34 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: “Growing Seattle” Candidate Forum”

  1. Today I want to whine about the ORCA vending machines. I tried to top off my card recently (e-purse).

    When it asks you how much you want to add, it has buttons for some amounts up to $40, and an option for “other amount.” I tried “other amount,” and it says you can add between $5 and $300, in $5 increments. So far so good. I tried adding $100, and it said you can’t that add that much. I tried adding $60 and it said I couldn’t add that much. So how much can you add, and if it’s only $40, why offer the other option, and why the message saying $5-$300 is OK?

    Even more annoying is when you have to put in your zip code. Those touch screen keys are finicky sometimes, and it’s not infrequent that I end up with a digit skipped or a digit repeated twice or–gasp–I just hit the wrong number. On most computer based systems that is not a big problem, because of this thing called the “backspace” key. You’ve probably seen it. You press it, and the last character you typed is erased. Some also have a “clear entry” button, which erases everything you typed and let’s you start again.

    The ORCA machines have neither of those options, nor a “back” button to go back to the previous screen. Your only option is to “cancel,” which cancels your entire transaction and you have to start all over again.

    I’m kinda dumbfounded by this oversight. Did they save some money by not licensing a backspace function? Did they never test their machines, and are they unfamiliar with the concept? Is it just “if you hit the wrong key, you get what you deserve?” Someone please tell me why this is really a feature and not a bug!

    1. I would write to ST about the $300 My guess is it’s part of the standard TVM software and they either didn’t notice it or didn’t think it was important enough to special-program because nobody was going to put $100 on it. If you’re putting that much on you’d probably save more with an unlimited pass. Another odd thing is the option to pay for a pass with e-purse. Does anybody put money on the card intending to buy a pass with it? Or is it just for the contingency that maybe someone will have too much money on the card and want to buy a pass?

      You can use the real number buttons to enter your zip code and press Enter. That’s what I always do. I think the latest generation of machines still have number buttons. I do it because I don’t like touch screens. It’s odd that the buttons exist for some functions but not others, but they probably came with the payment processing unit, or maybe it’s an accessibility feature.

      1. Thanks for the reminder about the physical keys–i forget they are there! Do you happen to remember if they have a backspace key?

        I’ll say those vending machines are pretty specific and limited with what you can do with them, and so the idea that “it just came that way” and “we never noticed, tested or changed the default options” seems pretty lame and unacceptable. They surely put a lot of money and planning time/thought into them?

        As for $100 being a lot to add for e-mailed purse, a $2.25 monthly pass costs $81. So $100 is potentially 6 weeks or less of usage for someone for whom e-mailed purse still makes sense. My own usage is variable–some months I wish I’d bought a pass, some months it’s not close to being worth it.

        Of course it would help if they offered 30 day passes not tied to the start of the month, or capped your monthly fares at something at or near the cost of a monthly pass, but that’s a whole ‘nother whine for a different day… :)

      2. Or maybe you have a monthly pass and suddenly discover you have to spend a week commuting on the ferries every day. For which your monthly pass will give you no credit at all.

      3. It’s weird that E-Purse increments are limited at the machines; on the Web I think the only limit is that you can’t push the E-Purse past its limit, which IIRC is around $200.

    2. Having just come back from a trip to Europe, I suddenly understand why somebody might by an $8 day pass, rather than just using E-purse. A day pass gives you the peace of mind of knowing that you won’t need to waste any more time (at least for 24 hours) fiddling with the ticket machines, without needing to understand the fare structure (which might not be at all obvious if the instructions are only in English and you only understand French).

      This is especially true if you have an early flight out leaving the next day, and any messing with the TVM’s the morning of the flight is simply unnecessary risk for missing the flight. Under circumstances such as these, the daypass makes perfect rational sense, even if it ends up costing a dollar or two more than buying the ticket for each ride individually.

      1. “A day pass gives you the peace of mind of knowing that you won’t need to waste any more time.”

        Since that’s what I’ve believed for about 30 years, I’ll go you one farther, asdf2. If I get one more little wrist-slapping, ID- photographing warning that I could get a $124 ticket because I tapped my pass TOO MANY TIMES…

        I’m going to get in front of cameras and give The Seattle Times and some other fanged media another one of Sound Transit’s leg bones to chew on. As a chaser for those car-tab figures, except real. For 22 years’ worth of months, I’ve paid Sound Transit at least $20,000 low-estimate for an unbroken chain of monthly passes.

        Real supercharged enrager is knowing that only about four dollars of my fine would go to transit. The rest is only there because the courts won’t enforce an fine below $124. In other words, I’m not even paying for the record-keeping problems I’m causing. Just paying enough so I can be punished.

        Has anybody got any stats as to how many people actually pay that fine? Bet the count is low, because by now somebody with a lawyer-affording income would have stood there in court (Shoreline, right?) and sued for slander over being called a thief by an agency holding his money.

        Personally, since I haven’t got the time, and Shoreline isn’t on LINK yet, before boarding my first LINK ride of the day, I buy a paper day-pass, and sometimes tape it to my ORCA card- which I’ve got no problem tapping on any other service. At least the cash goes to transit.

        Mark Dublin

      2. asdf2 and Mark, not sure I really follow you in this instance. Whether you’ve got a monthly pass or an e-purse, you still have to do the exact same amount of ORCA card tapping. If I had to hit those vending machines for each tickets, I’d definitely get a monthly pass, but that’s the whole point of e-purse.

      3. I’m in San Jose today and their Clipper card has a daily cap when riding the local transit service. I don’t need to buy a $6 day pass in advance. I just pay for for three rides ($2/ride) and all rides after that are free until the end of the day. I also have auto load setup on my Clipper card so I rarely ever need to use a ticket machine.

      4. It makes a big difference whether you’re in town for months or years vs. just a couple of days.

        I agree that once you fully understand how the system works, an Orca daypass makes essentially zero sense. Yet, at the same time, if you put yourself in the shoes of a visiting tourist who’s only in town for a couple of days and isn’t particularly good with English, sometimes, paying more than what’s strictly necessary for the sake of simplicity can make sense.

        Just the other day, I was in that position over in Copenhagen. I needed a minimum of two rides – cruise ship terminal to hotel mid-morning, and hotel the airport the following morning. I wanted to take care of the airport ride up front, to avoid the possibility of any unexpected surprise when I have a plane to catch. The symbols for “24 hours” was easy to recognize, even in Danish, so when I saw the option, I just did it without really looking at price.

        It’s also worth noting that if you’re only in town for a couple of days, E-purse has it’s own drawbacks. A minimum $5 increment with a $2.75 fare means that you have to put a full $10 on the card to cover two rides, and whatever money is left on the card after you leave becomes effectively wasted. So, in that case, E-purse may actually end up costing more than a day pass. (I’ll assume for the sake of argument that the convenience of having the card is worth the $5 fee).

    3. I get the impression that ST is more interested in ribbon cuttings and impressive stations than the actual customer experience. I have a hard time imagining an organization with even one user experience expert ever making such a poor interface, or having tap on and tap off make the same sound, or leave on arrival screens which display very wrong times

      1. The truth about the Orca beep hurts!

        I agree that the beeps should be different for tapping on or tapping off. It’s a no-brainer to do and I would think that it’s easy to program; I know that the machines are capable of making sounds at different pitches (like the low fare double beep). I’m rather surprised that the visually impaired community hasn’t complained loudly.

      2. The problem is that the software running the machines is owned not by Sound Transit, by some vendor company who probably doesn’t give a shit. The cost to Sound Transit to get them to make any change, no matter how trivial, is probably more than it’s worth. And, that’s assuming that the company that owns the machines’ proprietary source code is even still in business, which is a big “if”.

      3. Of course, that meant at some time ST didn’t give a shit either, or they would have written their RFP to meet first-world transit payment standards. Now we find out that the next generation is not going to be set up for daily caps either. Seattle is a tourist city, whether people want to admit it or not, and as asdf2 points out accurately, tourists and other visitors do not want to deal with the complexities of transit payment in a city they may only be visiting for a few days and may or may not ever visit again. I’m a bit of a transit wonk (duh! I’m here!) and have made a point to explore cities I’ve visited by using transit. I’ve done this on every continent save Antarctica (whose PenguinPass apparently is not yet operational; they really don’t like ORCAs there). There are a lot of different payment options, but without exception the ones I found least stressful to use are ones that have a daily pass or a variation of the 1-3-5-7 day pass options. Otherwise I’ve held a large balance on the card just so that I didn’t need to think about it (fortunately my 2008 Oyster Card still worked fine after 8 years of non-use, and has worked every year since). The pass option is far less stressful – particularly in a city like ours where we’ve made it as difficult as possible to top up cards anywhere away from Link or some of the park and rides. If you’re out late in Ballard or Capitol Hill, and you realize your purse is too low, now what? Who wants to deal with that in a city they are not familiar with?

        ST/Metro/other agencies: your mission is not only to get us where we need to go, but to make it as simple as possible for as many people as possible to use your systems. Every new rider is a net positive for our traffic, our environment, and the way of life most of us want to see here. “User-friendly” is NOT a bug. I often wonder if anyone making these decisions has ever traveled anywhere with a functional payment system and was obligated to use the transit systems there. It might open some eyes, and put the rider first instead of the bean-counters.

        (I don’t even want to get into Mark’s experience with fare enforcement. That’s ludicrous and something that would be instantly solved with a daily cap or pass. Bet someone not familiar with our system gets a good feeling about Seattle when that happens to them….)

  2. I’ve been using my beta test Hop card since it arrived on the 17th. Some interesting things:

    + it has the RFID functions to tap a card at readers, just like ORCA

    + it also has a magnetic strip like a credit / debit card. This strip is used by fare inspectors.

    + this strip is also used by many of the card retail outlets. For example, if you put money on the card at a 7-11, they run it through their credit card reader, but this means you can only pay cash there. Fred Meyer apparently has a different system but I’ve not successfully dealt with the card there yet (store data network down when I visited).

    + It doesn’t give a special tone when the balance is low. It just has a low balance indicator on the screen.

    + As best as I can tell, it doesn’t yet have a way to display card balances. It only shows how much was deducted.

    + There doesn’t seem to be a way of cancelling a trip by tapping a second time.

    + Card processing is nearly instant. When you tap the card the transaction is shown within a minute on the account. So, there may not be as much of a need for balance display.

    + I’ve yet to see what happens when the network that runs all this fails.

    1. Glenn, it doesn’t show your balance on the train/bus? That would seem like a major drawback for anyone using an e-purse. It would be more than a little useful to know when you need to top off your card — not everyone carries cash any more.

  3. Interesting that they all said they would support a 5th ave transit mall in some form. I wonder to what extent some were not prepared for the question and made a snap decision.

    1. Right… it’s like when politicians say they’re going to build out sidewalks, because they know it sounds good, and haven’t thought about it, then get into office and realize they’re not willing to spend that much money on it. Stuff local politicians say about transportation and land use is like that a lot. One answer to one question means nothing; track record means everything.

  4. Duck in the Battery Street Bus lane 6-24 3:15 PM. Snapped picture and sent to Metro complaints. I assume this isn’t lagit.

    1. I assume you’re talking about the vehicle, but that makes me wonder about animals wandering in front of buses. Anything interesting there? Have we had any bus-deer collisions?

      1. Strange to say, because they seem to be sensible and aware creatures, but I’ve seen both mallards and Canada geese, walk calmly in road and street lanes for reasons of their own.

        Attempts to rescue them result only in their walking someplace else in the street. So just have to respect fact that since they’re really advanced-model dinosaurs, we’ve got about 300 million years ’til they need us to tell them anything.


  5. Today’s comments about the Mayoral candidates indicate this year’s election could be decided by one third of a total turnout of three. Or a few more if sole voter has multiple-personality disorder.

    Meaning too bad I can’t get the 36th District gerrymandered down I-5 to the bluffs around Capitol Lake (bet a 60 mile long beer bong isn’t the wierdest shape in State history.) Some unexpected reactions.

    Mainly, since a Mayor is really as much or more the leader of a city’s people as their CEO, thoughts went more gut- than brain- level as I watched the candidates. Results about like this.

    Jessyn Farrell and Cary Moon are exactly where they belong right now, and very valuable there.

    Since Bob Hasegawa reminds me of some of my fellow drivers I liked best, I’ll chalk up his clumsy Sound Transit votes as an amateur’s mistakes. He’d make a good Seattle City Councilman. Like public bank idea, which isn’t his alone.

    Last election I voted for Mike McGinn because Greg Nickels, who belonged in the job, was either too lazy to campaign, or didn’t especially want to be the Mayor of one of a whole country-full of governments plummeting into 2008’s closest tectonic fault.

    Since he only got interested when Mike McGinn, who’d probably be the best Mayor of the bunch, got humiliated. Which is now the main reason I’d vote for, and could even contribute to, Nikki Oliver. Whose personality I think gives her considerable merit for Mayor.

    Jennie Durkan counts as a grudge that to Founding Fathers like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton would have been an emblem of principle. Prosecutors have their use in dealing with law-breaking mortgage bankers.

    But if their Federal activities consist instead in sending college-age children into Federal detention because they won’t rat on their friends for breaking windows, I’ll withhold my vote ’til they send anybody in above paragraph to a private prison where the pharmacy doesn’t even have tampons.

    Once had a girl soldier in full camo and desert boots tell me she didn’t think Olympia would want to be defended. Which means I can’t let anybody there see me do it. So I can’t show any of them the photo-copy I’m sending Jenny of the check made out to Nikki. With explanation lower left.

    Hard to imagine why anybody would mess with the State containing the Army hospital where I was born. Leaving a lot of savage revenge to protect a place so sweet I can’t even recite a George Gershwin song about killing a bugler.


    1. Bob Hasegawa is definitely anti sound transit and anti light rail. Even at the mayoral forum he suggested it was a waste of money.

      1. Sorry, Brendan, missed that one. so will reconsider when all the pro-transit members of the Seattle City Council vote for the exclusive bus lanes and signal-preempt the system has needed for years.

        And whose lack will not only make a worse mess of surface car traffic than it is now, but also leave transit worse jammed and schedule-proofed than the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.

        Also, while I can be philosophical about transit progress on the Waterfront- seem to be thinking about plate tectonics a lot lately- I’d really like to know where those elected rail-transit supporters were when the George Benson line was left to rust in place from 2005 to a year or two back.

        People like Bob, I can sometimes convince to change their minds. Very often, they’ll argue back, or at least say something. Instead of simply looking at or through me, and keeping fareboxes jammed in the undercarriage of every passenger vehicle in the Tunnel.


    2. McGinn has my vote.

      Thank you for your series of responses here on the ORCA fiasco.

  6. Damn. Meant Ed Murray, not Mike McGinn, who is obviously innocent of everything!

    Any way to put an editing after clicking feature in here? Will vote for whoever can.


  7. Ken, the reason I’m agreeing with asdf2, and that I’ve been buying monthly passes at all , is that from my point of view, when my credit card comes out of the fare machine, Sound Transit has every cent the law requires to allow me transit rides for a month.

    The main thing I want our of my pass is complete and total relief from constant worry about being ticketed for not paying my fare. As I understand the reason I have to tap the at all is to help apportion revenue among separate agencies.

    The card reader system is an accounting assist, with which two decades’ record proves I’m glad to comply. However, the system has a built-in difficulty. If you lose track of the number of times you’ve tapped, your last entry on boarding will appear to a fare inspector as a “Tap Off”.

    (It is true that the fare readers sound a different note for each kind of tap, and also screen reading “Permit to Travel” for boarding, and “Fare Paid” amount when getting off. Conditions of modern rapid transit at most critical points of the ride, nobody’s got time to listen or look. )

    Sooner of later, you get a reading indicating you’re not paying for the ride you’re now taking. First instance: public ID-check and photograph and a warning. Next one, a $124 fine. For FARE EVASION. Which the record of my money in Sound Transit’s account renders a God Damned Stinking Lie.

    I’m on a fixed income. $124 is the pair of shoes I need right now. Or the new pair of jeans I also need. I don’t deserve to have to do without either over an honest mistake that cost the system no money whatever. No commercial business in the world would call in the law to on a customer who’d left a payment at the wrong register.

    At the co-op grocery store, if I don’t have my membership card, the cashier will use my phone number to verify. By rights, a fare inspector should be able to check, not photograph my ID, to verify I’ve got a monthly pass. Which for a monthly pass worthy of the term, is all he or she needs to know.

    So meantime, before my first ride any day, I buy a paper day pass, often attaching it to my ORCA card, both for DSTT bus transfers and LINK, with which I try my best to cooperate. The extra couple dollars- nothing. At least, unlike the $124 fine, goes to transit itself. But main thing:

    My ORCA card can be State’s evidence. The paper ticket is blanket immunity from a charge of fare evasion. One more hassle and I’ll give the whole $124 to Bob Hasegawa and start my campaign to get Elected to the new Board. Since Jenny Durkan is against that, it’ll be two birds with one check.


    Bad enough going to Shoreline to get fined. Don’t want to spend the night in a prison van across the street waiting to get put into detention for Fare Evasion because there’s no place to park it at Angle Lake.


  8. More on sidewalks:

    Seattle north of 85th was annexed from King County over 70 years ago. The city has had seven decades to install sidewalks in North Seattle, and still mostly that has not happened.

    Can someone give me some historic perspective on why this is not a point of civic shame; why it has not been or isn’t currently a grade-A scandal?

    My home town of Rapid City SD floated a bond to install sidewalks, curb and gutter everywhere they weren’t in place. This happened in the early-mid ’80s.

    1. When the streets were built in the early 1900s they lacked sidewalks in order to preserve the rural ambience of the area. It’s an age-old controversy whether Seattle implicitly promised sidewalks in the annexation agreement. There’s apparently no written promise anyone has found. But it occurred at a time when the city was installing sidewalks in recently-annexed southeast Seattle, so some north enders assumed they would get the same. But it’s not that surprising that it hasn’t. Adding sidewalks to every residential block would be an enormously huge cost, and that would have to come out of tax increases or cutting other programs, and which other things would the city not do in order to build the sidewalks? Since then some sidewalks have been installed as arterials were maintained or upgraded, and some programs like 2015’s “Safe Routes to School” in Move Seattle target sidewalk-ifying certain strategic corridors.

      I look at the streets around 100th Street and 3rd Ave NW and I can’t believe sidewalks weren’t considered important originally… it reminds me of our former house on Vashon Island on a gravel road. Not a house I’d want to buy in a Seattle context. But at the same time the residential streets have so little traffic that I didn’t mind walking in the road. However, I understand that on arterials and with little kids it can be more dangerous to walk in the road.

    2. When I bought my house (back in 1985) the most important feature was to have a sidewalk and curb in front of the house. I say most important because without them, I would look no further. If I am living in one of the biggest cities in the country, “rural farm delivery” mailboxes and ditches on the property along the roadway are unacceptable. You laugh at my reasoning, but so be it. I found a house just south of NW 85th Street and have been happy in it these past 32 years.

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