I believe that with the great surfacing of the buses, we have achieved the last of four required policy and network milestones necessary to implement all-door bus boarding systemwide for Metro and at all hours. This is meant to attempt to justify the capital expenditures required to install additional ORCA readers at rear doors, or more pragmatically, justify their inclusion in the next-generation ORCA implementation.
- We needed to streamline when fares are paid. This was affected when the Ride Free Area was eliminated, and now all fares are paid at boarding.
- We needed to eliminate fare zones based on destination. Two otherwise identical passengers no longer have two possible fares (one zone or two zone) to choose from upon boarding, and operators do not have to change the ORCA readers on an individual-passenger basis for this reason.
- We needed wide-scale ORCA adoption. The latest figure that I could find was in the 2016 Puget Sound Regional Council’s Transit Integration Report, which cites Metro’s agency-specific June 2016 ORCA adoption rate at 64% of fares. As Metro’s overall fortunes have risen since then, in conjunction with the simplification of fare policy and rollout of additional fare classes for youth and reduced-fare riders, I believe it is reasonable to hypothesize that the share of fares paid by ORCA card has also increased.
- Buses no longer operate in the tunnel, though this was less necessary than the others. The effect was a substantial loss of specialized right-of-way and an increase in the importance and visibility of reducing bus dwell times on city streets (with special emphasis on downtown peaks).
The cost-benefit analysis should be straight-forward:
- Capital expenditure for equipment and installation
- Increased maintenance overhead
- Predicted increase in potential for fare evasion leading to loss of farebox revenue
- Reduced dwell time leading to service hour savings
- Incentive to increase ORCA adoption rate
- Reduce or eliminate need for peak-hour all-door card validator staff
To this point, it’s a math problem: If we can reduce systemwide dwell times by, say, 3%, what does that gain?
My institutional history is still somewhat limited, though, so feel free to note some other supporting or prohibiting factors I haven’t considered.