SounderBruce (Flickr)
SounderBruce (Flickr)

In a win for efficiency, operational speed, and regulatory simplicity, beginning today all Rapid Ride lines will allow 24/7 all-door boarding. Until today, the lines have reverted from proof-of-payment to traditional front door boarding after 7pm, causing unnecessary complexity and confusion for riders.

The change comes after Metro management polled operators about the proposal, with the results coming back in favor of the change.

Metro’s blog post below the jump…

In response to feedback from operators and customers, RapidRide service will begin full-time, 24/7, all door boarding on Saturday, May 14. Beginning that day, drivers can use all doors to board customers during all service hours on RapidRide bus service.

An extensive operator survey at all RapidRide bases asked if all-door boarding hours should remain the same, be slightly expanded or be changed to 24/7. A strong majority of operators said 24/7 all-door boarding would reduce RapidRide security incidents and increase service efficiency. Many operators noted that consistently allowing all door boarding would be less confusing for customers and reduce operator-customer conflict.

This change is only for RapidRide service. Other service that is not RapidRide still requires front door entry at all times.

Signage at the RapidRide stations will be changed over the next few months. Timetable and schedule information will be updated for the September service change.

69 Replies to “Rapid Ride Gets 24/7 All-Door Boarding”

  1. Does this mean that FEOs are on duty at night as well? Because if they aren’t, then it’s effectively a pay-at-will service during the night.

    1. i have seen them on buses well past the 7 pm cutoff time. So I don’t think we will see any changes based on that.

  2. I think this is good and the C line has definitely been operating on this principle for at least the last couple days. A bus can be crowded even at night, especially as headways increase, so the speed benefit can be noticeable even on the evening runs.

    In general removing the question of fare enforcement from the driver strikes me as a good thing since it allows them to concentrate on driving rather than micromanaging the passengers. Hopefully FEO can respond when drivers request it to squelch problems as they happen.

  3. These are the kind of incremental improvements that cost literally nothing and make an actual difference in riders’ experience. Good job metro!

    1. They “cost literally” the amount of either additional Fare Enforcement Officers or the foregone fares collected through lack of enforcement.

      Metro hasn’t made a statement on whether the FEOs will work after 1900hrs now, or if it will be a free for all after dark.

  4. I remain puzzled that Link, operated by Metro, and RapidRide, operated by Metro, continue to have totally separate FEO forces. Sure, the fare payment rules are a little different, but I think they can handle learning those differences.

    At night time, the ability to shift that force around would really come in handy.

    With the E Line becoming the reigning king of bus ridership, now at 10-minute headway, and the C and D Lines moving up quickly, with 12-minute headway, I hope the A Line can get a frequency bump around the time Angle Lake Station opens, now that Metro has the money to throw at low-performing routes like a one-seat ride on MLK/Rainier/Jackson (with no headway improvement on MLK, Rainier, or Jackson).

    I’m delighted by this news, regardless.

    1. I’m surprised the FEO folks aren’t combined as well. But it is possible that there are enough of them on each service to keep them busy. I’m not sure what the optimum level is, either. The point is not to give out tickets, but to get people to pay their fair. Beyond that level and you are wasting money. Below that level and people will take a chance.

      Since you can’t travel between cars on Link, and it goes a fairly long ways (and is now fairly frequent) fare inspection will take a while. I don’t think you get to the point where you are over inspecting. Even at night, when frequency and the number of cars drops, there is enough to keep the inspectors busy. I have no idea what the math is (how often a fare inspector has to be seen to reduce cheating) but I would guess that we aren’t at the excessive level on Link.

  5. During the transitions in and out of peak, which is cheaper: Tapping off-board or tapping at the front?

    Has anyone ever gotten a warning or fine for choosing the cheaper option?

    1. I’m sure the rule is the same either way. If not sure it’s best to board the bus at front and ask driver for proper zone settings. But fare enforcement prefers you tap on the yellow boxes because it’s one less step for them (they see the straight green instead of seeing red and having to research that you tapped on bus)

    2. I often board the D Line southbound right around the end of the morning peak. On-board readers are set at the beginning of the trip to peak or off-peak based on when the bus is scheduled to hit downtown. The PDF timetable has a shaded section that indicates which trips charge peak fares at the farebox.

      The off-board readers all change over at 9:00 exactly. What this means is that there’s a window of time where people who tap off board pay peak fares while the buses are supposed to charge off-peak fares.

  6. This is a no-brainer decision that should have been implemented back when RapidRide first started. Even if Metro doesn’t have money to actually hire fare inspectors 24/7, as long as the public doesn’t know that, it doesn’t matter. Even if fare inspectors are not normally working at 10 PM, they can still do a sting operation a couple times a month, just to keep people honest.

    I suspect a good number of bus drivers were following this common-sense policy, even before it became official.

    1. I think people who can afford to pay will continue to do so. People who can’t won’t…. as a rule of thumb.

    2. They have been on buses at that late hour before. I’ve seen it. 10 pm on the a line.

  7. This sounds like a great improvement. It should make driving the buses a lot easier, and simplify things greatly.

    But I wonder how much effect it will have on dwell times. It seems to me that a row of ORCA card users, all tapping at they get on*, moves pretty quickly. What slows things down are folks that are paying cash. Maybe I’m wrong on that though — I haven’t ridden the RapidRide. What has been the experience for most people? Are the cash payers such a small minority as to not slow the bus down much at all? Does the bus get a lot slower in the evening, as ORCA users clog the front?

    It seems to me that as RapidRide improves, we should add more stations that allow cash/credit card payment, and do away with pay as you board completely at those stops. Or maybe that isn’t worth the bother (and we should put our money somewhere else). I’m curious as to what regular RapidRide users think.

    * Sounds like a dance routine.

    1. While not perfect, off-board Orca payment is still demonstrably better than nothing. If you have a whole bunch of orca-payers getting on while only one or two cash payers are getting on, being able to load the orca payers through the back door while the cash payers enter the front door can really help keep things moving. On the B-line, where about 90% of the riders seem to have Orca cards, the effect has been pronounced.

      1. Excellent. This sounds like a great change then. In general this sounds like a decent compromise. Eventually I would like to see 100% off board payment at all stops, but that might be overkill right now (there might be better ways to spend the money).

        I’m curious as to what regular users think of RapidRide. Where are the weak links? I can think of three:

        1) Too many people paying with cash.
        2) The stops that don’t allow for off board payments.
        3) Congestion (not enough bus lanes or a time limit on them).

        I would assume it is the third (which is also, I would guess, the most expensive to fix).

      2. There’s a lot of RR stops that get minimal ridership but shouldn’t really be skipped (such as most of the D stops along 15th in Interbay). At those it’s almost-all front-door boarding, but it doesn’t make a huge difference.

    2. Community Transit’s Swift line has the ORCA readers and ticket vending machines at each stop. Any plans for Metro to do the same on the RapidRide?

      I agree from taking other routes it’s annoying to get stuck behind someone fumbling for change.

    3. In the DSTT, cash and passes aren’t the worst of it. Worst are conversations, and arguments, about fares and everything else.

      “Three adults, two senior citizens, four children 6, one teenager 16 and the other one 18 and a half. With one adult and the 16-year old transferring from LINK. How much? And where did I put my fare? And I lost my transfer.”

      Hate twitter, and save YouTube for Gillian Welch- great song about a mountain woman cutting an attacker’s throat with the broken neck of his own whiskey bottle. But also featuring Swedish streetcars on fire and drunk passengers.

      Though year’s favorite is imagining both drivers’ accident reports after a speeding Russian armored car demolishes one of my favorite mountain trolleybuses by cutting it off at NASCAR speed.

      But a tweet or two- did I get that right?- of about a dozen of these driver-passenger exchanges, with time readout alongside might provide some amusing and inspirational social media for the world including the County Council.

      Come to think of it, for savage dignity-deprived attacks on the Establishment, modern electronics have now turned the whole world’s population into our own Donald Trump!

      Mark

    4. I’m not a RapidRide commuter, but I usually use them at least a couple times a week. All-door boarding seems to be a pretty drastic improvement when you have a fairly large crowd of people all trying to get on the bus at the same time — each person tapping an orca card may not take long, but when there’s a lot of them it adds up.

      1. It certainly does. I have even seen a few times where people have trouble tapping their Orca card because the card is sitting in a wallet with a bunch of other RFID cards, so he/she ends up holding up the line to dig the Orca card out of the wallet, with the end result being an Orca payment that is no faster than a cash payment. I really hope that whatever replaces Orca is able to do a better job at this. It should be a requirement that users should be able to tap their whole wallet, regardless of what other cards might also be inside the wallet. Loading a barcode on your phone and tapping that should also be an option.

      2. asdf2: wrap one of the more seldom used RFID cards in aluminum foil, and stick the ORCA card on one side of the wallet away from that. I got that tip from Eric of the Seattle Transit Hikers, though this tip should have been on an ORCA page too.

    5. In my experience on three different lines taken rarely, the biggest source of holdups is traffic lights.

      1. Thanks Glenn. Funny, I asked a followup question about how best to improve RapidRide, and forgot all about traffic lights. Is there signal priority on RapidRide? If so, where?

      2. From my experience on the B line, there’s somewhat-consistent signal priority, but it’s not too good. You’ll usually get a green slightly faster, but you still need to wait at the red.

    6. While I actually saw it on Link, it could have just as easily happened on RapidRide, and been more effective there: One gentleman, when asked to show proof of payment, pulled out a whole deck of transfer slips, and asked which one did he need for that day.

    1. WIth the Vix contract coming to an end, and Vix having ceased manufacturing hardware for ORCA, there are only a limited supply of readers available to deploy, and SDOT owns that limited supply now, I believe.

      I’m curious whether all the hardware will have to be replaced when the cutover is made to the in-house ORCA 2.0.

      1. >>All the buses already have readers.<<

        But if you're using the reader, doesn't the bus driver sit there and wait for you to swipe? What I meant is that Toronto's streetcars have readers towards the middle/back, so you can get on at any door and swipe at your leisure, rather than holding the bus up.

      2. But letting people swipe while on board at their leisure means some will wait until they see the FEOs board.

  8. Good. Now let’s do another survey- and abide by the results- about getting fareboxes out from under the wheels of service in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.

    Where confined platforms make off-board fare inspections much easier.

    And delays to both bus and train service do their worst damage at the time operating delays cost the most. I’m still looking for stats on the cost of one minute’s lost delay per vehicle.. Anybody have figures, or source?

    Because I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that considering the car traffic that transit reduces at rush hour, transit between 3:30 and 7:00 any weekday would save our service area more money with no fare collection- and its service-delays- at all.

    And a sneakier one that transit adjusts its fare enforcement budget accordingly. Considering passenger-loads and confined, access-limited space, Proof-of-Payment DSTT platforms are probably best use of personnel.

    Hundred percent off-board fare purchase has one big financial advantage too: Every fare dime draws interest in the system’s accounts as soon as the coin clicks. Or the bill whhrrrs. Or the credit card gets rapidly removed from the slot.

    From personal experience, hearsay, and primate studies, justified outrage over cheating runs old and deep. And also frequently gets drivers hit, knifed, and fired for gross misconduct.

    Drivers do have a countermeasure. On return to base, file an incident report noting route, run, coach number, time, location, direction of travel and description of the violator. And get paid a half hour overtime.

    Which combined with an “apped” copy to county and State elected reps, gives the system some incentive to hire more trained fare enforcement.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Almost all D line stops have it; I don’t know about other lines as that’s the only one I regularly ride.

    2. In my experience, Swift doesn’t even have ORCA readers on board. You have to either tap or pay at the platform.

      1. Correct. Everything, including ORCA readers and ticket printers, are on the platform. Picture light rail style POP, only operated with buses.

      2. “The Swift driver drives and nothing more.”

        If only it were that simple. People still misbehave on buses.

  9. And because Metro management and employees are the best and the brightest in the industry, we can be confident that all the RR middle and back door stickers that say board front door after 7pm will be removed as of today, and all off-board ORCA readers will have their 6am to 7pm-only stickers removed as well.

    Sam, award-winning transit investigative journalist

    1. We’ll make sure that sticker saying “award-winning transit investigative journalist” also finally gets taken down. Thanks for the reminder.

      1. Will you agree that if many of the stickers that I mentioned are still on the doors and ORCA readers, that’s a pretty good sign that Metro management is lazy and incompetent? I mean, that’s a pretty obvious, no-brainer of a task, right?

        BTW, I will being riding a Rapid Ride today, and I will be checking to make sure this very simple thing was done.

      2. I hear they’re actually hiring a Rapid Response staff of Grumpy Old Men to do this very task. You should apply.

      3. But if he has to go out and peel off all the stickers himself, what does that say about his management skills?

    2. Sam, staff will be working to remove signs and stickers over time, but we wanted customers to benefit from the improved operation without waiting until all the signs and stickers were first removed. Step one was to let drivers know, and we jumped out with a blog post and tweets to let riders know the good news with the pledge to revise the signs. After a few weeks, if we’ve missed a sticker or sign, please let us know.

  10. It’s about FN time. Toronto’s streetcar network went to P.O.P. a year or so ago, and they went 24/7 right from the start.

  11. Great, now let’s get off-board payment at more E line stops, particularly northbound Aurora at Denny

    1. I would love to see off-board payment there for the E, especially since the increased frequency now means delays for other non-RR buses using that stop. Sadly, I am no longer close to the E so don’t ride it much anymore.

  12. This is welcome news, though as recently as last year I’ve encountered RR operators that didn’t even know they were allowed to open the back doors for disembarking riders after 7. This was on the E, and eventually the howling from the back of the bus convinced the driver that it was in his best interest to open the back doors. I took down the bus number and reported him, and Metro actually responded saying they would improve their training. Hopefully no one has to tell them this time.

    1. Another nice effect of opening all doors is that if you’re jogging towards the stop in hopes of making it, you only have to run as far as the rear door. There’s like a 30 second window between being on the bus and walking to the front to tap your card, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

  13. Big problem exists at combined bus stops, where both Rapid Ride and regular Metro buses stop. Riders tap the platform ORCA reader and then board the green Metro bus — just like they do when boarding Link. Not an issue for regular riders who learn the drill, but for everybody else, the system is way too confusing. Add in the SLU streetcar, with its own identical but separate ORCA reader, and the problems get even worse (Westlake Ave.!)

    It’s almost like transit agencies sit down and purposely design the most confusing system possible.

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