Public transit in 2000 as envisioned by late 19th Century artist Jean-Marc Cote
from The Public Domain Review (

Dear Monsieur Jean-Marc Cote. His vision of 2000 didn’t materialize. But was that his lack of imagination or ours? How well can we envision public transit in 100 years? With good news for the future of Washington State public transit in the expected passage of the proposed $16 billion transportation package, it seems a good time to indulge in a bit of fantasy.

So let us indulge in fantasy but not fantasy fantasy. More like Fantasy Football. Constructed within reality. Studying what is at hand and making the most of it. That means no flying buses or “Beam me up, Scotty.” Instead, the fantasy is you as the master puppeteer. The Transit Czar. You calling the shots. You conjuring up your vision firmly within reality.

And our reality? There is the good news of an infusion of cash for local public transit projects. The other local transit news, however, is the loss of fare revenues and the pending Washington State Supreme Court ruling on the legality of fare enforcement on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and rail services.

So from this reality enters the Fantasy Transit Team George. In honor of George Benson, Seattle City Council member known as the father of the Waterfront Streetcar. Both now gone but not forgotten. Little hope for the resurrection of George, but maybe the streetcar? Team George begins with five fantasies.

Black and white photo of George Benson balancing on streetcar rails.
From King County Metro’s tribute on George Benson’s death in 2004. A day of free rides on Metro.

Team George Fantasy No. 1

Washington residents over the age of 16, with no registered vehicle, can request a Public Transportation Card which entitles them to ride free on public transit throughout Washington State.

Why this fantasy first? Because decisions on fares should be first when planning transit facilities and services. And why is that? Because fares are all about people parting with their money and nobody likes doing that. Because the phrase, “Transit Dependent” needs to go away. Because fare policies are the best indicator of the thinking behind the scenes. Because when you start talking enforcement you have admitted defeat.

Team George Fantasy No. 2

Ruth E Carter picked to design operator uniforms.

The late Chadwick Boseman in Marvel Studios’ Black Panther
Photograph by Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios-Disney via AP NYET134

Hey. Everybody knows that the uniforms make the team. You gotta look good when you are out in public doing the job. Away with uniforms that look like police uniforms depowered. Ruth E Carter is definitely on Team George.

Team George Fantasy No. 3

A public transit coffee shop (during Covid, substitute a van) near transit offices.

Still a fantasy of the Team George Czar. Way back when, I proposed turning the abandoned old Metro control center in the Exchange Building into one. The idea was viewed as a fantasy then and still is now.

Public meetings can be dismal, but a cup of hot coffee and a croissant? Planners and riders and enthusiasts sharing their latest findings and visions seated around small tables? This fantasy includes chalkboard walls to begin “seeing” new ideas. Fantastically, drivers and mechanics and public officials drop in.

Team George wants to blur the boundaries. Create a place for small exchanges of big ideas. The amazing great innovation will appear but so will incredibly bad ideas and half-baked, self-serving ideas. Scary? Well, life is, and it will only get scarier if we hole up in our own separate worlds.

Team George Fantasy No. 4

Sexy interiors.

Found on
Photo by Zach Summer 2008

I know, I know. But who’s fantasy doesn’t include the sensual? This is the sexiest bus interior on the internet. The designer doesn’t forget the secondary players but makes sure the stars shine. Which of course are the seats. The sumptuous, warm color. The soft curves. The smooth surface. The seats are the holders of the precious cargo. Us! Team George wants.

Team George Fantasy No. 5

Hosting a cross-state bus trip for Washington State House and Senate Transportation Committee members.

I remember hearing one year that some legislators did just that and said it built bonds that helped in working together once they were back in Olympia. When my Mom needed to talk to us kids about something important, she would take us for a car ride. You’re trapped, you’re on a journey, which of course is always when revelation occurs, and you are sitting really close but not facing each other. Perfect.

It goes without saying the seating arrangement would be Republican – Democrat – Republican – Democrat with no swapping seats. No agenda. No cell phones. Just traveling together and stopping now and then at the best local diner. A mental health counselor may need to ride along. Or a sheriff.

The Public Transit Super Bowl

Well, of course, there isn’t one. Maybe you could count the Americans Public Transit Association (APTA) annual convention? It would be pretty amazing if they sponsored Transit Fantasy among their riders and supporters and hosted the winning fantasy team at their convention. It would definitely liven things up.

Never rule out the impossible, which is why fantasy is not an idle pastime.

To be continued…

May this inspire you to put together your own Transit Fantasy team. These are rough times. So many of the struggles public transit face are a reflection of the discord and brokenness encircling it. We can’t fix that but we can inspire.

It is a known fact that a little laughter warms the space between us. Maybe creating an opportunity to envision a better world? And if not that, we will have some great fun together.

24 Replies to “Love Fantasy Football? Try Fantasy Transit”

  1. Not me it doesn’t.

    It mocks the *FUCK* out of those of us who had lived in the projects for little rich Buddha to get a bigger mcmansion.

    That’s why you sandhogs are eating shiitake

  2. Fantasy No 1 on youth transit cards comment: I like that it’s not just giving the minors a free boarding. It teaches a child from an early age to be more responsible about not losing cards or ignoring fare payment. It can be fun to emulate their parent when a child is of a certain age (say 5 to 12).

    The Orca Calf (“children’s alternative fare”) card could even trigger a different tune, delighting the kid and informing the driver and other riders when an adult is using a kid’s card illegally.

    1. Oh … you said “over 16”. That’s a different thing.

      We already have Orca Lift. Is this much of a fantasy?

      1. Yes, there’s a difference between this and ORCA Lift. It’s not income based. Adults who choose not to own vehicles, even if they can afford it, get recognition for making such a decision. While there is overlap in eligibility, the mentality is different.

        One nitpick: In Washington, you have to be 18 to have a vehicle registered in your name (with one very limited exception: if you move in from another state and already own a vehicle registered in your name in the state you came from). This means technically almost every 16-17 year old would qualify.

  3. Let’s stop being the NY Jets of transit, and make some moves. Ballard to UW, Metro 8 subway (or gondola) and a new bus tunnel. Move this ahead of ST3 (especially the second tunnel).

    1. Since ST3 is delayed, those others could go before it. Seattle could fund part of the project, say the tunnel, and ST could pay for the rest. Since it’s fantasy, we can assume ST modifying ST3 so that these could take the place of other things in the schedule.

      And how about that multi-line BRT in West Seattle? Fanning out from the bridge to 16th, Delridge, 35th, California, Fauntleroy, and Admiral. It could be a surface corridor downtown or some kind of tunnel. As some other routes leave Third Avenue, the West Seattle corridor could be there. And of course we’d make Third Avenue safe and beautiful too.

    2. Ballard to UW? Metro 8 subway? Are you *trying* to make us the 2021 Jacksonville Jaguars of transit?

    3. This is what it would look like (more or less): In this version, the bus tunnel adds a stop at First Hill. That station would be very deep, which means that ST would have to spend a bunch of money on good elevators, like in other countries ( But this is a fantasy after all.

      Combine this with decent bus service (as well as some BRT that isn’t on the map, like RapidRide G) and you have a system that rivals Vancouver BC. Instead we will likely be like fans or the Jets, wondering why we spend so much money, and still aren’t that good.

  4. A transit card that works in more than one metropolitan area would be nice.

    With Salem, Eugene and Bellingham talking of creating their own cards, we’re up to what? 8 cards in the region? Plus whatever it is that Skagit Transit is doing now. It seems like it’s some sort of phone app based thing?

    Imagine how popular credit cards would be if you had to buy a new one at $3 a pop each time you visited a different city.

    1. Like having a different branded credit card for each store you shop at? I hear those are very popular.

      It would be nice is some nearby agencies (Thurston transit?) joined ORCA, but I think once you get beyond a broad metro area, the cost of coordination exceed the added convenience for riders. Also, once most of these technologies all become Apps you can put on your phone, the incremental cost for most riders is 5 minutes and a few megabytes of data.

      1. Many stores have quit having store-only credit cards and gone to co-branded store and bank cards, with the store logo and a VISA or MC stamp.

        Maybe this could be a model for regional transit cards: issued by a local agency but with an interchange system which allows use on other agencies. Just an idea. Maybe not a good one?

    2. A great model/example for this would be the Presto card in the Toronto area, which is also good in Ottawa, some 400 km (240 miles) away.

      I could see a unified Washington State transit card, or a “West of Cascades” card for western Washington and Oregon. I’m not sure of the tech limits on how many agencies could be involved with one card, but even adding northern California would be nice if feasible.

      I would guess a cross-border card including BC wouldn’t be feasible due to currency fluctuations, unfortunately.

    3. A national transit card would make a lot of sense. Same with an app that works on your phone (I would use the card, but others would prefer the phone). It is crazy that so many agencies have different systems across the country.

      1. The best way to have a “national transit card” might be an open-source payment system using VISA/MC debit cards like Ventra in Chicago. It could be set up so a transit agency could associate a pass or discounted “tickets” with your card number. Thus you could have a monthly pass in Seattle and stored tickets in Portland, for example, on one card.

      2. Doesn’t that pretty much describe the functionality of next gen ORCA? You’ll download an ORCA app and enter a credit card. I don’t see the advantage to having 1 app that works in multiple cities and two apps (with the same personal credit card number and on the same phone), one for each city. A user is never needing to use both apps at the same time.

      3. Or more accurately, the user will go to a single app (Google Pay, Apple Wallet, etc.) and then just select which transit card they need for the city they are in that day.

    4. ORCA has a shared-pass system that all agencies except WSF participate in. That may be harder for poorer agencies to join in.

      Most people don’t travel to other cities very often. They either go to one city repeatedly or they go to a few cities. If they go to Eugene and make only one or two round trips, single-ride tickets or day passes may be sufficient.

      A patchwork of metro-specific cards reminds me of phone cards in Europe in the 1990s. People got a different one in every country and treated them like collectors’ items. I only encountered them in St Petersburg, where the recent pay phones were card-based but there was an older network that took metro tokens, so you didn’t strictly need a card. I bought a couple cards and used them up so there was no orphaned value.

      1. WSF does participate in ORCA. I pay my ferry fare with my ORCA card at the turnstile, as do most people. There is no reduced payment due to transfer from other agencies that use ORCA, but that is the limit of their nonparticipation.

      2. I think you can’t use the shared monthly pass other agencies use; you’d have to get a separate ferry pass, which you can do on ORCA, but if you use both ferries and Link/buses you’d have to get two passes.

      3. Most people don’t travel to other cities that often, except when they do. Salem and Portland are pretty closely tied.

        Sure, day tickets are nice, but you can’t get a day ticket for ORCA or TransLink unless you buy the card.

        Some systems (Eg, London) have gone to cashless on the buses, so you have to either buy the card or figure out the mobile pay app (with each city having a different one of those too).

      4. One card for the Willamette Valley seems like a reasonable goal. It’s when someone advocates for Eugene and Bellingham to have the same card that I’m skeptical the costs outweigh the benefits.

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