One mitigation measure suggested in Metro’s No Ride Free Simulation Study is “implementing ticket machines and/or ORCA readers at high boarding locations along Second, Third and Fourth Avenues.” The goal is to have passengers pay before they board the bus like on Link light rail or Swift BRT. When combined with a proof-of-payment (POP) system, the all door boarding benefit of the Ride Free Area can be retained.
The introduction of RapidRide C, D, and E Lines in the next two years would presumably bring ORCA readers and some kind of POP to the busiest Downtown Seattle stops. Ticket machines would allow cash payers to pay before boarding.
How much would the ticket vending machines (TVMs) cost? The $400,000 per year that the City of Seattle pays Metro for the RFA is enough to buy at least twenty Swift style ticket vending machines. That’s enough to equip every RapidRide stop within the RFA* with a TVM and for six other busy stops downtown.
I say at least twenty because I’m assuming a total cost per TVM of $20,000 based on Community Transit’s costs for Swift’s TVMs including spares, the management system, taxes, and contingency. The TVMs themselves cost $9,000 (accepts coins and cards) to $13,000 (accepts coins, cards and bills) per unit. I think there is potential for cost savings if Metro leverages the City of Seattle’s existing infrastructure which supports over 1,600 parking pay stations and off-board TVMs on the South Lake Union Streetcar.
I’m not suggesting that the city spend all $400,000 on ticket machines but merely pointing out how much that amount could buy. It’s not an insignificant amount. It isn’t a new concept either, hundreds of stops in Central London’s “cashless zone” have ticket machines for fare pre-payment since 2003.
*According to Metro’s maps there are 14 RapidRide stops in the RFA. Stop pairs are on 3rd Ave at Yesler, Cherry, Seneca, Pike, Virginia, and Bell. For C & D lines there are another two stops, on 2nd & Seneca and 2nd & Columbia. I’m not sure why the E Line (358) doesn’t have a stop at 5th & Jackson.
**Disclaimer: The author is currently employed by the City of Seattle. However, all opinions expressed in this article are completely his own and may not reflect the views of anyone else.