28 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Opening Day on North Bay’s SMART Train”


    “What happens if I forget to ‘Tag On or Tag Off?’

    It is important to remember to tag on and off when boarding or departing the train. This is how the system properly calculates the cost of your fare. If you forget to tag on or off, the system, you will be charged the full rate for all zones.”

    Question my attorney is going to ask the County Prosecutor up in Shoreline if I get fined? “Show me the figures how much their policy loses them, compared to how much ours gains us?” Might also request location or page number Warning One that a missed “Tap Off” can criminalize a legit “Tap On.”

    Am I right that the disproportionate fine – same criminal charge and amount as for willful theft of service-is only because courts won’t enforce anything less? Been told transit only gets $4 of the money. Rest is just to be sure we can be punished.

    Well, back atcha. It’s worth extra cost of paper All Day pass every time I first board LINK for a day’s travel. A $124 fine will buy fifteen adult paper passes. And after last incident ruined a badly-needed beautiful evening’s ride, peace of mind is worth every extra dime. Call it Theft insurance. Or a real pre-paid pass.

    Still carry ORCA card for buses and Sounder. In same plastic card-holder with my ORCA P.O.P. Lawfully leaving the system without the information it’s been begging for, and also being forced to explain why it can internally apportion paper card revenue, but not electronic plastic.

    So each in our own way, the fare system and I now believe and practice same principle. Do what I tell you or it will cost you, no matter how much my action costs me. Deal?

    Mark Dublin

    1. Mark, I am sorry you got hassled by Sound Transit fare enforcement. It seems to eventually happen to all of us if we ride enough.

      The fare enforcement division could keep stats on sufficient-pass riders who merely mistapped, and do a statistical extrapolation. Metro fare enforcement could do likewise. There is no need to treat their best customers so rudely, to risk having the Attorney General throw the book at them for theft, and to do so with so little money to gain, as you point out.

      I talked to a friend of mine who had a full pass, missed tapping, and was told to get off the train. He refused. The train waited an hour for police to come escort him off. He showed the pass. The police said the FOEs were wrong, and that he could continue. This happened one of the first days of revenue service. His story confused me because the ST police would have been instructed to forcibly remove him from the train. But whatever. I didn’t have time to ask him about that detail.

      Any jury exercising common sense will look at these stories and side on the side of anyone suing Sound Transit. Judges might be another matter. If you take ST to small claims court, you might be doing them a big favor by forcing them to remove a policy that amounts to hourly own goals on Sound Transit’s part. I would gladly provide testimony in your favor. It is the least I can do after all your years of thankless service.

      1. It is still theft if you don’t pay, I’m not sure why this so complicated to figure out when it involves transit

      2. I’m really amazed that there aren’t different tones for tapping on and tapping off. That’s a user experience fail!

        Much of the hassle that o hear about is precisely because of this problem. The info screens are hard to read in the sunlight and aren’t angled upward so a user can read them. Other people are often waiting to also tap so there isn’t often time to log nager and read the screen.

      3. Missed this Brent, but many thanks for warning I’m behaving as if I’m walking away angry, unthanked, and unjustly warned. Not sure if Charleton Heston is still alive, but either way, the part’s his.

        On aggravations like this, nobody owes me anything. Just the opposite- which accounts for the fury. Because this system has been something so fiercely of mine for all these years, I’ve got extra responsibility to bring it up to its own personal best, and ready to keep itself there til the trumpets sing the last ST-!

        But this particular matter also touches some major chords of mine. History’s word to a rebel: The more justified a revolution’s cause, the more its only chance to survive the night, let alone liberate anyone, is if the first rebel boots on the ground are on the feet of the world’s best peace officers.

        To me, strong, intelligent, competent, decisive authority is people’s only chance for personal freedom. Killing the tyrant is the easy part. His own people often do it for you. Best chance at his job. So winning a democratic revolution is not about destroying an establishment, but replacing it with one that works.

        It really throws me off the handle to see authority handled in ways that bring itself and its organization ridicule and disgrace. And any circumstance, any uniform any place, Cruelty in office hundred percent deserves Nuremburg with more rope.

        Regime change-wise “Tap Crap” rates as a communicable swamp disease that itches more than it hurts. Though $124 isn’t average tip I leave. But itching distracts, and scratching infects. So here are some ice cubes and calamine lotion.

        Full pass, Month or Day? Fare Inspector just needs to see that it’s loaded and you’ve got it. Tapped or not. But for the record-keeping that requires tracking taps, I think passengers will voluntarily tap their cards and do much else if they see this as their own chance to participate in running the system.

        Leave the registers where they are, though improve the screens. Vast majority already tap the cards by habit and for fun, not out of fear of fines. Watch children stand on tiptoe and climb the pole to be the one to push the button or tap the card. And stand there and yell if Dad walks away without tapping.

        Since Business Models are the in thing, ask any Special Events firm whether maybe intimidation and fines work better. Unless staff walk around in high boots and black leather and carry whips, you won’t get the job.


      4. Something is wrong when an agency treats its strongest supporters as undesirables. We’re the ones who are most likely to get fined and banned from the system, simply because we use it the most and therefore have the most opportunities to forget to tap, to listen to the beep and forget to read the screen, and to be fare-inspected. There’s also the persistent unease of “Did I remember to tap? Should I go back upstairs and tap twice more to make sure? Did the card register the tap properly?” An agency shouldn’t make normal transit riding a traumatic experience. If even those who dilligently try to always pay the fare and sometimes buy a pass they won’t get full value of and sometimes put an extra couple dollars in the farebox as a donation to transit service get caught in this dragnet (even if you’re not cited but just worry about it), how much more so for everyone else?

        The agencies are already getting extra money from people who never use up the e-purse before they lose the card or die, or it stops working and they pay another $5 fee to replace it and transfer the balance.

        How many ST boardmembers and staff and councilmembers and their families have forgotten to tap, or tapped off thinking they were tapping on? Or do they have special status so they don’t have to and are immune from citations? If they aren’t, I bet few of them can say they’ve forgotten zero times.

        And put the card readers in the line of sight! In front of people, at eye level, with a fake doorway around it in lieu of a turnstyle. That’s the way to minimize forgotten taps. Half the time I forget it’s because the readers are on the side out of sight, like at Beacon Hill station, Kent Sounder station, etc. The other half of the time it’s because the tapon and tapoff sounds are identical and I don’t think to bend down and read the message. Since I know this is prone to happen sometimes I check on another reader, but that’s another thing non transit-fans don’t know about doing.

  2. And wish there was virtual red pencil here: Clear plastic card holder perfect fir for plastic ORCA card and cardboard All Day pass. Total win-win-winner any way you look at it.


  3. Still on fare obsession mode:

    The highest (5-zone) fare on SMART is $11.50. You pay with Clipper (and the card is free once you set up auto-reload). The amount you spend on SMART is capped at $23 per day.

    It is down my litany of complaints about the fare system, but I wonder why you can’t just download a full-length all-day pass on Link without starting your ride at UW or Angle Lake.

    Having to navigate the day-pass mess, instead of having a one-size-fits-all full-length day pass, has caused seriously long queues at SeaTac Airport Station TVMs, and other stations on game days. I think people would be willing to pay a little more to have the option to ride all the way up to UW and all the way down to Angle Lake.

    Putting the full-length day pass on ORCA (or at least having the option) would remove one more of Metro’s objections to getting rid of the undead paper transfers.

    Oh, shoot, I forgot about that $5 fee to get the card. Darn it. Sane fare implementation is foiled again.

  4. Open thread, open randomness… Seattle bus drivers are unusually helpful people. Thanks to the Metro driver that made my life easier by letting me off closer to where I was going, in a place where there isn’t a bus stop, but where he believes there ought to be one. No further details, wouldn’t want anyone getting into trouble — I think there are enough places this could apply to that it’s sufficiently vague.

    1. After certain number of years driving, especially on very familiar routes with very little traffic, a driver will trust his or her own skill and judgement as to where it’s safe for a passenger to get off.

      Understand, though, that if you fell and got hurt, the fact that the driver had stopped outside a zone could very well get them fired.

      If you really need an out-of-zone stop, nothing to lose by asking the driver. But just understand all the considerations.


      1. This was actually suggested by the driver; I was planning to walk the rest of the way or go look for a share-bike. It’s definitely a judgment call and I think his was reasonable in that case. At a busier time of day it would have been a different story.

  5. Poncho, who exactly is talking about refusing to pay? Brent and I are talking about someone with a full prepaid monthly pass, who forgets to tap “off” a train he already validated his fare by tapping onto when he boarded.

    What happens next is that when he taps the card reader to board the next train- boarding is the only tap the printed rules mention- the system reads it as a tap-off, which the inspector reads as a violation. Fare inspectors note your ID and give you a warning first time. Not sure how many you’re allowed.

    Like most of the rules about this system, only one the public hears about is penalty for not tapping on. I’ve heard, and personally verified that if you don’t tap off, first tap reads good for two hours. Not sure if inspectors can read a change of direction. Or if it’s illegal.

    We don’t know how many passengers actually pay the $124 for trying to tap on after missing a tap off- which jeopardy is not mentioned anywhere,

    My guess is increasingly fewer as average income and education rises. As Brent notes, first fine to anybody who can afford both the fine contests it, especially on YouTube and Twitter, first thing that’ll probably happen is that all Fare Inspectors will need to see is that pass is valid, and you’re entitled to it.

    In other words, to consider the electronic plastic to be shiny cardboard. The way passes worked very well for years before ORCA. We used to have yearly passes too. But in addition to avoiding deferred maintenance on my personal reputation, Brent and I both see constant slowing of transit operations.

    Not sure of cost of one lost minute of operating time. Have heard $100 and hour for buses, more for trains. So coldly, ridership explosion when first train left UW Station makes lost operating time as passenger double-checks “tap”- on or off never made clear on screen- an unacceptable financial loss, let alone unaffordably antagonizing paying customers.

    However, have heard that on some systems in Russia, your fare is inspected by all of your fellow passengers if they suspect bad citizenship. So far, our Fare Inspectors are not allowed to whack anybody with their purse. Though they’re uniformed as if they can handle violation by putting phasers on “Inspect.”
    Before matter-transmitting persistent cheat to rush hour in St. Petersburg.

    Trust me, connections are really bad getting back.


  6. I like the several restored stations on the SMART line. It’s great to see rail station design that represents are sense of timeless, village architecture (historic like these or modern) rather than a glass box or worse yet a mere platform with modest shelters as the entire station design.

    I also like the train cars. They seem to be a nice blend of a typical light rail car with a typical longer-distance rail coach car. The tables are a nice touch!

    With periodic single-tracking and self-propelled trains, it’s much cheaper to build these systems per mile than to build a light rail system. Granted that this trackway was already available and had been discussed for restored passenger rail for at least 30 years, so that the innovation of using it isn’t particularly novel. Still, it’s too bad that the ST approach is to promote so much light rail, when we could have had either a lower cost ST3 or a much ore expansive ST3 with vehicles and track like these.

    1. Al S., every tool has its use. In their heyday, trains like these could nowhere near reach the loads, speeds, and headways served by LINK and its like.

      Though in those very days, many of the areas these lines ran were also very well served by the Interurbans. If LINK ran more small-town streetcar track, that’s what it would also be called.

      For new rail lines now, ever fewer settings where lines like SMART could even run. Greater Puget Sound Region looks too much more like Los Angeles than Marin County to be able to host this style of train. Of course such lines exist here.

      But if you don’t remember it, look up the Dinner Train that used to run between Renton and Woodinville. I’ve personally written in favor of transit interests buying some residential land close to spur railroads like this, as proof that if new village suburbs can automatically have cars built into them, same should go for rail.

      Light rail wasn’t a sadly-mistaken choice. SMART could never give us the speed and capacity we need. But there’s also no reason we can’t resurrect parts of older railroads. It’s not either-or.


  7. To the current/former Metro bus drivers here: What are the circumstances, if any, in which the driver can request that a passenger exit the bus? Stuff like vagrancy, panhandling, spitting, smoking, I assume. But what about things that aren’t explicitly illegal?

    For example, I was on a southbound RR-E a few days ago and a woman got on with a large trash bag filled with something that reeked of urine. The smell filled the bus and solidly ruined everyone’s morning. Could someone have asked the driver to remove her just for smelling bad?

    1. Pat, it works much better all around, and is also in the drivers’ rule book, that if someone needs to be removed for any reason, driver calls Control for the police. Who themselves won’t ever come into a situation like that alone

      If it were still me, I’d let everybody who wanted to leave get off at next stop. On a RapidRide line, not much hardship. So maybe best path to a cure is to extend RR to the State Capitol and give the legislators enough free rides to get them in the passenger habit.

      Hundred percent certain they’d see first-hand results of their work and its lack. PA reminder as they leave, in a hurry… “My passengers told me to ask if you can’t get the mental health funding out of Committee?”


      1. Most rides I have taken on the E-line have not been very pleasant. Nor rapid. That line is nothing but the old 358 wearing different clothes. I wish there was a local line such as the old 6 that would serve the local Aurora traffic — the number of stops could then be cut in half on the E-line, so that it can truly earn the Rapid title, making it a true Shoreline express. Use Swift as an example. Swift is great!

      2. When Metro first proposed RapidRide it said it would be like Swift. But when Initiative 695 slashed Metro’s revenues, it decided it couldn’t afford limited-stop overlays with local shadows, so it ended up being these in-between routes instead.

        In Snohomish County’s case, the Swift lines function like poor man’s light rail, since Snoho can’t afford multiple Link lines. So Snoho prioritizes limited-stop routes out of necessity.

    1. “regardless of the technology used, the most important characteristic of the new system will be travel time”

      Finally, somebody understands this. I don’t believe their “one-hour” goal is necessary (two or three hours is sufficient), but at least they’re looking at it the right way: the impact on people’s trips and lives, not some abstract technological feature.

      “Key attributes would include the following: Trip Time, High Frequency Service”

      Yep, got priorities 1 and 2 right.

      “They also will look at potential routes that could connect Seattle and Spokane.”


      “eventually extend south to Portland, Eugene and even California”

      We really need to have Portland-Bellingham as a fallback in case the international border nixes the Seattle-Vancouver line or supporesses ridership too much to make it practical. The paper doesn’t even mention this risk, even though it mentions other risks. I used to go to Vancouver every month but I stopped partly because of the tiresomeness of dealing with the border guards and the uncertainty each time of whether I’d be facing a waving through, long questioning, turning away or banning. When the reaction to 9/11 made it worse I decided it wasn’t worth it anymore. And the current administration is making the US even less attractive for non-Americans to visit. All that could eliminate a third or half of the potential ridership right there. The European HSR corridors cited in the paper are within one country, so they don’t have this factor. Plus they’re building on an existing strong investment in rail transit and HSR, whereas in this case it would be the “first one” for most of the US, so it better not fail merely because the international issues couldn’t be worked out, and it would be foolish to make it so dependent on them.

      “A two track high speed guideway can reliably support 6 8 trains per hour in each direction. This would mean a train connecting Seattle and Vancouver every 10 15 minutes, with some operating as non stop express and others stopping at Everett and Bellingham.”

      Um, which existing HSRs are that frequent? My impression is they run a few times a day, or hourly at most.

      I support this study because they’re doing it, and hopefully something good will come out of it even if it’s not 100% HSR on Seattle-Vancouver with extensions to Portland and Spokane. Maybe it will at least move the ball forward and get the state and province to prioritize improving Cascades and commuter rail and study a Seattle-Spokane route.

      1. Is HSR the same thing as Japanese suburban bullet trains? I thought HSR was intercity trains like Eurostar and Thalys and the ones crossing France and Spain.

      2. Mike, the “bullet train” is intercity. Tokyo-Osaka is the world’s first true dedicated high speed rail system, opened in the 1960s. The distance between the two cities is the same as Vancouver BC-Portland, about 300 miles. The express trains only make six stops, serving only the five largest cities, but they run the most frequently. The locals serve 17 stops but run hourly or less frequently.

  8. SMART seems more like Sounder than like Link–a commuter rail, though one which doesn’t go to the core downtown.

    1. It is commuter rail. It runs in a heavy rail corridor and has Sounder-like trains. (Somebody will probably tell me why they’re not like Sounder.) The schedule is 16 trips weekdays between 4am and 10pm (30-90 minute freq, with a 3-hour gap around noon), and 5 trips weekends between 10am and 10pm (1-4 hour freq). The southern station is in downtown San Rafael. “For SMART riders using a Clipper card, free shuttle service to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal is available as part of your SMART fare via Golden Gate Transit Route 31.” The Larkspur ferry goes to San Francisco. A Larkspur station is “fully funded and … expected to be completed in 2018.”

Comments are closed.