A sampling of TV commercials for JR East’s Suica (Super Urban Intelligent Card). Their penguin mascot is way cuter than what we got.

72 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Suica”

  1. Is Seattle Transit Blog going to announce endorsements for the current election?

    1. I hope you are looking at Jane Hague’s county council race. As most of you know, Richard Mitchell supports passing the Congestion Reduction Charge outright. Replacing Council Member Hague would be a real sea change in county politics, for the better.

    2. The King County candidate filings list is here.

      For the primary, take a look at races with three or more candidates filed, not including withdrawals.

  2. Is there any plan to expand the ORCA card so that it will be able to make purchases at stores in town like in the video? I had a similar card in Seoul and I was able to use it everywhere which was really convenient.

    1. The Husky Card gives UW students and faculty access to a whole range of services on campus, including dining, parking (grrrr), printing, the libraries, and most importantly, vending machines.

      The Husky Card went live on July 1 for faculty, and will go live for students on October 1. No more stickers!

      1. I don’t have a problem with them paying for daily parking. Sometimes people gonna have to park — might as well make it quick and painless.

      2. Quick and painless parking means fewer transit riders. Remember, this is public property that could be put to higher and better use.

      3. Parking rates for carpools are cheaper than SOVs. To get the carpool rate, each person in the carpool must swipe their Husky Card at the gate. The cost is split among the riders. I’ve done it a few times. It’s a great feature.

      4. The number of transit trips lost to more convenient hourly or daily parking is utterly insignificant. What kills transit ridership is subsidized monthly parking, which encourages a habit of driving over transit use.

        No transit system is going to meet every need at every time, and no transit system that Seattle is likely to afford anytime soon is going to get even close to that. Some people will always have to park. Price those spaces to keep 10% of them open on average and make payment quick and painless.

        That rate will be high enough to discourage parking every day, but it will (approximately) maximize both revenue to the university and utility to those people who have needs that can’t be met by transit. This is basically what the city is doing with street parking downtown, minus the smart-card bit.

      5. From my understanding the Husky Card is two cards in one, the actually UW part of it which is based on a magnetic strip and linked to housing and food services account that is kept through the UW and the ORCA part of it which is just for use on transit.

      6. @Brent I agree with Bruce that this is a non-issues but keep in mind this goes both ways. It makes it easier for transit riders to pay for parking but it also makes it easier for parkers to take transit. If you really get down to it I actually think that its probably a net gain for transit because paying for parking is usually easier (credit card, can get change, etc) as where with transit you need exact change including dollars and quarters, with the value changing throughout the day.

      7. You’re conflating the Husky Card and the U-PASS program. The Husky Card has been around for years, with most or all of those features. And for a while there was even a push to make Husky Card accounts more usable off-campus, at places like Safeway and Wing Zone, but the lack of mention of that major feature on the page to which you link makes me suspect HFS gave up on that.

        The only new thing about the new Husky Cards is tighter integration of the U-PASS program. Rather than a sticker attached to one’s Husky Card, the RFID chip will tell whether or not one is enrolled in U-PASS. But just as off-campus-usable Husky Card funds were distinct from on-campus A La Carde funds during the old experiment, ORCA e-purse funds (well, it’s probably a pass, but either way) are almost certainly distinct from Husky Card funds that can be used for things like printing at libraries. And I suspect that if a student isn’t enrolled in the U-PASS program, they won’t be able to use Husky Card funds to pay a bus fare.

        Though does anyone know if non-U-PASS enrollees can put regular e-purse funds on their Husky-integrated ORCA card? Or will only folks who enroll in U-PASS get Husky Cards with RFIDs?

      8. @Andreas,

        All the new Husky cards will have RFIDs. I’m not sure whether they can be loaded with e-purse or other transit fare products, though.

        They will not cover ferries. Nor will they count as partial value toward a ferry pass.

      9. There is no e-purse on the ORCA powered U-Pass.

        All students had to pick up their new ORCA embedded Husky Card last Spring. Also, U-Pass enrollment is now mandatory for students.

    2. Actually from the video looks like the SUICA is a regular credit card (JCB) with a ORCA-like chip embedded as well, or perhaps a “smart” credit card that JR East etc are accepting. I don’t really see this happening in Seattle because the market is too small for a customized credit card. Maybe in New York City, DC, Chicago.

      1. You can buy SUICA cards out of TVMs at the stations in Tokyo. They might be available other places too, but that’s where I got mine. I think there’s some way to get one embedded in (or added to) a mobile phone as well.

  3. Also, anything that makes it easier for people to purchase driving services a la carte (Zipcar, pay-per-use parking) is a win for transit as it makes it easier for people to use these services without sinking a lot of costs into a driving lifestyle first (buying/leasing cars long-term, monthly parking payments).

    1. Only? That’s 6 times the cost of a U-PASS and just for parking. Though if you can afford to pay that for parking, thanks because you’re subsidizing the transit portion of the U-PASS.

      1. I think Brent was being sarcastic, but as someone who might have to pay for parking downtown due to child care complexities, that’s cheap. Even the downtown carpool parking system is $200/month. Then again I have a job and not a student loan and remember the value of $200 from back in my college days when grocery shopping sometimes meant buying a huge box of spaghetti and a tub of margarine (like $10 – then you can eat for weeks and save your cash for important things like beer).

    2. The University offers substantial discounts for carpoolers, yet offers none whatsoever for disabled students and staff who would have a much more arduous time trying to get to and onto campus via Metro.

      Daily parking similarly offers no disabled discounts, and many of the payment stations in non-central-campus parking lots are inaccessible.

      It’s a massive ADA problem that I’m hoping to see blow up in the University’s one of these days.

      1. “Blow up in the University’s face.” Figure of speech. Not literal.

        Don’t want to have any typos following the words “blow up” these days.

      2. d.p., If you don’t like the one-size-fits-all rate structure for the Husky Card U-Pass, the body to take that up with is the Associated Students, not the U. Same for parking discounts.

      3. I was referring only to the parking issue, and I guarantee that no student government on earth is empowered to set parking rates or to deal with blatant ADA violations on the part of a university administration or its parking-operations contractors.

      4. Speaking of ADA, someone pointed out to me that the streetcar doesn’t have the “Priority Seating for Riders with Disabilities” signs.

      5. I’m not sure why a disabled person should have a discount on parking…now, a reserved parking spot I can understand. Just because you’re disabled doesn’t entitle you to a parking discount.

      6. Cinesea,

        Parking discounts exist for multiple reasons:

        1. It is an acknowledgment that the disabled do not always have as many (less expensive) transportation choices as the able-bodied. Public transit, especially sub-par public transit, may work in fewer situations than it does for the able-bodied. It may requiring slow-loading on multiple vehicles, and being utterly stranded if a lift breaks, getting your clothes dirty (hydraulic fluid on the lift platform — yes, really) when you have to be presentable. Getting to and around UW campus is a fantastic example: what may take someone else two buses may take you three or more. This places an undue burden that can be easily ameliorated with a discount on campus parking.

        2. Market-rate parking is set according the needs and abilities of the able-bodied. An able-bodied person running multiple errands may just be able to leave their car for hours in a single lot, for $6-$10, and walk between errands. A disabled person should not be expected to have to spend $6-$10 per errand to park in multiple lots because they can’t function in the same way. (Note: this is part of the justification for no-fee on-street parking, unrelated to the UW example.)

        3. Discounts on parking and the like also acknowledge that, under present societal conditions, it is generally far more expensive to be disabled than to be able-bodied, even for someone at the same level of education, employment, and pay as able-bodied peers. Accessible housing can be as much as twice as expensive to obtain as inaccessible housing in the same neighborhood or category. Automobile ownership may be even more necessary than it is for the 90% of able-bodied Seattleites who own cars, and requires value-depreciating modifications. Medical care adds up even at the deductible level.

        Add to that the persistence of de facto employment discrimination, and you have a population with a pervasive economic disadvantage.

        There’s nothing less fair than the “making people pay the same for parking is only fair” argument. That UW will knock off 2/3 of their parking fees for carpoolers (who would have a much easier time commuting by bus, wherever they came from, than a disabled person would) but won’t touch the price for its disabled community members is astoundingly distasteful!

      7. Josh, that’s the nice thing about having a vehicle with lots of big, open spaces: it doesn’t really matter as much!

        It is obvious where the bar is for wheelchair users to grab (and there’s certainly also a ramp-request button, right?). Meanwhile, there’s plenty of extra standing/moving room for all when no disabled riders are present.

        It’s much better to have a vehicle designed to work for all than to have lots of signage telling people where not to stand or who gets priority when, thus “othering” disabled riders for no good reason! (Compare to the parking example above, wherein designated spots and discounts and recognition of the differing needs of the mobility-impaired are indeed necessary.)

    1. “The cards serve the two purposes of ORCA and getting in doors at county facilities.”

      So if someone mugged a King county employee to get access to their office to steal documents they could use the bus as a getaway vehicle too? Now that’s using transit wisely!

  4. I have a couple legal questions about hypothetical situations around the KC Council and the CRC:
    1. If the council puts the CRC measure on the November ballot, and it fails, will they still have the option of enacting it councilmanically?
    2. If the current council does not pass the CRC, would the next council (possibly without Hague) be able to vote on it again and enact it?

    1. 1) The authorization is time-limited for 2012-2013. So if the county approves it late, it’ll raise less money, and Metro would have to make some of the cuts. And of course, the political situation of the county voting for a tax increase that voters have rejected would be “interesting”. The idea behind the extension is to cover the 2-year gap while local governments try to arrange with the state a long-term funding source for Metro.

      2) I suppose so, but again it would be late. Last I heard there were three “undecideds”, so it isn’t all about Hague. It’s virtually certain that the council will either enact it or put it on the ballot this year, since there are enough votes to put it on the ballot. I haven’t heard anyone suggest just killing it (by doing neither), except a couple anti-tax activists who would be just as happy to see it on the ballot.

      1. Council Member Hague must be thinking about how voting to pass the CRC would vastly increase her chances for re-election. Her two best-funded opponents are criticizing her for not just passing it. Are her Republican advisors really willing to put a Democrat supermajority on the county council over a mere $20 car tab?

  5. I was just in Montreal, which has great transit. One thing that stood out to me was that after a fireworks show, the Montreal transit authority had a constant steady stream of buses picking people up and taking them to the Metro station, while, as a post talked about after July 4th, King County Metro almost never provides substantial event service at all. It’d be nice to make our transit system more flexible.

    1. Speaking of Which, CTA’s response to fireworks here in Chicago was just downright impressive! They closed Streeter pl. to public traffic, and Illinois Street for a few blocks, and Shut down the Lake Shore Drive offramp completely, and they filled Streeter pl. (like 3/4 of the 4-lane circular drive), the bus terminal across the street, and had a line a few blocks long down Illinois street of busses waiting for the navy pier fireworks to end. They did this for the saturday before the main fireworks event (because navy pier does wednesday and saturday fireworks in the summer regardless) and for the monday 4th of July show. And I think they filled almost all of the busses. It was quite an awesome sight to see, sooooo many busses!!

      Metro should do things like this.

      1. I remember election night 2008 with over 1/4 Million folks jamming Grant Park and lots more partying downtown, the CTA had many “ambassadors” downtown to help people find re-routed bus lines since almost everything on Michigan Avenue or near Grant Park was re-routed.

  6. Why does the Bellevue Reporter publish irrational letters like this?


    This guy is nuts. Buses and trucks on 112th are fine, but Link is going render yards and patios useless? Link is going to forever destroy the pleasant arrival to Bellevue, but the I-405 and SR-520 widening are just fine? Light rail on Bellevue Way will destroy Enatai, but the garage in the B-7 alignment would have been fine?

    1. Because some how, the crazy idea has now permeated Journalism that a) Journalists are not responsible to accept clear and self evident truth as truth. They are taught to question if the sun will rise tomorrow. b) creating “false” equivalencies between already established facts and something else, creates controversy and sells your product.

  7. I believe those commercials may be based on a real life Penguin that lives in a small town in Japan and goes out on its own, visiting stores, and getting snacks from the shops.

    Here it is featured on Animal Planet:

  8. So a parallel thread has suggested that I should be subsidizing various agencies’ suburban services even more than I already do [cough cough $7/rider subsidies cough cough years of 40/40/20 cough cough].

    Fine. I’ll make a point to use 255s to Montlake and 510s to NE 45th as much as possible.

    Problem is, I’m not willing to get dinged for $3 or $3.50 to do so, and the zone pre-sets are the most convoluted parts of ORCA’s already convoluted website to figure out.

    As far as I understand, Metro doesn’t have its zones individually numbered. So it’s confusing to ask you for “Zone 1” or “Zone 2” as your default — does “Zone 1” means that your home zone is Seattle or that you primarily travel in “1 Zone” (as the on-bus readers prefer to say)? Either way, I’m sure “Zone 1” is the default I should set.

    But Sound Transit offers a conundrum: On their website, “Zone 2” is clearly the King County zone. But is that the way ORCA is interpreting it, or could it be asking for the number of zones regularly traveled the way Metro’s defaults may be? Is there a chance that marking “Zone 2” will ding me for two zones even if I’ve only traveled one short leg?

    1. d.p., Have you gone to the website to set your ORCA default as one zone?

      I’m curious to know if that feature actually works.

      1. It works to a degree. On ST I’m automatically charged for one zone. On CT commuter buses it will charge me whatever it feels like but then that’s the philosophy of the drivers as well.

      2. I have it set to “Zone 1” for Metro and “Zone 2” for Sound Transit, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t set foot on a single multi-zone Metro bus or an Sound Transit buses since I did that.

        That’s why I’m hoping someone can confirm the logic I used to arrive at those pre-sets. Basically, is “Zone 2” correct for ST use in Seattle and Shoreline, even if the bus is crossing into or coming from Snohomish?

        Grant, I don’t think there’s a pre-set option for Community Transit at all.

      3. I know someone on this blog must know precisely what ST’s “Zone 1” through “Zone 3” mean on the ORCA website!

      4. d.p., ST switched to a two zone system and I guess the ORCA website hasn’t been updated to reflect that change. The ORCA website needs to die.

    2. My understanding was that it really meant “1 zone” when it said “Zone 1,” 2 zones for “Zone 2,” etc. For awhile I was riding just 1 zone on a 2 zone ST route (545 within Redmond), and setting it to “Zone 1” charged me the correct fare. This was back before the fare switch to in-county vs. multi-county. I’ve since switched it back to the defaults and am correctly getting charged whatever the ORCA reader displays, so I don’t know if the behavior has changed.

      As a side note, one time I tried to tell an operator that I needed him to override the reader to actually charge me for 2 zones (instead of the 1 zone preset on my card). After a few minutes of increasing frustration on both our parts I finally just put in extra cash and sat down.

      1. Hmm… Did ST’s old map (with multiple zones within King County) specifically number each zone on the map the way the new one does? Or is that a new thing?

        It’s possible the pre-set options haven’t kept up with the switch. Though I guess it no longer matters for trips between Seattle and Eastside on ST, since the fare remains the same the whole route.

        Looks like this is only going to come into play on ST routes that cross the north county line. Anyone use the ORCA presets on those routes regularly?

      2. I agree. The way I thought through it was that the bus reader has no way of knowing where it is, so the card preset can’t correspond to an actual geographic area. The ORCA website could eliminate a lot of the confusion just by switching the order of the words (Zone 2 -> 2 Zone).

      3. There are an awful lot of people responsible for how our transit functions that don’t use transit daily. :-(

  9. I loved using my SUICA card while in Tokyo, and I often wonder whether it would be financially feasible (or even a win) for the city to make a push for using the ORCA card as a mastercard/visa alternative…. where the city is raking in the interchange fees and where businesses have an option to sell their goods with a lower cost to them than with MC/Visa. And of course, all city agencies should accept it for payments for everything from a parking ticket to your light bill.

    It would also encourage the city to develop a way of accepting money conveniently without paying a private company a share of it, which would in turn be better for taxpayers overall (more bang for the buck because we get the whole buck). If you can get money on the ORCA card without going through a credit card and then get people to use it on purchases where there the city gets a cut, that would be a nice place to be for a city.

    Are there any glaring issues that would make this impossible? Since the card would be prepaid and not credit based, it seems like it would be pretty limited exposure and if the ORCA card was useful in more contexts it maybe more people would opt to carry it with them, even if they are only an occasional transit rider.

    1. Other notes:

      1. Why on earth does it take 24-48 hours to load an ORCA card?
      2. Why on earth can’t we load the card via SMS either directly from the phone company or via purchased one-time codes?
      3. Why on earth can’t we use a checking account to load the ORCA card, especially autoload?
      4. Why isn’t our mascot as good as the SUICA penguin? ;)

      1. Well, maybe they could make ours as cute as “Flipper” a “cousin” of an ORCA? And for those who don’t know who Flipper was, I apologize for my dated reference…

      2. 1: The bus readers upload/download information while at their base. There’s no wireless communication that would get the updated info about your card to the bus while it’s driving to let it know your card is worth more, and there’s obviously no wireless communication to your card itself.

      3. 1. What Matt said.
        2, 3. Obviously it wasn’t in the specifications. When they wrote them those features were uncommon. I suppose they can add them in at some point but someone needs to push for them.
        4. Limited marketing budget. When your market is 40+ million people, most of whom already use your service. You can justify a dozen TV ads. Plus, a cute mascot is expected in Japan. It’s part of the culture.

      4. @Charles: I’d be up for a flipper mascot, but the problem there is that it’s hard to cutely anthropomorphize an orca. Miga (Vancouver Olympics) was an example of that, but it isn’t easy to comprehend what it is. A better option might be to expand that “cast” of the ORCA card to something else northwesty. An otter, perhaps?

        @Matt, @Oran: That explains that. Thanks.

      5. You mean “ORCA” doesn’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling of northwest-ness and whales and salmon and Mt Rainer?

  10. I went on a trip to Portland with some city and other community folks and while riding the streetcar one of the City of Portland folks mentioned that the SLU Streetcars were actually ordered off the Portland contract with Skoda, which is why they are exactly the same (model, seating arrangement, etc, down to the yellow ticket validator machines which of course a not used in Seattle).

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