22 Replies to “Podcast #91: Now more than ever”

  1. I should start calling it the “QanonWhy14andNot15Minutes?” conundrum. Something “Everybody Else Just Knows So Mark Flake Off!” It’s not even in “Connect 2020.” Question being:

    After 17 years of threatening passengers with a serious criminal fine for a card-handling-mistake on a fully pre-paid monthly ORCA pass, why hasn’t a single robbed and slandered passenger, or their parents, filed a character-defamation lawsuit to restore both the passenger’s good character and Sound Transit’s?

    Might be State Senator Hasegawa’s kind of thing. His office is in my neighborhood, but since I’m not Bob’s voter, he’s busy. And main reason I can’t make a friend of any of my enemy’s (Sound Transit’s call, not mine!) enemies is that the rest of them believe that school-children are just another form of a homeless person who need to just top stealing taxpayers’ money by riding empty buses.

    My own best-guess? To save their own personal and professional honor, for seventeen years, fare inspectors and the court have been citing and fining only those they know are guilty. Can somebody prove that isn’t true? Meantime, thanks, guys!

    Would also definitely like to include both Transportation Choices Coalition and the Transit Passengers’ Union in a political effort to rewrite that rule into a trash bin at IDS. Always believed that Governor Lowry was right at that Breakfast: any cause or candidate with student campaign workers on their side, can swing any election in the State. Let’s do it.

    Mark Dublin

    1. From my perspective, the fare enforcement officers have been ignoring clear-and-obvious proof of pre-payment for just 11 years (2009-2020). Maybe I’ve travelled around the sun backward too many times.

      Granted, it took ST 10 of those 11 years to figure out that having the same sound for tap-on as for tap-off was a problem. It suggests there aren’t that many Link riders working at ST, and certainly in the fare enforcement division. More importantly, it suggests the decision-makers at ST don’t read this blog.

      The double-tap will help reduce mis-taps, but it won’t stop forgetting to tap or not having time to tap.

      Erica Barnett certainly had to pay a fine, despite holding a monthly pass, and she let the world know it. Unfortunately, it did not cover the longest-possible trip on Link. That’s one more reason I’m not a fan of distance-based fares on Link.

      It is just a matter of time before someone with a free pass that ST has voluntarily offered to count as full payment on all ST services gets a warning and threat of fine from and FEO.

  2. A few thoughts:

    a) Not the best answer, but a surefire decent answer why the KC Metro measure is on pause. At least the door is open. I’m not too trusting of Seattle voters but that’s what the region is dependant on.

    b) I sincerely appreciate TCC’s engagement on fare enforcement reform. We can’t go fare free without replacing $100,000,000~ in annual revenue for Sound Transit but there are some sensible, thoughtful things that can be done.

    c) I agree with Alex, the feds need to step in here and relieve the financial strains on transit. Thanks Alex for coming on!

    1. The council said the reason is they don’t have resources to draft the legislation and prepare the ballot measure now: its focus is on the Covid-19 response, everybody’s working at home, it’s unrealistic to hold committee meetings or public hearings, and anyway they’re busy dealing with the virus.

      For transit fans it’s a mixed impact. On the one hand we want King County to go big on transit and build the network we should have done thirty years ago. On the other hand. August was a bad time for a successful vote because liberals only vote in presidential elections so the most supportive part of the electorate is absent in August, and there’s not enough time after August to draft a Seattle measure in November if it fails. And it might have failed anyway no matter what we did, as the last to countywide Metro measures did. The absence of the county measure gives Seattle room to plan a measure that meets Seattle’s needs in November. And any other city could do likewise. Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland should coordinate a joint measure for their part of Metro Connects. South King County is probably a lost cause because it always votes no, saying it can’t afford more transit taxes. Although Kent or Auburn might be able to pull it off, at least for their local service. (Maybe not the Seattle-Kent-Auburn express.)

  3. Being a very small company, Intercity Transit’s calculation that tax money can effectively replace cash fares might nowhere near fit our needs.

    Funny, though could be a “Former Little Boy” thing. I sort of miss metal change and the machinery invented to handle it. One farebox used to spin your silver around in a glass vase before jingling it into the box. Another had a steel wheel with a little wood handle that the driver had to crank.

    But more important: a plastic ORCA card pre-loaded with a monthly pass renders me neither a customer nor a supplicant, but an active participant in an excellent transit system that I helped build and still own. Really did computer-design a reflectivized hand-held card-holder to “hail” an approaching bus or train with the flash of its own headlights.

    In designing for humans, and especially transit passengers, for fares, seats, or vehicle-controls, sense of push-back against touch really outranks eyesight.

    But for rules, and especially for young clientele meaning stroller or back-pack to Senior pass, sense of participation is a lot more compulsive than threat of penalty. Not kidding about giving the admonitory little “Seathog” a fuzzy littermate in an Inspector’s uniform called a “Tapmunk.” Who cries to be comforted when somebody messes up a “tap.” Transit animals have a dating-scene too.

    Suggestion either cost-free or tolerable: Campaign of posted and video persuasion to children to be sure their elders “tap off.” Would suggest special handouts to girls, though by sad experience aboard the Peter Witt cars in Chicago…..


    Most would rather do a Citizen’s Arrest.

    Mark Dublin

  4. Last week I saw this one homeless fixture in the local area board a free Metro bus with 2 people on it and then sit directly across from one of those two passengers.

    Today I saw the same homeless individual pacing at the same bus stop. He then made eye contact and waved to the operator. What did the operator do? Didn’t even slow down. Just left him at the curb.

    In this particular case it was a wise decision by the operator.

      1. Since the collapse of the housing market in 2008, a lot of people have never gotten back the houses they lost through no fault of their own. And still kept on working. Read about a woman supervisor who brushes her teeth in the same mirror she uses to back out of the drive when she leaves for work.

        Being lucky enough to afford a private medical plan, I’ve had a fair amount of conversation with my doctors over the last few weeks. My monthly dues, I don’t think there’d be any fiscal strain for the Federal Government to offer similar coverage for less money, though I might well stick with mine.

        One thing they won’t give me, though: a COVID-19 test. Two days ago, I had to cancel work for an employee of mine because I’ve got no way to prove I won’t infect her and her two kids. Can I have the address of the clinic where you got yours?

        Whatever income I’ve got right now, given tonight’s figures, how much do you think my bank would be willing to loan me for a home? So tell me: who’s on their way to order me rounded up and placed in a camp for the rest of the world’s protection and safety?

        And given this exact global pandemic, tell me why the world should not demand a pretty stiff certificate from a really trustworthy clinic for you to have the freedom to roam and not be placed in a shelter that’ll keep the rest of us safe from you.

        Mark Dublin

    1. Curious, Lazarus. In the general realm of fixtures- faucets? lighting? plumbing? how do you tell if any of them have a home or not? Maybe the one you saw was exactly where it lived. Any chance its address plate was just bolted to the other side of it?

      Did either of the two passengers last week express any discomfort – including approach the driver and demand more room? And if you sensed a threat to them, did you note your vehicle number, location, and direction of travel while you got off and called the police?

      Has Metro got any notices posted instructing in Social Distance spacing? Might be worth a call to your County Councilmember. Councilwoman Claudia Balducci, I believe chairs the Sound Transit Board too.

      Good chance that the driver had already formed same opinion of the fixture as yours. But another thought: if the fixture had recently lost the job that had previously fed its family after ten years of good service through no fault of its own, how about either a loan for another house, or the government housing program you’ll certainly push your Congressman for when it happens to you?

      Either way, commendations are always appreciated. Have you sent yours in?

      Mark Dublin

    2. How did you know this individual was homeless? Do they carry a sign stating as much? What in this particular case makes you say this was a wise decision? Are you advocating mass transit excluding all homeless people from riding? If not, what is the standard you use to determine fitness to use a piece of public infrastructure?

      1. This particular homeless individual has been a fixture in the neighborhood for several years. And he has been a problem for many of those years. But even if you didn’t know his history, a casual observer could tell at a glance that he is a ticking time bomb and doesn’t belong on a metro bus.

        However, I’m not the one who made the decision to pass him by. That decision was made by the Metro operator. I had no input, but I think it was the right decision.

        Homelessness is a problem, and there are a lot of good people who are trapped in homelessness, but there are also those who have extreme problems with mental health and/or drug addiction. This individual belongs in the latter category.

        If we were a more human society we would involuntarily institutionalize individuals like this particular one. But we are not a human society.

      2. Are you saying you can tell if someone is homeless, a drug user, and/or mentally I’ll by sight alone? Why haven’t you been using this superpower for the greater good?

        Involuntary institutionalization of the chronically homeless who decline available shelter space is both possible under Seattle law (Durkan signed legislation) and not the panacea you seem to think it is. One is billed for involuntary institutionalization upon release. This would mire the chronically homeless in debt, preventing them from getting homes to rent. The rate of mental illness in the homeless population is also vastly overstated, as is the rate of drug use.

        Your humane society solution is neither humane nor a solution.

      3. This particular individual has lived in the area for several years now. He is known in the community, and he has severe problems.

        The Metro operator was right to pass him by. And, again, I did not make that decision. The operator did. If you don’t like operators making decisions like that, then take it up with Metro. I am not involved, but I do agree with the operator.

      4. If I had the bus number, route number, date, and time I would absolutely file a complaint with Metro.

        How do you know he has severe problems? Are you his therapist, or a therapist in general?

  5. re podcast
    we hope social distancing and recession end, and busy transit returns.

    on fare enforcement, the unstated need is for both ST and Metro to use proof of payment fare collection and all door boarding and alighting on more, if not all service. of course, fare enforcement should be humane. transit needs to be faster and more reliable to be attractive. now, the agencies only use POP on branded routes. SF Muni uses it on all routes; so does Paris RTP and in many transit resilient cities. yes, fare inspection has a cost; but slow service has a higher cost. ST seems to waiting to brand Stride to use POP; but really, could they not have branded many of their routes years ago (e.g., routes 522, 545, and 550).

    North Eastside restructure. Frank overstated the restructure. only Route 255 was reoriented to the UW Link station. routes 252, 257, 268, 311, and 545 will extend to and from downtown Seattle via the I-5 general purpose lanes. the reorientation made sense in 2016; each year, before social distancing, I-5 got slower and the reorientation made more sense. that the agencies led with the downtown constraint was a flawed approach. it made sense without that. in 2021, Link will have four-car trains and room for the SR-520 market.

    enforcement of the courageous SDOT notion for the low level bridge is the key. SPD may need to help. it will be hard to distinguish between an SOV oriented to Harbor Island from one oriented further. if SDOT succeeds, it make work pretty well for transit.

    1. I expect ridership to decline for all of 2020 and most of 2021. Tech companies will move to permanent remote and there will be some population and employment lost. Metro and Sound Transit will need to re-evaluate the new normal to define needs. It could very well mean less frequent routes in some corridors.

    2. I agree with all of your points, eddie. It is also worth noting that in 2021, the connection to the UW gains value, with riders heading towards Roosevelt and Northgate.

      I expect ridership to decline for all of 2020 and most of 2021.

      Yeah, probably. It will take a while for the virus to end, but it is highly likely it will take at least a year from now to get back to normal (https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-social-distancing-over-back-to-normal/608752/). It is possible that things will be similar to where they were the first few weeks. School might be open, along with more businesses, but you still can’t go to a crowded restaurant, and businesses are still encouraged to have employees work from home. Transit ridership will be low as a result. The earliest you can expect a full rebound is probably some time in 2022. I don’t think there will be any permanent loss of ridership, though. Transportation is a fundamental desire (if not need) and public transportation is an efficient way to move people.

      Of course a lot depends on what happens politically. Transit agencies (especially big ones, that are dependent on fare revenue) are getting hammered. If they don’t receive aid, then transit will likely suffer, as cities struggle just paying for the basics (police, etc.). The opposite could happen, though, and a Democratic wave could sweep the country, and a “Green New Deal” could be part of a much needed stimulus bill.

    3. It’s useless to predict what will happen. We don’t know when the virus will peak, when there will be a vaccine or treatment, or even when we’ll have enough test kits or ventalators. We may be in a partial shutdown for the rest of the year and into next year. Probably not as total as the current stay-at-home order because the economy can’t survive that long, and shoes and clothes and appliances will wear out and need to be replaced so the stores will have to reopen. But enough to reduce transit ridership and trivial trips. This could last two months, or a year, we don’t know.

      We also don’t know how companies and consumers will respond when things reopen. The transit agencies will certainly have a severe crash in a few months if there’s no cash infusion. Permanent telework may become more common but I doubt it will become the majority even at tech companies. They’re the ones most able to, and they’re doing it now, but it’s also hindering effectiveness and collaboration and the background sharing of information that appears to have little benefit at the time but it generates future ideas. The future will be some mixture of factors we know and don’t know now, in unexpected proportions.

      For transit demand, the line from our pre-epidemic service to our planned expansions, with a deviation for post post-epidemic ridership changes, isn’t the only line. Another line is how much transit a city and metro of our size should have, based on cities that do it more effectively (Toronto, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Paris). Transit should be comprehensive enough and frequent enough to meet most people’s trip needs and be competitive with driving. That benefits not just riders but the rest of the city and the economy and the environment. We’re way below that, and Metro Connects is only a partial solution. Even if long-term transit ridership is less than estimated due to more teleworking, more social-networking, and fewer trivial trips, the optimal amount of transit will still be significantly more than we had pre-epidemic. Maybe some service can shift from peak expresses to baseline frequency, but that was being planned anyway, as the 255 and 250 are examples of.

  6. eddiew, seventeen years ago ORCA gifted us with a fare system issuing a month’s, or a year’s prepaid transportation. Proved with one move on a Fare Inspector’s instrument.

    Straight into the hands of a brillo-pad of agencies with the sharing skills of a four year old brat, whose campaign claim of an “Integrated” fare system just about made the civil rights movement find another word.

    Resulting in a regimen whose text wouldn’t fit walls or ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Which leveled a Fare Evasion charge on a fully pre-paid pass, for a mistake using a card-reader. Delivering rules whose chief cause of violation is its own complete incomprehensibility.

    “Distance fares.” Leave wrong-taps unpunished and you’ll have to overcharge for other runs. Am I wrong that Portland handles this undamaged? Or am I just heartlessly anti-System to expect a CEO with a six-figure income plus bonuses to be able to handle internal accounting?

    It’s night time. Everything is peaceful. So anybody distressed by my intransigence, get comfortable, and still, and listen:

  7. Good news, Frank: you don’t need your ORCA right now. Ride all the transit you want for free!

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