King County Metro 4 and 2 (on detour) at Cherry & MLK
King County Metro 4 and 2 (on detour) at Cherry & MLK

Since the spring, King County Metro has engaged in extensive outreach with bus riders in the Rainier Valley, looking for a better understanding of how riders are using the transit service which exists there now, and what barriers exist to greater use of that service. This outreach was ordered by the King County Council, as part of a political compromise to approve the eventual deletion of the cost-ineffective and geographically-redundant Route 42 in 2013. The public products of this outreach thus far have been seven posts on the official Metro Matters blog and a report, of which the report and several of the posts are full of great new information.

Let’s dig in to the report. There are three sections dedicated to public feedback, broken out by source: community organizations; community members (who attended in-person meetings organized by Metro); and online survey results. The first is easily the least interesting: it’s mostly a recitation of ACRS’s long-debunked arguments for how supposedly-irreplaceable the pre-2007 Route 42 was and is. Notably, according to the report, ACRS, after suggesting Metro’s survey questions were biased, conducted its own transportation survey in which a whopping 30% of surveyed riders thought the 42 was needed.

Rider feedback after the jump.

Metro’s summary of the in-person feedback runs from document page 8 to 11, and you should read that section in its entirety: it’s well written, and hard to condense further because it’s so full of information. The surveyed bus riders were almost totally unaware and untrusting of ORCA, and seemed confused about Link’s fare structure; they regarded Link as “impersonal” and relied on bus drivers as trip planners. In all other respects, the things they asked for were things that every other transit rider wants: buses to run more frequently (especially those which connect to Link), on schedule, serving safe and clean stops, driven by courteous drivers.

One statement which stood out to me was “Many rely on routes 3 and 4 and impressed upon us not to change those routes.” If someone had told me something to this effect, I’d have been fascinated to know where they were going on the 4 that they couldn’t go on the 3, 7, 8, 48 or 9X. Setting aside the possibility of transferring, there’s only one big destination I can think of, Swedish Cherry Hill, to which the 4 provides a unique connection in the Rainier Valley, and it doesn’t appear in Metro’s blog post on Southeast Seattle destinations. Axing underperforming service like the 42 and tail of the 4 is a guaranteed way to come up with money to pay for the improved service and facilities that these riders want.

Chart of Online Survey Respondent's Transit Route Usage

Next up, the results from Metro’s online survey of riders runs from document pages 13 to 17, and is similarly required reading. One thing worth noting about these results, however, is that they’re dramatically skewed towards riders in the rather more upscale east side of the Rainier Valley, around Seward Park Ave. I say this because, per the chart above, the reported usage of Routes 34 and 39, compared to Route 7 and Link, are way out of proportion to their annual ridership; e.g. Route 7 has about eight times as many riders than the 34 in 2010 annualized data, yet there are only twice as many 7 riders than 34 riders in this chart.

This doesn’t mean the data are irrelevant or invalid, but it is necessary to have this in mind to properly understand the results, and I’m surprised this isn’t called out in the report. My hunch is that if the concerns of 7 riders were weighted more in line with the 7’s ridership numbers, there would be less concern about parking near Link, and more about the 7’s horrible unreliability, lousy un-airconditioned coaches, and public order problems (on and off the bus). Also, feedback from 34 and 39 riders regarding the deletion of those routes in September was excluded (because the September restructure, including the details of the service to replace the 34 and 39, was not finalized when the survey was made) but I doubt Seward Park riders would have had much nice to say about the new Route 50, whose 30-minute midday headway isn’t adequate to make their Link-bus connections easy.

To me, at least, this report mostly illustrated how much in common the vast majority of transit-dependent riders in the survey have with all other riders, in what they want to see improved in Metro — except in one respect, namely a yawning knowledge gap regarding ORCA, between older riders with limited English skills and most others. Many of the community organizations whose input Metro solicited in this report are uniquely well placed to help address this issue, and doing so is probably more beneficial to everyone than flogging the dead horse that is Route 42.

46 Replies to “Metro’s Southeast Seattle Outreach”

  1. The survey results do seem a bit odd and don’t track with actual ridership.

    As for route “50” headways, it’s actually an very slight improvement over current route 39 mid-day frequencies which are “less” than twice an hour in some cases. And that it will run later into the evening is a big improvement.

    1. The 50 won’t really be a clear improvement over all the routes it’s replacing (34, 39, midday 55/56, 22/56/57 Sodo service) until it runs at least every 15 minutes. I think that’s the minimum frequency needed to make Link transfers acceptable.

      But unfortunately I’m not sure the ridership base is there for such frequent service to ever make sense. All the replaced routes were half-hour routes with marginal ridership. Only the 34 even came close to filling buses up.

  2. Fixing prices and transfer to policies so that MT buses & Link are fully equivalent and consistent, same price between 2 points, whether it’s a direct trip or a transfer, whether it’s MT or Link, either ORCA required for transfer or paper transfer available and honored.

    There’s no economically valuable benefit generated by having two incompatible policies which make transit service harder to understand and use.

    And yes, “cash” riders matter and they are more likely to be confused than monthly pass riders.

    There should be a single policy-making board for fares and fare policies.

    Then people can select the vehicle and routing that works best for them while ignoring fares, fare policies and fare media as they are all the same – and the agencies can be free to restructure service in ways that assume people can freely select and transfer between service.

    1. Oh, yes, there is an advantage to taxpayers to get riders to choose the transportation option that has the lowest marginal cost per rider, and to choose the payment method that also has the lowest marginal cost per payer.

      That becomes especially true when dealing with Access riders, who could book a ride that costs around $38 average (but marginal cost is somewhere below that), with a fare of $1.25, vs. taking other transit options for which the marginal cost is essentially zero.

      It is most certainly to the taxpayers’ advantage to make the fixed routes totally free for paratransit-qualified riders, while charging for an Access ride between the same destinations. (Riding the fixed routes is not for all paratransit riders, though.)

      The same principle applies to time-consuming mobility device boardings. Don’t just make the fares in the tunnel the same for RRFP holders — i.e. 75 cents for bus or train — but actually incentivize RRFP holders to take the train when that option serves their needs equally well. Making the tunnel portion of Link free for RRFP holders would lose some fare revenue, but save much more in operating slowdown costs, and reduce the liability associated with the tie-down process.

      So, No, I say, to standardizing fares across all modes for the same trips. Everyone who can choose the Sound Runner will end up doing so.

      1. You are describing a special case – mobility impaired riders – and I agree that they could have a special fare structure to incentivize them to use the most appropriate service.

        But normally mobile riders shouldn’t have to concerned with the differences in fare media, fare methods, and transer policies. Ultimately all the transit service is tax-supported and government-provided; there’s little benefit in having multiple agencies with different boards setting incompatible fare and transfer policies, which is what we have today, and which confuses riders, and in some cases creates requirements for redundant service.

      2. Every rider is a special case. Every rider will choose the most expensive option to the taxpayers if that option is most convenient to that rider. That’s the Tragedy of the Commons.

      3. That may be true Brent, but there are only four situations (i.e. special cases) where this is of concern. That is because, as you noted, most transit trips have effectively zero marginal cost and for this reason it shouldn’t be the taxpayers concern whether a rider goes from downtown to Mt. Baker via Route 7, Route 14, Link, or Route 2 and Route 8, even if some of those services are more expensive to provide than others.

        Thoe four special cases where marginal cost matters are:
        RRFP, which is addressed above, non-Orca users (simply make cash fares larger and/or non transferable), Heavy Crowding (principally a problem of a lack of service not a problematic rider) and Commuter trips. It is only this last case that really problematizes making a simple fare structure. Generally speaking though all day routes should have a single fare because those routes aren’t privileged services but rather necessary to the function of the regional system, regardless of the distance they cover or the neighborhood they serve.* Moreover there are large costs to having an inconsistent or complex fare structure. The political preference expressed by some for having both the Route 7, Route 36, and Link all serve downtown, presumably held in part because of inconsistent and confusing fare structures, is just one example.

        *Obviously there are some all-day services that could be considered privileged (e.g. Route 42), but in this situation the tax-payers goal should be to eliminate the poor service not make it less poor by making it more expensive and therefore more in line with its cost.

    2. Unifying fares between Metro and Link may be a good thing but it collides with other factors. Metro’s and ST’s fares are each tied to other things, and unifying Metro-Link fares may put strain or breakage onto other parts of the fare systems.

      It is a universal principle that simpler fare structures are better. Flat fares, unified multimodal fares, and seamless transfers lead to happier passengers and less-stressed transit agencies. But systems that have unified bus-rail fares or flat fares also tend to have characteristics that Pugetopolis doesn’t, which is what leads to the other strains.

      Chicago and NYC have flat subway fares. I don’t remember if they’re exactly the same as bus fares, but they’re close enough that there’s minimal friction. But in both places the bus/rail service stops at the city limits or at a nearby inner-suburban ring. In contrast, Metro includes suburban/rural service, and unidirectional peak-only expresses from low-density areas. Metro’s fare structure is unified between these urban routes and low-density routes, with only a gross two-zone structure to (imperfectly) tie expenses to fares. In cities with flat fares, these suburban services are usually run by different agencies and have a separate fare structure. Usually the stay-within-suburbia routes have lower fares than the city, and the suburb-city routes have higher fares. NYC has special express routes from its corners to central Manhattan at premium fares, which are similar in spirit to these suburban-city routes.

      Ultimately it comes down to, larger cities/older regions tend to have city & suburban transit agencies, while smaller cities/newer regions tend to have county-based agencies that include both city/suburbs/rural. The northwest is definitely on the county-based side of the ledger, and that’s a lot of the reason why Metro fares are unified county-wide, with preferential treatment to peak-expresses (more routes, low fares), and are un-unified with Link.

      Portland and Vancouver have unified bus-rail fares, and they are county-based systems. However, I think Portland and Vancouver offer less service on the periperhy (especially peak-expresses to downtown) than Metro does. That could explain why their expenses are low enough to afford common bus-rail fares.

      Another issue is that Link (and ST Express) go long distances into multiple counties. Is it possible to have a unified bus-train or a flat fare in this situation? Portland does, but again I’m not sure that their situation/expenses are quite the same as Pugetopolis’. So we’re at a dilemma.

      Link’s distance-based fares are “fair”, but they’re more complex than a flat rate, and incompatible with Metro’s fare structure. It’s easier to distance-base a train ride because there are only a few stations, the card-readers are at fixed locations, and the fare formula is easy to show on a rail map (draw a line between stations at zone boundaries, or put a table of the distance-based costs to discrete stations).

      One interesting and important note is that Link’s fares are now less expensive than Metro’s for distances up to Westlake – Rainier Beach. That suggests we should leave Link’s fare structure alone because it’s an incentive to ride Link (whose incremental expenses go down as ridership rises), and it automatically scales up to premium fares for long trips. Metro’s fares will inevitably rise as oil prices remain volatile, while Link’s electricity can be generated by a variety of less volatile methods.

      1. Paper transfers remain a disincentive to use Link, so long as Metro keeps offering paper transfers. One easy way to solve that would be to make paper transfers valid on Link, and allow people with paper Link tickets to use them as transfers on Metro. Or to cut out paper transfers and push people to ORCA – by making ORCA cheaper and easier to get and reload, including with cash.

    3. Continuing from my previous post, there are many people who would say, “Yaay, let’s split Metro’s Seattle service from its suburban and suburb-city services, or revive Seattle Transit”. That has some appeal, but it would be very difficult politically. It would also be very difficult to fundamentally restructure Metro’s fare system, or to do so in a fair way. After all, Seattle-Kirkland (255) is not very far and deserves to be a basic service. (E.g., It’s not further than downtown – 130th & Aurora.) It’s not passengers’ fault that there’s a lake in the way, unlike other cities where “Kirkland” would be closer. So just drawing a line around the Seattle city limits is unfair and arbitrary, but drawing it anywhere else is even more problematic.

      Another thing about Chicago and NY’s CTA/MTA is that the cities are a lot larger. Chicago’s covers the equivalent of Seattle/Bellevue/Redmond, while New York is more like ST’s King County service area, and all this area is more dense than most of Seattle. So there are a lot more destinations within these areas, so a lot fewer reasons why a Chicagoan or New Yorker would ever need to go outside the CTA/MTA anyway. But Seattle is so much smaller, with fewer destinations, and less differentiation between city/suburb density. So more people work at places like Microsoft (outside the city), or shop at Southcenter (outside the city), or have relatives in Renton/Bellevue/Shoreline/Lynnwood. So the core service area needs to be larger than just “Seattle” to compensate for these factors.

      1. The core service area could be King County – same fares for all buses and light rail wholly within King County. Make it $2.50 or $2.75 and it is the same fare all day 7 days/week, gives you 2 or 2.5 hours of service. $5 or $5.50 for an all day pass inside King County.

        If you want to have a few super-premium express fares for, say service from Kent or Auburn – maybe those should equal Sounder fares. Even NYC has a premium fare for express buses.

      2. You couldn’t go four comments under your sock-puppet moniker without mentioning Kent, could you, John?

      3. Ballard to Capitol Hill:

        6 miles.

        And often takes 90 minutes as well.

        And many more people actually want/need to make this trip than have any interest in getting to Kent.

        That’s beyond tragedy: it’s criminally negligent of a profligate transit operation.

  3. I hope Metro pays attention to the recommendations of the Rainier Beach Transit Justice Initiative (appendix E). High school students usually think of Metro as the “loser cruiser” and look forward to the day they can stop riding Metro by necessity. What would it take to convince young people that public transportation can be an easier way to get around?

    1. That “loser cruiser” attitude may be sour grapes that some people who live far from campus get bus passes, and those who live too close do not. This is a perverse incentive to live far from campus.

      I’d support paying more in property tax, but not sales tax, to give free bus passes to all minor residents of King County who keep a clean record. Mess up, and lose your bus pass.

      If the cards are distributed via the legal guardian(s), the card can become a tool to track the user if someone goes missing. It also gives the legal guardian the option of not distributing the card to the child, but holding onto it for safe keeping.

      1. Free bus passes might be a good way to incentivize good school attendance. Maybe Metro and Seattle Public Schools could team up to reward students that attend school and pass their classes with an ORCA card that will allow them to ride free all summer.

  4. The letter on pages A-101 to A-103 is interesting reading. Of course, they make it sound like service along the 42 has been and is being cut, when in reality people are just having to learn how to transfer between the 7 and the 8, or various other combinations.

    But they are open to a process for restructuing the routes in Rainier Valley, and then, for whatever reason, list only some of the routes. The fact that the 7 and the 36 were in the list, and they were open to seeing them restructured, is fascinating. I’d love to know what they have in mind, if it is more than just taking service hours off of the overcrowded 7 and 36 to fund more service on the empty 42.

  5. I hope someone at ST reads the report. It’s embarassing that we can spend six figures for each ORVA VM, and not spill out a much smaller sum of money to add a few more languages. After all, Rainier Valley prides itself on being the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the US&A, and Link was routed through Rainier Valley specifically to serve this diversity.

    Metro has a bunch of interpreters and translators on staff, including in the Customer Service department, who can do this sort of work. The ORCA VMs could even include language-specific specialty Customer Service numbers.

    1. +1 on adding more languages to TVMs only one time programming expense.

      Does ACRS have multi-lingual information available to those that they serve explaining ORCA, LINK and Metro/Sound Transit information tools available to them?

      There is a need for explaining how to use cross walk signals too – I see many older mobility challenged pedestrians either jay walking across Martin Luther King Jr. Way S or waiting without activating the walk request. I know some outreach has been done but more may be needed.

  6. It seems clear to me after reading the report that the biggest problem in SE Seattle is one of communication and understanding. To be fair, it’s very difficult to communicate with some segments of the community, because they suffer a double whammy: first, they don’t speak English, and second, they have marginal education even in their native language. It’s no surprise that ORCA and service changes are challenging to get across to those members of the community.

    But we need to keep trying. We can’t hold everyone else hostage to their needs. The system will work far better when it is ORCA-only (at least on vehicles), and we can’t afford to keep service like the 42 that doesn’t serve the bulk of the community. This is yet another sign that Metro’s (and ST’s) #1 focus needs to be communication and messaging for the next few years, when things are going to continue changing rapidly thanks to the opening of new Link and RR lines.

    1. But we make it needlessly more complex by having paper transfers that are good on Metro buses only, by making ORCA fairly hard to get and reload if you don’t have a credit card, by making Link’s fares different.

      I think you could cut out half the options and tell people they need to get ORCA and make ORCA cheaper and more accessible and tell them it is same fare whether they use Link or not or whether they transfer or not.

      Make the message simpler and then put all the effort around teaching the simple message. KISS.

      1. I’m all in favor of getting rid of paper transfers… along with cash fares on-vehicle. Put TVMs in a few more central places. Get a phone number with multilingual speakers at the other end, at least in the top ten or so languages in the area, where people can get ORCA by mail and receive explanations.

        And promoting ORCA isn’t just for “ORCA proponents,” it’s for all users. Cash fumbling is one of the biggest sources of delays on Metro. ORCA is honest and not hard to use, once you understand how it works (which is not always that easy). If people don’t trust it, then we need to find a way to educate them so they can understand it. Once they understand it, they will trust it.

      2. I’ll have to disagree on one point: We can’t get rid of cash fare payment at all stops. We can in the tunnel and wherever there are TVMs in the Central Business District, but not in the middle of nowhere, where if you don’t have an ORCA and need one to catch the bus, you are up a creek.

      3. But we could make on-board cash payment asynchronous with vehicle movement by installing TVMs on board like they do in Munich, rather than have a farebox and paper transfers dispensed by the driver.

    2. If Metro and ST’s #1 focus has to be communication, then it’s worth remembering that communication includes listening as well as speaking. Of course, part of listening is discerning who’s speaking and how. A small and vocal group protests to keep the 42, but a large and not-so-vocal group doesn’t understand or trust ORCA, relies on bus drivers for trip planning, etc. That’s an important finding in a listening report. Just as we shouldn’t be hostage to the needs of a small, vocal group of 42 proponents, perhaps it’s not fair to hold a large, not-so-vocal group hostage to the needs of ORCA proponents.

      1. …but a large and not-so-vocal group doesn’t understand or trust ORCA, relies on bus drivers for trip planning, etc. That’s an important finding in a listening report.

        Absolutely, that’s an important finding and one that needs to be addressed head-on.

        But you cannot run a reliable, scalable mass transportation system for a city of over half a million people by allowing riders to choose the slowest method of payment and to treat drivers as their all-purpose sherpas.

        Simpler and more logical route structures make the system easier to figure out for all users. Better maps and wayfinding make many questions redundant. ORCAs that grow on trees, can be easily recharged around town, and have much better instructions for neophytes would help to overcome the familiarity/trust gap.

        The system must be streamlined, and this group must be kept in mind when figuring out how to do it. Enshrining their current habits is not an acceptable way to do that.

      2. I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who would hold ORCA up as a model of simplicity and ease of use.

        But we need to fix ORCA, not throw it out.

      3. Of course throwing out ORCA would be stupid, and there’s probably a significant number of people that would switch to ORCA if there were better incentives and if it were more convenient. But we still have plenty of regular riders that ORCA doesn’t work for and we need to acknowledge that. Not to mention the occasional riders!

        There are people that can’t afford to maintain a stored value buffer on an ORCA card (especially if they need to do it two days in advance of riding the bus!), and many more that aren’t well-organized enough to do so. They probably aren’t posting on this forum. They still need to ride the bus!

      4. Driver-based trip planning and taking a minute to pay cannot scale; these things must be made exceedingly rare as part of any move towards actual mass transit.

        There’s an entire world of transit systems out there that have solved these problems, with weekly passes and magnetic-strip alternatives to smart-cards and serving every part of the city with a dozen frequent and highly legible routes so that it’s obvious how to get everywhere.

        If you advocate for “listening” to this group by embracing inaction, you are advocating against mass transit. You cannot have both.

      5. If there are riders for whom ORCA doesn’t work, we need to figure out how to make it work, not accept the hassles of on-vehicle cash payment, which just slows down the network for most of its riders.

        Make stored value more flexible? Great.

        Reduce fares when using ORCA? Great.

        Sell prepaid fare tickets for occasional riders? Great.

        But don’t let us continue to be held up for 5 or more minutes every trip by cash fumblers.

      6. I refuse to believe that stored value cards cannot be made useable in Seattle. In Chicago, which has a very large immigrant community, stored cards are required to use the “L” as it no longer accepts cash or tokens at turnstiles. The CTA still offers a paper mag stripe card that is sold at many retail outlets as well as at ticket vending machines. Ironically, the RFID product is only available online/mail in 2 versions. 1 version can be reloaded at a TVM, the other is tied to yoru credit card and is either autoloaded or loaded online. The CTA only provides transfers via stored value or RFID cards. No paper transfers. If you pay cash on a bus, you’re SOL about a transfer.

        The largest incentive we can make to ORCA adoption is to eliminate paper transfers on bus systems. We could also reduce or eliminate the card fee for the 1st ORCA card for a period of time. Unfortunately, we should be having that period of time RIGHT NOW prior to the fall Metro service change.

      7. Yeah, improve ORCA and make sure the improvements are well advertised. Usage will increase. Some people advocate a few-carrots-mostly-sticks approach, and that’s just not fair.

        The two-day value-add delay is a serious limitation for ORCA. It makes spontaneous value-add impossible and cripples the utility of daily and weekly passes. I just don’t see our region adding a magnetic stip card to the existing jumble.

        I haven’t traveled the world but I’ve been to Nuremberg. They’ve managed to do universal POP with a huge multi-zone integrated fare system with no smart cards or magnetic strip cards. I think they just have punch cards, individual tickets, and monthly passes. They don’t have automatic money counters on the buses but you can pay in coins and the drivers make change for you (whatever problems the Euro has, its coinage is great). Boarding time doesn’t seem to be a big issue, but (a) they have really high adoption of punchcards and monthly passes, which offer a discount over single-ticket cash fares (b) they have rail for their really high-capacity lines. So it’s a bit of a different world… but I’ve seen a pretty efficient transit system at work that’s more permissive about cash payment and less reliant on gadgets than we are.

      8. Offering “a discount over single-ticket cash fares” that has directly resulted in “really high adoption of punchcards and monthly passes” is hardly “more permissive about cash payment than we are”.

        Our policy is: “Sure. Hold up the bus for a minute. Have your entire party do the same. No, it won’t cost you a cent more to do so. And here’s an all-night paper transfer to encourage you to do this again next time.”

        There’s really not much more to say about this than what Charles said. Presuming that Seattle’s “vulnerable populations” are too stupid and incompetent to handle improvements in system efficiency — when in fact Metro has just failed to design a legible network and to market its strengths — is unbelievably patronizing and infantilizing.

      9. Using the word “fair” is not a fair tactic. One person’s “fair” is another person’s stupid.

        In this case, charging a rider a *small* surcharge for the convience of fumbling cash and change is certainly fair, IMSHO. They are paying for a convenience that is inconviencing everyone else on the bus, as well as the taxpayers.

        “Fare equality” makes no sense when it means rewarding the anti-social behavior of opting to use the payment system that causes the greatest delay for everyone else.

        A surcharge isn’t a stick. It’s a gentle tap on the shoulder with a message, “Would you kindly get an ORCA card?” Kicking cash fumblers off the bus would be a real stick.

      10. One reason CTA’s Chicago Card works better for Chicago’s poorer population is because it is free.

        The highest cost for a contactless bus smart card anywhere else in the US is $2, with the average cost 71 cents, and the majority of such smart cards being free.

        The latest reason given for charging $5 for an ORCA is so that people don’t treat it as something to use up and throw away. Wouldn’t a $1 charge make that point just the same?

        And since getting another ORCA involves some inconvenience, doesn’t the inconvenience itself make the point? Or use DC’s trick of loading bonus value on the card after it is registered? There are several field-tested approaches to keeping smart cards from being treated as disposable. We just happen to be using the method that most discourages riders from getting one in the first place, and that has the largest adverse impact on getting poor and minority riders to get one.

      11. Am I correct in understanding that ORCA cards that have value added to them at TVM’s or using a read/writer connected to the backend system would have the stored value available immediately? If so, the 2 day waiting issue is moot. The “community” in question is also unlikely to utilize a computer to add value to a card.

      12. Charles, yes. Adding value to ORCA at a fare vending machine or retail store or customer service office (or Autoload) is instantaneous. The 2 day delay only applies to people revaluing online or over the phone, which requires a debit/credit card.

      13. @d.p.: The system is more permissive about cash payment because the drivers make change, which is pretty nice. I drop a 2-Euro coin on the tray, the driver slides back two twenty-cent pieces.

        ORCA, indeed, should be clearly the best mode of payment for most regular riders with steady incomes. It usually is already, though it has some odd holes. For irregular riders the up-to-two-day loading delay can be a deal killer. People without steady incomes are in a variety of situations.

        I agree that discounting ORCA fares is a good idea, especially if the price of the card itself can be lowered. I assume I agree with most people here that RR really ought to have required offboard payment at least at its full stations and eventually at all stops; and that the same really ought to be true in the DSTT, and then after that rolled out wherever boarding delays are significant. When people say things like, “We can’t allow cash-fumblers to hold up the bus,” that sounds a lot like, “Let’s ban cash payment on buses.” If that’s what you mean, I disagree; if it’s not, I’m sorry I misinterpreted.

        A Real Change article recently described how ORCA adoption is putting the squeeze on people that collect and sell used transfers. Now obviously this practice is a scam that defrauds the transit system. Except in the article it was a sadly dying piece of street wisdom (their words). I remember this article because of how over-the-top it seemed — who is supposed to buy into the transfer seller as a wise (or perhaps clever) tragic hero figure? But it more credibly touches on a more universal theme: the experience by some of progress, even good, real progress, as loss.

        ORCA adoption is still rising, and that’s good; if improvements are made it will rise more, and that will be good; Metro will eliminate paper transfers when it’s adopted enough, and that will drive more ORCA adoption (as in CT land), which will be good. Some people may be hurt by the end of paper transfers (not just transfer sellers), and others will complain a lot and then adjust; Metro will be right to do it when the time comes. But that takes some time, and not just, “Oh, the slow people annoy me and are inefficient, let’s ban the way they use the transit system.”

      14. “It usually is already, though it has some odd holes. For irregular riders the up-to-two-day loading delay can be a deal killer.”

        It gets worse than that. Some employers subsidize transit passes by purchasing “e-vouchers” for their employees. Depending on which mode the employer sets for their employees’ ORCA cards, this may require the employee to log in to and choose either to purchase a fare product with the e-voucher or to convert its value to e-purse. After doing so, the usual delay applies.

        A friend of mine is in this situation, and it annoys her to no end that sometimes she boards the bus at the beginning of the month and gets “insufficient funds.”

      15. Al,

        I don’t disagree with any specific thing you said (except, perhaps, that we should celebrate the black-market trade in paper transfers as some sort of Horatio Alger stepping stone to independence), but I do disagree with the implication that efforts to eliminate the problems that slow the system are inherently punitive.

        I think I may be reacting even more strongly to the notion of reliance on drivers-as-trip-planners as immutable fact than to the notion of cash as immutable fact. Regular and occasional transit users everywhere else figure out how to “get there”, and Seattle does not need to be different.

        Metro needs to realize that its system structure, failure to distinguish key corridors from milk-runs, failure to provide obvious high-frequency services between “here” to “there”, and inept mapmaking and wayfinding approaches are largely responsible for a city full of riders peppering drivers with questions. Metro needs to get that this is untenable.

        There’s a difference between those who are genuinely perplexed by the system geography and those who want “personal” interaction because it’s the only social interaction they get in a day. The latter need counselling, not indulgence from then transit agency. The former need a more legible system that better serves their actual mobility needs. Neither needs the status quo.

        The cash conundrum is not all that different. No one “needs” to be paying in cash by virtue of sheer poverty. Anyone that destitute would likely have access to a discount or a free ticket through a service agency (or, alternately, would be unable to afford $2.25 in any payment medium). On the other hand, everyone needs non-cash payment to be more accessible, reliable, expedient, universal, and non-punitive. It is in no way anti-poor to suggest that Metro engage in careful social engineering to nudge people toward non-cash payment options (while also giving everyone access to those options) for the benefit of all who depend on the system.

    3. Thanks for confirming that Oran. Then another key success factor will be getting ORCA fare media and terminals in lots of places. Every drug store, every super market. In essence everywhere there’s a Lotto machine should have an ORCA terminal.

      Some other ORCA idiosyncrasies that need to be revisited include the 60 day tap requirement, and the sequestering of funds that haven’t been used. I think the funds should be available on the card for at least 3 years and easily restored to the card or a replacement afterwards.

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