Starting Jan. 2, Metro will operate the Westlake Customer Stop only the first four and last four business days of every month, rather than every business day. The hours will be 9-5:30 on those days, as before. Metro is doing so “to more efficiently focus services at the times of the month when transit customers use the facility the most.”

According to spokesman Jeff Switzer, about 60% of the stop’s 4,000+ monthly sales in November were conducted during the 4 first and last business days. By comparison, the Westlake TVMs conducted about 17,000 sales, the most in the system. The original plan was to close the stop entirely to save $260,000 per year, but the end of the ride free area placed new emphasis on ORCA availability. As he told me:

However plans changed. With the RFA ending, our implementation plan identified expanding ORCA sales as a priority to streamline pay on entry. We revised our plan and a 2013/2014 budget was adopted that kept the Westlake Customer Stop open during peak times (first 4 and last 4 business days each month) and redeployed staff on other days to sell ORCA passes at community centers, senior centers and other locations using a new portable “customer service terminal.” Under this approach, staff go to where the potential transit customers are, and will better be able to answer questions from people who might not otherwise come to Westlake Station to buy ORCA passes.

Although there are tons of remaining places to perform ORCA operations, the other 14 or so business days the only option to interact with a knowledgeable human, and get specialty cards like youth and senior ORCAs*, is either at these new customer service terminals or at Metro headquarters on Jackson St.

Switzer added that Metro will examine how this turned out at the end of 2013.

* This can also be done through the mail.

33 Replies to “Metro Redeploying Westlake Customer Stop Hours”

  1. Question: Is there a reason Orca cards cannot be sold from vending machines? Wouldn’t Orca vending machines solve this problem?

    1. The vending machines DO sell OCRA. However, I couldn’t purchase from the machine since I have a Reduced Fare Permit – and machines can not sell them.

      I can take my RRFP ORCA to a machine to refill it, but it – and youth cards – need a human to verify Eligibility to be sold in the first place.

      1. On a side note, the rumor mentioned somewhere else about low-income ORCA for Kitsap Transit is true. You just have to get it at Kitsap Transit’s Customer Service Office in Bremerton. If somebody can drop by that office, find out how the program works, and post the details on this blog, I would be most grateful.

      2. Oh good, I guess I missed that you can get ORCA cards at the vending machines now. Unfortunate about the reduced fare permit however.

      3. From the Kitsap Transit website, here are the criteria for a low-income reduced fare ORCA. Only one of the following forms of verification is necessary:

        Award letter from SSI, DSHS, Medical coupon, Food assistance documentation (Note: EBT Quest cards do not qualify as proof – must provide paperwork issued by DSHS)
        Financial Assistance Award Letter
        Low income housing paperwork
        Letter from a public shelter
        Letter from Work Release
        Voucher from public assistance agency

        The low-income monthly pass will only work on Kitsap Transit buses and the Port Orchard-Bremerton foot ferry, however. It is not a Puget Pass.

      4. Ah, so King County and Kitsap County could enter into an interlocal agreement to honor each others’ low-income ORCA cards. I just hope they make it clear loaded ORCA product must be used, so they don’t become flash passes to fumble cash.

        Sound Transit could also be a party to the interlocal agreement, but without having to administer distribution of the card.

      5. By “Vending Machines” I presume you are referring to the Sound Transit Ticket “Vending” Machines. All well and good, but far far too few of them in the region. You should be able to purchased pre-defined value cards from a low tech vending machine that doesn’t cost $50,000. ORCA cards should be made available and reload-able in as many customer convenience stores as possible – 7/11’s, Bartells, Walgreens, Safeway, QFC, PCC, Whole Foods, liquor stores, and just about any place that sells lottery tickets.

    2. Maybe those blue medallions saying “ORCA sold here” on the vending machines might be more effective if they were rave green or orange or hot pink. But I’m glad the machines now say they sell ORCA. That, or put free-standing signs in front saying “ORCA sold and reloaded here”. Of course, if those signs are too portable, they might become frat souvenirs or find their way into the hands of freelance vendors selling unloaded cards around 3rd and and Pine.

      Of course, making the card free might help, and so might having a low-income version. Thank you, Metro, for putting the latter on the table for discussion.

      BTW, which of the ORCA are reloadable at the TVMs? If the card doesn’t have a method of personal identification, or is of temporary eligibility status, I can see why reloading has to be done by a live employee. But if it doesn’t, the TVM would sure be a convenient way to reload.

      1. any orca card can be reloaded at a tvm with the possible exception of employer subsidized cards which are transit passes anyway and don’t need epurse.

  2. I like this kind of thinking at Metro! Redeploying, rather than furlowing, the shop employees is a wonderful idea.

    One suggestion though: Install a phone or call button at the Westlake Customer Service shop that rings directly through to the Customer Service call center. Not everyone carries their own phone, and most phones don’t work inside Westlake. Indeed, phone lines to Customer Service in each of the tunnel stations, and at airport station (which would be very helpful to tourists, especially those having trouble with the English-only materials) would be a nice touch.

    A detailed sign, with a map to the King Street sales office, and directions in multiple languages, would also be quite nice. Signage is cheap.

    1. Good idea. Vancouver BC has that in the Granville station, and CityTarget has it as a way to, um, minimize staffing.

    2. they may already have such a thing. ill have to check it out. i know at northgate you can pick up a handset and it calls customer service.

  3. If we can run “empty” buses round MI and East King County, we can afford to keep this Customer Service Office open – this is yet another example of small town, regressive thinking that is so counterproductive.

    1. The solution to the empty suburban milk run problem is to trim the empty milk runs, not counterbalance it with inefficiencies in Seattle.

      1. This is not about selling ORCA – it is about face-to-face customer service for those who are unable, or choose not to use computers/”smart”phones for all the help they need. We all know who they are; some are our friends, relatives, co-workers and perhaps some of the readers here. There are large populations still not connected to the ether electronically 24/7, and they deserve unwired, human interactions at Westlake.

  4. Bus drivers should carry and sell ORCA cards, and make the first 2 rides on purchase free. This would easily and radically expand the availability issue.

      1. well los Angeles drivers hand tap cards for $6 ($5 for all day pass and $1 for card) so i don’t see the atu being an issue. biggest concern i have is the time this would add to our buses.

      2. Little to no time for someone to slide 5.00 into the fare box and the driver to hand them a card. Massive time saved overall by converting a cash customer to an ORCA card user. Many to most drivers would heartily support the idea.

  5. I wonder if they’ve considered using the customer stop to sell other stuff – more like a convenience store. They might even be able to make it self-sustaining and keep it open longer hours than now. We really need to come up with some ideas to use all that mezzanine space at Westlake!!

      1. Yes.

        Although food wouldn’t taste good until the diesel buses were kicked out.

        The hybrid buses may be a bit cleaner, but it is still diesel exhaust.

    1. Yeah, why not coffee, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. Of course the 3rd Avenue news hut near the Woolworth building might complain.

  6. It would be more customer friendly to keep the Westlake office open and handle all products, and to close the office in Pioneer Square. The Westlake office is at the hub of transit. The Pioneer Square office is far more out of the way.

    1. The service rep. seemed pretty glad to have a customer last week when I stopped to ask a question. I agree with the idea to lease the space and have the new lessee continue offer Metro products. Complex questions could be answered by phone line to the main office.

    2. the problem with closing pioneer square is that is where other functions of metro are, such as lost and found and other things. Easier to close westlake.

  7. IDK, seems like suspect logic … Since the middle two weeks of every month have half the sales of the first and last week of every month, they are going to close the customer stop during the middle two weeks of every month, and send the workers out to where the people are. That seems inefficient. But they are spinning it to be an efficient move?

  8. Sending the staff out is actually a good idea. It can be damn near impossible for some really poor people to get reduced-fare passes, because *first they have to get to the office*, which requires paying the *full cash fare*.

    Yeah, you see the problem. So sending roving pass-sellers out will help.

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