Riders line up to pay (image: Lizz Giordano)

King County Metro is embarking on a process to phase out on-board cash payments.

Details are so far limited, pending discusssions with stakeholders. A briefing to the King County Council Budget and Fiscal Management Committee noted the discontinuation of on-board cash fares would happen in concert with the launch of the subsidized annual pass program and the planned launch of Next Generation ORCA by early 2023. Metro will engage with community stakeholders later this year and early next year to develop a plan.

The subsidized annual pass program offers free fares on all Metro services but Vanpool, and is available to recipients of several means-tested programs. The full launch of that program was announced yesterday. (Sound Transit is running a similar program on a pilot basis). It’s favorable to reducing cash use because lower income riders have historically preferred not to prepay for ORCA media.

Next Generation ORCA allows smart-phone payment and private bankcard payment, so that paying fares becomes easier for infrequent riders or those without a current balance on their ORCA accounts. The new ORCA cards will be available at a far greater number of retail locations.

Metro’s fareboxes have reached the end of their useful life. As Brent wrote some years ago, this milestone doesn’t mean they are unusable, but they are increasingly costly to maintain. Setting a definite end date for cash payments will mean the cash fareboxes will not need to be replaced.

The proposed budget for 2021-2022 includes a saving of $331,000 by cancelling a study that would have considered whether to replace the fareboxes on Metro buses.

An end to on-board cash payments almost surely means an end to paper transfers, though that will also require adjustments to the human services ticket program.

46 Replies to “Metro prepares for end of cash fares”

  1. Yes! This is great news. This should speed up travel, or at least make it a lot more consistent.

    The next step is to get rid of all on-board payment (like San Fransisco did).

    1. How would that next step work? Hiring fare inspectors for every single bus route across the entire system feels very expensive, and for low-ridership routes, would provide negligible benefit to actual travel times.

      1. The reason that “lower income riders have historically preferred not to prepay for ORCA media” demonstrated itself awhile ago.

        When her brand new “Free” ORCA card got a high school girl threatened with a $124 Fare Evasion charge for a mis-timed “tap.” A consequence described absolutely nowhere in any station the whole length of Link.

        And so complicated as to be inexplicable anyhow, leaving the equally-bewildered Inspectors to sum it up straight out of gangland: “Just tap the ’til it “beeps” right, no matter how many taps that takes, and nobody gets hurt! I mean fined.”

        Bad as I resent losing my KCM and ST voting rights to the Seattle housing market, this morning finds me really proud of the fine little bus line whose management I do elect.

        Whose own balance sheet told them, with economics’ most genuine Conservatism, that cash fares cost more to collect than they deliver.

        Shifting Intercity Transit revenue to the same order of tax that’s financed automobile transportation since before the buggy-whip sockets were even removed from the chain-drive cars.

        So asdf2, just join me in gratitude this morning that whatever any line’s ridership, fact people’s fares have already been paid will always guarantee that schedule performance will be the first thing that, if you catch my meaning, is gonna not get hurt.

        Bad enough that since the pandemic’s onset canceled IT Route 612 Express, my bank account’s car-expenses Chart’s been giving Exxon a lot bigger slice of Pie. Making its stockholders’ weight and blood-sugar my fault too.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Hiring fare inspectors for every single bus route across the entire system feels very expensive

        Not really. You may not see an inspector on a particular bus that often. Fare inspection does not have to be thorough. San Fransisco had to deal with the same issues. The way they handled it is complicated, but they were successful. This report goes into detail on how they were able to handle it: https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/agendaitems/2014/12-2-14%20Item%2014%20All%20Door%20Boarding%20Report.pdf.

        As far as saving travel times, check out the chart of dwell times before and after: https://assets.bwbx.io/images/users/iqjWHBFdfxIU/i738YMIw9oUA/v0/-1x-1.jpg. It is worth noting that this is *per rider*. Of course you would notice it more for trips with lots of riders, but even a low use bus — a bus that only picks up 40 riders for the entire trip — would save over a minute. More importantly, it would be more consistent. This in turn saves money (less float at the end of the trip).

        Just as San Fransisco copied European cities, we would copy San Fransisco. Its not a new idea. It is just that in the U. S., we have a tendency to ignore what other countries are doing, even when they are clearly doing things better. There are numerous examples (South Korea handling the pandemic) but in transit, stop spacing comes to mind (along with off-board payment).

      3. I would also say that in general, getting rid of cash payments is a more radical step. When San Fransisco went “off-board”, you still had to verify payment on the bus (sometimes) and you still had the option of paying cash (https://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/NACTO_Better-Buses_Boarding.pdf). For a rider, it wasn’t much different. If you forget your Clipper Card, you could still pay. The big difference was that the bus driver no longer enforced payments and people just walked on. It seems like it wouldn’t make that much difference, but it did.

      4. As someone who used Clipper on a regular basis while I was in SF, this was how it worked. If you had a Bus pass, you just got the bus without tapping. You only tapped if you were paying from the wallet. MUNI buses had 1 Clipper reader per door, and LRV’s had one every other door.

        Now, while this may sound simple, the truth is that Clipper is even more kafkaesque than Orca. The Bay Area into dozens of pointless little Transit fiefdoms, all with their own stupid quirks in fare policy. The major split was between the “One tap” agencies of MUNI, AC Transit, Samtrans, and VTA, and the “Two tap” agencies of BART, Caltrain, and Golden Gate Transit

      5. If you had a Bus pass, you just got the bus without tapping.

        I assume the same was true on any vehicle. If you have an unlimited pass on that system (e. g. BART) than you don’t need to tap. I think Seattle is one of the few places where they make you tap in that instance.

      6. @RossB: BART doesn’t have unlimited passes for its system, its distance fares only. MUNI’s BART Fast pass will work on the 8 BART in San Francisco county. And IIRC, neither Caltrain or Golden Gate Transit have monthly passes either (because they also have Distance based fares). For the most part, there were no other multi agency monthly passes, with the exception of the one between MUNI and Samtrans, which did not include BART.

        Can you see how absurd this is? I don’t miss it.

      7. Mark,

        If you go back to using ORCA, get caught mis-tapping, and then get fined, I will gladly pay your fine. Or court costs to challenge that ridiculous and unethical practice.

        Just please. Mercy. Let it go.

        ST may have already stopped the practice, but not wanted to tell the world it did so.

      8. @FDW — Interesting. I guess that is how they solve that problem :)

        Our system isn’t any better, from what I can tell. All of the ORCA agencies have “unlimited” monthly passes, but they are based on the value of the fare. That means for Link you still have to tap and untap, otherwise you would exceed your fare limit, and pay extra.

        In both cases I think it gets messy for the same reasons. In the case of the Bay Area, there are a lot of cities and counties in a fairly small area (imagine if Ballard was not only a different city, but a different county). There are bound to be a bunch of different systems.

        But the other part of it is that BART and Link are so long. They are like commuter trains, but also essential for travel within the city. If you took a train from North San Jose to San Fransisco, you think of it as regional rail (and expect to pay accordingly). But if you get on the train at Glen Park and get off at Embarcadero, you think of it like a subway, and wonder why it doesn’t operate like the one in New York (with one fare).

        The part I hate though is where you have to tap for both agencies. The lowest Link fare should match the bus fare. If you go from bus to train, the initial bus should count as the starting point for your train trip. All you have to do is remember to tap off. The big advantage is going the other direction, as you wouldn’t need to tap on the bus. The agencies should be able to figure out how to share the fares.

      9. The Bay Area doesn’t have a shared pass. If your commute requires multiple agencies, you have to buy a pass for each agency, which can double or triple your cost. BART has no unlimited pass, only a discount rate if you buy a lot of miles at once. You can get a BART transfer at the end of your trip, which on AC Transit gives you a round trip and on VTA gives you a one-way trip. I haven’t checked what deal MUNI gives you. These transfers may be as good a deal as a shared pass, but not if you need the pass anyway for non-BART related trips.

        ORCA has a shared pass good on all agencies for a certain fare, with full-value transfers between them. (Except WSF doesn’t accept the shared pass and has its own.) The pass is priced at 44 trips (22 workdays equivalent), and anything after that is free. Before covid I made around 80 trips a month, mostly on Metro but some on ST, and rarely on CT or PT. If I had a Link+Bus or Sounder+bus or mult-county commute I’d pay just the highest fare in the trip. In the Bay Area it would cost a lot more if I commuted on AC+BART+MUNI, or MUNI+Caltrain+VTA, or if I rode BART every day.

        Link costs less than Metro for trips up to Westlake-Rainier Beach. That makes sense because Link’s operating costs fell below Metro’s several years ago, because of the greater capacity of its trains per driver and per unit of energy. It wouldn’t make sense for Link to charge more just so its minimum fare would be as high as Metro’s.

        BART and Caltrain have variable fares because they’re very long and the range between minimum and maximum fare is so wide, $2.10 – $8.35. Or with the SFO surcharge, $13.00. (The longest trip I found is Millbrae – Pittsburg.) ST Express had zone fares but ditched them for a flat fare of $3.25, which is arguably excessive for downtown-Bellevue or downtown-Lake City.

      10. If I’m not mistaken, the Bay Area fares are all separate. It isn’t just the monthly pass. If I get on BART, and then transfer to a bus, I have to pay again (there is no transfer).

        It wouldn’t make sense for Link to charge more just so its minimum fare would be as high as Metro’s.

        Then Metro should lower their fare. The point is, you shouldn’t have to tap to get on a Metro bus if you just got off a Link train. The fares are weird, and an obvious result of their being two agencies. Here Sound Transit is saying they don’t have enough money to run the trains every 10 minutes in the middle of the day, but they keep fares below the buses.

        I suppose there are other options. One would be to put Metro readers next to the readers for the trains. Just about everyone who gets off at Northgate will tap both (one to end their Link trip, one to pay for the bus). Same with Mercer Island.

        You can also follow the San Fransisco model, in that those who have a monthly pass (for the value of a bus ride) don’t have to worry about it. These two idea could be combined. Folks who have monthly passes only have to tap for Link. People (like me) who pay as we go have to tap to end the Link trip, and tap to get on the bus.

        I find this situation especially frustrating since very few people would walk to the station to ride a bus in an attempt to avoid paying a fare. In other words, you wouldn’t need much in the way of enforcement (you could get by with nothing).

      11. “If I get on BART, and then transfer to a bus, I have to pay again”

        There’s a machine at the exit that dispenses a free carboard transfer. You can use it on AC Transit to go from BART and later return, or on VTA for one-way southbound. On VTA you put it in the farebox and pay a bit more and it prints a VTA day pass. I haven’t looked at what MUNI does but it’s probably similar. Since there’s no BART pass, you’re always paying a BART-only e-purse, but you can get a discount transfer to a bus. If you’re starting from a bus there’s no reciprocal discount: you have to pay the full BART fare. If you have a pass for your own agency then you won’t need a transfer, but you can use it to another agency. For instance, I usually get a weekly MUNI pass (a scratch-off cardboard thing) and pay singly on BART, but when I go from San Francisco to San Jose I use my MUNI pass, BART card, and VTA transfer. This was when BART terminated at Fremont so there was a 40-minute long express bus to San Jose. Now that BART goes to eastern San Jose I don’t know what the transfer is like there but I assume it’s the same.

        I don’t get a Clipper card or pass because they’re not available from the BART TVMs; you have to go to a retailer. Since I as a visitor don’t know where the retailers are and don’t want to spend time finding one, and it doesn’t have any passes less than a month, I just use the weekly MUNI pass, a regular BART card, and VTA day passes.

    2. Putting ORCA readers at tens of thousands of bus stops would be astronomically expensive too. In Duesseldorf, which may have been cashless in 1998, passholders didn’t have to scan their card at the bus stop, they just kept it in their pocket for an inspector to see.

      in cities with several subway lines and stations everywhere, there’s usually a station within walking distance where you can refill or obtain a card, and visitors carry subway maps with them so they know where the stations are.

      Paying by credit card would give a larger percent of the fare to a credit card company compared to the ORCA processing overhead. The credit card company doesn’t improve transit in any way; it just gives the money to its shareholders, many of whom are out-of-state.

      Even if there are more ORCA retailers, how is a visitor to know where they are, or how to get to them when they’re unfamiliar with the city? What if they’re in a residential area like the Kent-Kangley Road or 104th or Timberlane where it’s a mile or more walk to a supermarket?

      1. San Fransisco does not have ORCA riders at every stop. So I guess in that sense, they aren’t really “Off-Board”. A better term would be that they use the “fare inspection model”. As I wrote up above, in some ways we are taking a more radical step (https://nacto.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/NACTO_Better-Buses_Boarding.pdf) with a cash-free system. Going to a fare inspection model after this would be an easy step, but a huge improvement, and unlikely to cost much (if anything).

        Essentially there are two costs:

        1) Additional ORCA riders on the bus (in the middle).
        2) Fare inspectors.

        On the other hand, you save money:

        1) Better fare recovery.
        2) Fees.
        3) Faster bus service.
        4) Increased ridership.

        San Fransisco managed to balance this out — the system paid for itself. At worse, we would end up with lower fare recovery by having fewer inspectors (San Fransisco has 54 for their system) or lower fees. The cost would be minimal, but the improvement in speed would be significant.

        As our system transitions from routes like the 41 to shuttles, the fare-inspection model makes more sense. It is crazy to think of the thousands of riders who get off the train, then have to stand in a big long queue just to get on the bus, and tap their card (after they already tapped their card to get on the train). The same is true in Mercer Island. They should just get on the bus.

  2. There had better be hella more places to put money on a card if they do this. There are currently some huge areas with no orca machines in them.

    1. Third paragraph of the article has you covered:

      The new ORCA cards will be available at a far greater number of retail locations.

      I want us to have some form of either flash pass (a day-long paper ticket you can buy from a machine, like the streetcar uses) or very inexpensive disposable tap paper card like some systems in Europe use. Put those machines everywhere, rip out the fare boxes on buses.

      1. Don’t have to look as far away as Europe for examples of single-use paper tap tickets. TransLink uses them (branded as “Compass tickets” compared to the Compass Card) for single trip fares on SkyTrain and SeaBus.

      2. (Wes), ever since that summer evening at Angle Lake, when a Fare Inspector called me a thief because I HAD tapped my valid paid-up ORCA card after re-boarding following dinner at Columbia City after mistakenly NOT “tapping off”, though my boarding “tap” left me more than an hour left to ride had I not re-“tapped” at all…

        I’ve religiously bought a paper All Day ticket with my first Link boarding every single travel day. Makes a lie out the sanctity ST invests in “Distance Fares.” But for the sheer peace of mind, “Donation” is fine with me.

        Age thing, but since my fingers won’t do touch-screens, paper’s still my choice over phones. Though my original Senior ORCA Card is still my Prize Payment Proof.

        IT drivers get a kick out of watching me hold it up into their headlights as they roll into my zone. To me it symbolizes my own authority and ownership over the service I’m boarding.

        Making any Evasion Accusation, morally and legally-in-front of TV cameras next “Warning”, an actionable Matter of Honor. So will be good if when COVID’s OVER, Nevermore will my ride have to kill another tree.

        Been told that next Thursday’s ST Board meeting’s agenda will include some long-overdue changes. Look terrible on Zoom, but it’ll still give me a credible threat to yield my time to Alex Tsimerman if pushed.

        And sad that I can’t ask a Sheriff’s Deputy to escort me out of the Ruth Fisher Room as a Guard of Honor. Looking forward to a pass becoming a pass, ST. Like Fare Inspection says in Star-Fleet, “Make It So!”

        Mark Dublin

  3. Hopefully we can transition to having monthly passes the way Trimet does.

    Once you spend a certain $$ amount per day and a certain $$ amount per month, you are automatically transitioned to the monthly pass.

    No worrying about whether it’s worth it or whether to buy this month.

    1. I was in Portland for 6 weeks for work and it was so nice having a Hop card that lived on my phone. Didn’t have to get my wallet out and it maxed out for me when I rode enough.

      1. Some people can’t imagine leaving the house without their wallet. Others can’t imagine leaving the house without a fully charged phone. I’ve done the latter many times. I’ve got a younger relative who has done the former more than once. Its an age thing.

        Likewise, I’ve known people like M, who have visited from out of town and it is a hassle for them.

        Anyway, the main thing is that you have options. I usually have my ORCA card in my wallet. But on occasion (e. g. after a trip) I forget to put it in there. When I’ve wanted to spontaneously take a bus, I’ve had to pay cash. Being able to pay via a phone would be great.

      2. Not everyone can afford to keep phones that will stay charged for an entire bus ride. And phone manufacturers are constantly pushing more code that eats up batter life, so.

        I for one am never going to rely on a phone transit app to prove I paid my fare.

  4. A sidenote on the fareboxes: CT recently replaced theirs with a no-tech approach. It’s now simply a clear box with a lever that driver pushes to drop the cash into the safe(?). Cash usage on CT has decreased to the point that it no longer justifies the burden of maintaining the machines.

    If Metro goes cashless, then I wonder if CT and PT will follow.

      1. The good old days when they had a little triangle that rotated to show you if it was PAYE, PAYL, or Ride Free. I miss hearing my $.55 off-peak one zone fare falling in.

  5. Not having the cash option is unfortunate for the (admittedly small and continuing to get smaller) subset of people who do not want their whereabouts tracked by yet another system. Yes, I assume that it will still be possible to buy an ORCA pass with cash at a retailer, but there are other ways for that purchase to be correlated to one’s identity even then. And even without that correlation, the fact that a particular card is being used on a particular subset of trips is information which the card (and transit) user is providing for free to the ORCA administrators.

    I am not personally bothered enough to avoid it, and I certainly admit that it _is_ convenient, but I am, in fact, bothered that I am not bothered enough to avoid it. So, if nothing else, I think that acknowledging this inherent trade-off explicitly is important, so that we may one day decide how far this trade-off ought to go.

    And (to allude to something RossB mentioned in a different post), perhaps this is an age thing, too, I know most people younger than me care much less and I may just need to get with the times. Now where’s my cane so I can chase some of those youngsters off my (virtual) lawn… :)

    1. Thank you for bringing this up, AM. I share your dismay at our society’s headlong rush towards a cash-free society at the expense of privacy. People should always have the right to pay by cash.

    2. There are cameras on the bus and ongoing improvements in facial recognition software. You can have privacy. You can have access to public transit. You don’t necessarily get to have both at the same time.

      1. Hi Brent, thank you for your reply.

        I am aware of the facts you noted, yes.

        I am not aware of any lack of need for improved privacy practices, however.

        I might, in fact, go as far as mentioning that I am not aware of any need to be dismissive of needing improved privacy practices. Do you have any insight as to why we should be so cavalier about it?

        I look forward to hearing more.

      2. The smartphones I’ve had lasted a day or two on one charge. I only made a few calls a week and did’t use apps or websites much except OneBusAway, so it was minimal use. Now I have a flip phone and the battery lasts two weeks. Earlier dumbphones I had lasted maybe four days.

        I’m strongly against public services that require smartphones or apps. It should be a choice, not a coersion.

      3. Yes, when you’re traveling in public you don’t have an expectation of absolute privacy. Anyone else who is also traveling in public is free to notice your presence, remember you were there, photograph you, etc. Does this mean that our government should be systematically recording the movements of its citizens? I say no.

        50 years ago the only way anyone would have any record that you rode a particular bus at a particular time is if a human being took the time to make note of it. This was exceedingly rare.

        At some point video cameras became more common, to record evidence of criminal activity that may have happened on the bus. These had a limited recording capacity. Absent a compelling reason to retain the footage following a crime, the tapes were reused and all record of your trip on that bus would be lost to history after a few days.

        Now we have the ORCA system. I can log on to my account online and see exact date/time/route info for trips I took years ago. Why are we storing this data for this long? It would be trivial to program the database to remove all PII from trips more than a few days or weeks old. Why has this not been done? What compelling public benefit is gained by storing this information indefinitely, and how does this benefit outweigh the reduction in privacy compared to a time before this tracking system was implemented? So far I haven’t gotten a compelling answer to these questions.

      4. Cameras are not today’s topic. I’m sorry I brought it up.

        Privacy extremists have long and cavalierly sought to erase a lot of ORCA data that could be used for planning improved routing. For example, if a lot of riders transfer between, say, route 120 and route 161, that would be very useful data for planning future route restructures.

        I don’t know if the agencies know how to farm such data, or if agreements with the privacy extremists have already erased such very useful data, but if that kind of data can be farmed by just the agencies, without disclosing who the actually riders were, I find that to be a compelling reason to allow the agencies to hold onto the data.

        And I think the burden of proving data should not be kept should be on the privacy advocacy groups, and they should be reasonable in not making the transit system less functional or more dangerous to ride.

  6. A system that avoids direct cash use is best and should be the goal.

    That said, Metro has to address the realities of human behavior:

    – Children seem more likely to lose things. Eliminating youth fares seem logical in this context, especially for those under 12 or 13.

    – Those people living on the streets have a tense relationship with bus use. That will need targeted strategies about a new fare payment system. I would leave solutions to the experts daily dealing with this demographic.

    – User training is vital for visitors or new arrivals or car drivers who have no or very infrequent transit riding experience. There are already many videos — but a training effort would seem to be important to be more widespread.

    Are there others?

    1. “– Those people living on the streets have a tense relationship with bus use. That will need targeted strategies about a new fare payment system. I would leave solutions to the experts daily dealing with this demographic.”

      Seems like the easiest solution is the current one – just don’t give them a fine when the fare inspector comes by. Let them ride free.

      As far as tourists, old people, etc., just don’t cite them for non-payment, same as above.

      I expect that fare enforcement will be almost nil, so I think this is a non-issue.

      1. For years, Metro’s fare enforcement amounted to transit officers using failure to pay as an objective offense when escorting unruly riders off the bus for more problematic reasons, which are often more subjective.

        The big problem is getting major employers to continue paying into ORCA Passport. That is half the fare revenue and hopefully the easiest half of the battle. I don’t know what impact lack of strict fare enforcement will have on Passport revenue.

  7. Would there be value to having trial unannounced “next gen buses” in a transition period as a way to roll out a new fare payment method? It’s always best to have a fast changeover, but a gradual one would seem to provide a chance to correct unforeseen technical problems before they become systemwide.

    I don’t know how to test a system, but I could see situations arising — negative account balances, lost connectivity, privacy and links to arrest warrants or visa expirations — that could happen.

    In the film The Visitor, it was a fare payment mechanical problem that resulted in the adversity for a foreign-born character. It’s certainly a relevant parable to the kinds of situations that could emerge.

    1. In 2018 the law was changed. An employer can give an employee up to $260/month towards transit reimbursement, before it counts as income, but the employer can no longer deduct the payments as a business expense, which encouraged employers to eliminate transit subsidies.

  8. AM, the point you raise might finally be what saves our country’s politics from the state of mind that’s going to kill it. Something that’ll unite voters across the spectrum:

    Like a Constitutional Amendment detailing how much information things like a fare system can collect, that congenital snoops like Government, Mark Zuckerberg’s every client, and Nigeria’s Prince’s every Son are forbidden by law to ever use to rob or jail us.

    Reason I’m so glad I found the Ninth Amendment, though. It and the Second Amendment doutbless presumed that everybody ARMED would have a Sergeant to yell at them if they kept on BEARING the weapon so it might whack something and kill a transit company’s horse!

    I think England already called informers “Snouts.” So the sight of these rats using a quill pen to scribble down everybody’s carriage destination would, in Ben Franklin’s mind, certainly be Forbidden in Advance by The Almighty Himself!

    Since my good old “Green and White” still flashes out so “Keen and Bright” in my Region’s every dark wet zone, for our Founders every Sake leave it alone. And, while you’re at it, me.

    Mark Dublin

    1. You are more optimistic than I am about this particular issue, but I have faith in your wisdom, and hope that you are correct :) Thank you for the support.

  9. AM, I need to find some transit-related way to get Edward Snowden the Congressional Medal of Honor that could protect him from some other consequences of his invaluable warning to our Liberty’s most existential threat: ZuckerSnouts!

    Maybe my Route 7 experience could persuade Edward Snowden’s present host, Vladimir Putin, to grant me an instructional visa to show Edward how to drive that fifty-mile ETB route in Crimea. Just ’til the heat’s off.

    But seriously. After thirty years, somebody lifelong precious and a continent distant traced my snail-mail address through a blizzard of submissions to Seattle Transit Blog. So if you ever want a date, you’d best stay out of that express trolley-bus versus RapidRide yarn-ball !

    You think Armenia and Azerbiaizhan got problems? Wikipedia for “Trolleybuses in Baiku” says it all! Public disappointment straight out of a month’s STB service complaints!

    Incidentally, for what its worth, a visitor once told me that in the old Soviet Union, fare enforcement was done by grandmothers in head-scarves who’d pass a suspect’s transfer around ’til they reached a verdict. Just so my Senior card never starts requiring I scarf-up and participate.

    Mark Dublin

  10. Whatever system they adopt needs to have convenient provisions for casual rides by out-of-town visitors~ nothing too complicated or requiring a hunt somewhere for a ticket-vending machine.

    1. Nor should the whole system be hamstrung by centering the fare system on rare cases. The system has indeed been hamstrung by the need of riders to once in awhile pay with cash, combined with the county politicians being too chicken to softly disincentive cash payment.

      I could blame past county councils for intervening when Metro wanted to get rid of paper transfers. But then, that would give the current county council the opportunity to practice feigned helplessness and wash their hands of the matter.

      Plenty of businesses are now refusing to handle cash. Some are being a little more clever and refusing to give change. To their credit, most of the local transit agencies do that. I’m glad they’ve resisted every call to enable giving change. That resistance came in handy this year.

      There are ways to improve the tourist experience without degrading the efficiency of the fare collection system. ST has deployed more vending machines to SeaTac Airport Station. Placing one closer to the bus terminal might also help. Adding more languages to the vending machines, improving info on the ORCA webpage to maybe have a page specific to tourists, having the webpage in more languages, etc, could be on the service improvements menu. Maybe fund tourist-oriented improvements out of the hotel/motel tax.

    2. Don’t most tourists have smartphones, so they can take a picture of the app icon that should be on each and every bus stop sign? And then be able to pay using the app?

      1. Sounds like a clever and useful idea, Brent. How long for our transit agencies to make that work? And you are not considering people at the bottom of the economic ladder who don’t have smart phones.

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