that route even though they would have ridden it if it had been frequent.

      5. That’s my point. We currently have frequencies on the order of 1 per minute on 3rd and the tunnel. The frequency we’d get with $700k worth of bus service is probably every 20 minutes at best – and that’s if we limit it to one corridor. Downtown riders will leave the bus system and take taxis. The downtown businesses will drop this useless service. And the rest of Metro has to come up with another $700k or drop some buses and drivers.

      6. Matt, the 99 is more frequent than once an hour.

        Most times it’s every 30 minutes, during rush hours it’s a bit less.

        I know many co-workers who frequently ride the 99 down to Pioneer square. Typically there are a fair amount of tourists on it (especially at this time of year). And on the way back there are many people riding it simply because it’s a free ride zone bus (that now goes up 1st instead of up Alaskan Way).

    2. Couldn’t a lot of the advantages (fast boarding) be addressed by having mandatory pay before you board downtown? This seems to work well in central London.

      1. Yes. And I think most here would love an off-board payment system. I’d still support keeping the RFA if had one though, just to keep people freely moving around downtown. But with off-board payment a RFA would be less important than it is now.

      2. Yes! But Metro can’t even install ticket machines for RapidRide. Though focusing on downtown where delays have the greatest impact seems to be a lesser maintenance and enforcement headache than spreading it around across the city.

      3. That would be so great. A lot of times, pay-as-you-leave can just be horrible when everyone’s forced to squeeze their way through an extremely overloaded bus at peak times to get to the front to pay (when drivers aren’t reasonable enough to open the back door), but then again buses would be held up Downtown for a very long time if they were pay as you enter. Off-board fare payment, at least Downtown, at the U District, and at major transit centers, would be so nice.

  5. Thanks for this one, Oran. Will be sure my County Councilman has a copy before the day’s out, asking him to have Metro post bulletins during the time it takes to remove the “Front Door After 7” signs from the whole fleet.

    Most damaging application of this policy happens after 7 every night in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, especially on game nights. Every Tunnel bus becomes a sixty-foot-long one-door van. I’ve seen delays of more than three minutes as passengers are forced to both leave and enter by the front door.

    My Sound Transit Board representatives will also know that every time a bus takes three minutes to load, a LINK train is forced to wait outside the station, usually northbound at both International District and Westlake Station.

    The Tunnel was designed to avoid the problems of both boarding delays and fare-evasion by using large mezzanine areas for fare collection, either by booth or an ample number of ticket machines. Platforms were supposed to become “Proof of Payment” areas. Twenty-one years after opening, it’s time.

    Mark Dublin

    1. If we keep the RFA, at least it ought to be consistent 24/7, instead of full of gray zones which lead to even the most dedicated riders not knowing whether a bus is pay-as-you-leave or pay-as-you-exit.

    2. God yeah, it ends up being faster for me to get home (in Ravenna) to walk to Westlake and take a 43 or 49 then transfer in the University District than to take a 71, 72, or 73 straight from International District Station, since tunnel buses take so incredibly long to load there. Not to mention that the 71, 72, and 73 are horrible after 7pm.

  6. Metro seems to have a penchant for ridiculous, unenforceable policies. Their latest is prohibiting luggage on escalators in the tunnel downtown. Yes; for real. The signs are already posted.

    I get the feeling the people who create these policies rarely use the system.

    1. “prohibiting luggage on escalators in the tunnel downtown” Ha! That can’t be right. Maybe they’ll add them to the elevators as well.

    2. Are you freaking serious? Anyone have a photo of this? How are people supposed to take their luggage on Link then?

      1. It’s true and absolutely ridiculous. First saw it a few weeks ago. Just saw it again in Pioneer Square Station, while a group of people carried their luggage down the stairs. People just ignore it.

      2. I’ve recently escorted 2 out-of-town visitors with luggage to IDS, where we used the elevators. One visitor is an elderly family member and the other is a friend visiting from Germany. Both were confused by the buttons in the elevator marked “SURFACE” and “PLATFORM”. Those labels may be accurate, but they’re not very user-friendly. The elderly relative is sometimes easily confused by mass transportation, but the visitor from Germany has a PhD. and speaks perfect English. Wouldn’t “UP/DOWN” or “STREET/BUSES & TRAINS” make a lot more sense?

      3. you can take the elevator. i have seen someone lose control of their bag and have it hurl down the escalator, luckily no one was in the path of the rouge bag

      4. Clearly Metro is on the cutting edge of baggage safety. I’m sure they’ll be adding these signs to the hundreds of escallators at the airport any day now.

      5. The fact that people in every other city in the world can manage their luggage on an escalator says one of two things here – the people on the escalator are stupid or the people making policies are.

      6. They apparently have no idea how small and slow the elevators are in the tunnel. I hope that everyone ignores this new rule, it’s about the most ridiculous policy that Metro has come up with in recent memory. People have been taking luggage on the escalators since the day the tunnel opened, why is it all of a sudden a problem?

      7. King County metro says that they adopted the no-luggage policy at Sound Transit’s request.

        So now they’re pointing fingers. What fun!

    3. Half of the escalators in the DSTT seem to be out-of-service anyways, including 2 out of 4 at University Street. They’ve hung signs on them saying that they’re waiting for grant money to refurbish them. I can’t believe this wasn’t done when the tunnel was closed for two years.

      1. So true. I have to laugh at the number of escalators that are constantly out of order in the tunnel. Waiting for grant money? Even more laughable.

      2. Talk to Sound Transit, they are the ones who decided what got done and what didn’t when the DSTT was refurbished. Here is another question you can ask them, why is there a designated smoking area at Tukwila International Boulevard Station alone our of all the LRV stations and why did they set it up next to the bus lay over area so that that the bus drivers have no choice but to breath second hand smoke?

        The fact is that Sound Transit is like the phone company, they don’t care because they don’t have to.

    4. WMATA in Washington DC used to have a similar policy, but I don’t see it on the website anymore. Perhaps WMATA realized nobody was following it anyways…

    5. What’s wrong with you people? Have you ever seen the carnage caused by an all aluminum bag (Halliburton model 32 ‘Zeroller’ $1,250) after it gets away at the top of an escalator.
      Hair, teeth and eyeballs all over the place at the bottom.
      Metro should be commended for taking the lead in this epodemic of runaway suitcases. The airlines could learn a thing or two from them.

    6. What about not allowing passengers to load luggage in the luggage bays of the MCI highway coaches?

      1. Metro does not operate any of those coaches. Talk to ST and their “partner” Pierce Transit for your non-answer.

  7. “This is a rule unique to King County Metro. I have not yet found another major metropolitan transit agency in North America that does this and for good reason, because the cost of delay caused by forcing everyone to exit through the front door outweighs the security and revenue protection benefits.”

    When I left Pittsburgh 7 years ago, Port Authority of Allegheny County had the same policy, and I think they still do. The rear doors are opened only in the downtown free zone, and only until 7PM, although you can usually exit through the rear if the bus is crowded, and you shout to the driver to ask him/her to open the back door.

    1. I checked the PA’s website while writing this article and didn’t see any mention of front door exit only. Either it’s an unwritten rule or they got rid of it.

      1. “When arriving Downtown, you can exit through any door. Everywhere else, leave through the front door.” – Riding 101, portauthority.org

        And since Yelp reviews for the PA refer to the policy of “paying on your way out sometimes”, apparently their exit policy is also dictated by a convoluted pay-as-you-leave system like Metro’s.

        Always nice to know Metro’s not the only agency in the world that can’t figure this crap out.

      2. Doh! I didn’t even look there. I just tried searching for it and it didn’t turn up. Thanks.

        Both have a downtown ride free zone so they think alike.

  8. A feature called PASS has been included in New Flyer hybrids starting with the 6800s (and I presume with the Orion fleet as well). This is a supplement to the sensitive edge safety device that reopens any door that attempts to close on an obstruction. The PASS system includes a sensor at the top of the inner edge of the door that will prevent the door from closing if someone is moving close to it. This same sensor doubles on fleets that “enable” the rear door instead of opening it as the “switch” that closes when someone presses the “press to open door” label. Presumably it would only be a software change to modify our rear door operation on these busses to passenger control which would be less complicated and expensive should Metro desire it. These busses even have a green light over the door that illuminates when the door is opened.

    Modifications on busses without PASS would require at least a pair of switches (or press ribbons) on the door to activate the door motor to open the door. Many busses in our fleet would also require new door controller circuits that would close the door after a preset number of seconds – All of which would be quite expensive.

    I have never understood how allowing people to exit through the rear door is less secure than requiring them to move up to the front door in order to exit the bus – it brings the problem past everyone including the driver before they can leave.

    The security revolving around someone entering by the rear door could be greatly reduced if the door cannot be opened from the outside – and the usefullness of the rear door for people to exit can be preserved with converting the fleet to have passenger rear door control.

  9. I am delighted to see this post – thanks. No unloading by rear door has been maddeningly irrational. It’s always good to hear that bad ideas can be revisited and fixed and that inertia does not have to be the only rule. Bravo!

  10. Good luck on getting all the drivers to do this. When mounting and dismounting bikes became the norm downtown it took several drivers more than a month to come up to speed that it was permissible downtown. I think some drivers don’t bother reading up on recent changes and don’t believe changes should be made so they don’t keep up-to-date on the latest developments.

  11. My wife and I frequently ride the 150 into the city, and we prefer to sit in the very rear of the bus because it has the most open area for all of the stuff we take with us (a stroller, diaper bag, backpack, shopping bags, and of course, our kids). The only other area of the bus with enough room is the wheelchair area in the front, which I refuse to occupy. Exiting through the back door would be a big plus, since trying to carry all of that stuff from the rear of the bus to the front exit without hitting everyone in the head in a timely manner is quite difficult. I would like to see an ORCA reader installed at the rear doors. This would give ORCA users the ability to get on or off the bus quickly whether its pay when you board, or exit. If you have Cash, head to the front! This will also encourage ORCA participation.

    1. Rear door readers: $721. Metro has about 1400 coaches, which means the cost to add a reader to every coach is about a million dollars, PLUS the cost of installation.

      San Francisco, who uses the same contractor for the cards/readers, outfitted all their coaches with rear/middle door readers. Despite the large stickers stating that entering through the rear door is illegal, tons of people do anyway and pay their fares through the rear/middle doors. Works great.

      1. Metro’s 2010-2011 budget:

        DOT Transit Dwell Time Reduction – $5,503,842. This project will implement Smart Card readers to collect bus fares on the rear and middle doors of all Metro coaches. Currently, Metro passengers must pay or validate their fare at the front door as they pass the driver. During the day, customers pay as they enter for inbound routes and as they leave for outbound routes. This can create significant de- lays, particularly for trips that have standing loads. The introduction of a new fare payment process One Regional Card for All (ORCA) using Smart Cards is being unveiled in 2009. This will reduce the number of people paying with cash, potentially speeding up the boarding process. However, buses are only equipped with front door ORCA card readers. Adding a rear and middle-door reader will improve operating speeds on trips by allowing all door boardings and alightings, resulting in approximately 100 daily hours of benefit to the operating schedule. System-wide rear door readers also add a measure of flexibility to fare structures and how they may be collected. This biennial appropriation funds the implementation of middle- and rear-door car readers.

      2. So we can expect ORCA readers at all back and middle bus doors in the next 5 months then?

        Want to put some money on it?

  12. “Back door” are the two most evil words in the English language. If there isn’t a large enough crowd that some people might get on through the back door, there is no reason for the driver not to open it every time the stop bell is rung unless it’s a pay-as-you-leave bus.

    That said, I actually like the fact there’s no bias against leaving out the front door from very near the front of the coach. It seems kind of silly not to if you’re, say, standing right on the edge of the yellow line on a packed bus, and it has its own efficiency points.

  13. While I wish the Ride Free Area and paper transfers would go away, and that the whole fleet could become POP overnight, with at least three doors on every articulated, there are compromises that get a decent chunk of the time-saving effect on the cheap.

    If the RFA has to stay, make it policy that the whole fleet is POP outside the RFA, but with pay-as-you-board, except on off-board payment routes like the RapidRides. Have fare inspectors get on at the first stop outside the RFA, and check the POP of anyone getting off before checking the rest of the passengers. Do this randomly with all the routes leaving the RFA, so that there is no reason for pay-as-you-leave. If it takes multiple stops to check everyone, keep the bus moving. Have random inspections elsewhere, but focus on the exits from the RFA.

    Open all the doors for exit purposes and provide educational materials encouraging people to enter at the front and exit at the back (except wheelchairs and others who need the lift or kneel). Make exit-at-the-rear the encouraged behavior 24/7, including in the RFA, just to be consistent.

    For off-board payment buses, provide signage at each stop letting riders know they can enter at any door, as long as they have tapped their ORCA off-board.

    Go ahead and remove the tunnel from the RFA, which can be done cheaply. There are plenty of buses to get people through downtown for free on the surface. Inspecting fares after leaving Convention Place or ID Station is much more cumbersome than doing it in the tunnel.

    With a little clever planning, the awful pay-as-you-leave system can be eradicated without having to abolish the RFA.

    1. I generally agree with what’s being said here.

      Ideally, I’d like to see a POP system, which is pay-as-you-enter, if not in the RFA. The fare box, upon receiving the correct fare, would print the ticket with the expiration time (two hours from fare payment), and a pre-printed colored dot. Then, have transit police ride an occasional route or two, enforcing RCW 81.112.220. This way, it greatly reduces the ability for abuse, increases compliance, and is as fast as possible.

      As far as the RFA’s concerned, keep it. It seems to keep things moving. :)

      1. The issue with the printed slip (besides cost and maintenance) is distance. I want to see a tap-on/tap-off system to finally have some method of relating cost to distance. Even with the current 2-zone system, how would the ticket machine know where you’re going? Keep it electronic and charge the highest fare on the first tap, and refund money on the second tap. Fare inspectors would have ORCA readers, like on Link.

      2. If ticket machines printed the time of payment, I’d still want some differential to disincentivize change fumbling. Is there a reason for such tickets to be good for more than an hour? Consider that the tickets would have to be accepted by the fare inspectors based on time the route started, not time of inspection.

        The report on fare system consolidation bizarrely said nothing about change fumbling, but expressed concern about the time it takes to inspect paper transfers (bringing into question whether there were any actual bus riders involved in that report). At least now, the ones doing the inspecting would be fare inspectors. Slowing them down still has a cost to the system, albeit less than holding up the whole bus.

        Consider that keeping the RFA would still require a means for passengers to pay off-board or as they board in the RFA. That either means deploying a bunch of ticket machines around downtown or at least a couple dozen ORCA readers. Either way, if they are going to go through that expense, then those who like the RFA for reasons other than speeding up travel through downtown will need to make a stronger case for the social value of free bus rides around downtown.

      3. “keeping the RFA would still require a means for passengers to pay off-board or as they board in the RFA” Nope. A POP system would work just fine with the RFA without offboard payment. You just have to swipe your orca or pay your fare before you leave the RFA or, in the case of inbound, when you enter the bus (at any door).

      4. Matt,

        What you are proposing creates a lot of pushing and shoving, and an affirmative excuse for the people who get caught outside the zone. “Well, I wanted to get to the front, but there were too many people in the way. I really meant to pay. And I really meant to bring my ID with me, too. I really have to get to work. I really can’t get off the bus right now. I’m calling my lawyer now. Hey, girlfriend, I’ve got this pig yelling at me to get off the bus …”

        For the sake of workability, the system needs to be better than hop-on-board-and-shove-to-the-front-sometime-before-leaving-the-the-RFA.

      5. What are you talking about? In practice, everyone will swipe as they get on. The same conversation you’re talking about happens right now with the pay-as-you-enter system. Sometimes the bus driver refuses to drive for a minute or threatens to call the police, but they always end up just letting the person ride for free.

      6. Oops, I just read the top of this thread again. Are you talking about POP without an ORCA reader at every door? I agree that’s a bad idea.

  14. When I drive past the 7 O’clock hour outbound (headed out of downtown), I ask folks to use the front door to exit only when in the CBD (as large numbers of waiting folks will often board at the back, even though it’s “pay as you enter” after 7. Once outside the CBD I open both doors and invite folks to exit (though not to enter) through the rear door.

  15. As there are many folks who are unaware that the RFA ends at 7pm (and others deliberately board outbound coaches claiming ignorance or attempting to get in the back door while in the RFA) it makes sense to have a front door only rule while in the CBD after 7pm. Outside the CBD – not so much.

    The other issue is when buses in the RFA are headed outbound from 6:30 on. Many will board without paying and scoot out the back door outside the RFA without paying – deliberately. Some will also deliberately board at a more north or southward location (Bell street for buses headed south; Columbia or Seneca for buses headed north) just before 7pm when the RFA is still in effect, and remain onboard and exit without paying.

    This idea that both doors should be used downtown for exiting after or around the time the RFA expires is extremely short-sighted, and I don’t believe that drivers are expected to allow exiting through the back door after 7pm in the CBD.

    1. If the bus is pay-as-you-leave then of course, people must exit through the front door to pay. Nobody’s suggesting that the back door be opened in that case.

      1. Oran,

        Re-read what I wrote. After 7pm, the bus is pay as you enter downtown. Many downtowners are unaware that the RFA ends at 7pm, and will board a rear door at a downtown stop if the door is opened to let inbound customers leave the bus. Some do this deliberately – to avoid paying a fare. Crowded, long zones on 2nd and 3rd Avenue would invite dozens or more non-payers per trip after 7pm if rear doors were opened in the CBD after the RFA expires.

        Example: #54 Local arrives at 3rd and Pine at 7pm. If both doors are opened, people exit both doors; some enter through the front (paying their fare); others enter through the rear door NOT paying their fare. Driver can’t simply slam the rear door shut as someone will get squeezed in it. Not too long before riders figure out that if they board on the back of the bus – they don’t have to pay a fare.

        The problem with opening both sets of doors downtown isn’t people getting OFF the bus – it’s people getting ON the bus at the rear without paying.

      2. OK, I get it now, good point.

        Now what would happen if the RFA went away completely and buses were pay-enter all the time? We’d have San Francisco’s problem of back door boarders all day. That’s why a POP/off-board payment system is needed if they want to get rid of the RFA (the top suggestion from drivers on ways to reduce fare evasion) and not slow buses down even more.

  16. For the sake of clarity, I should be referring to “off-board payment zones”, not “proof-of-payment zones”. If Metro wishes to make it policy, the entire system can become POP, but it will take a substantial infrastructure investment to make the entire system off-board payment.

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