Home > Transit > TO DO List before eliminating the Ride Free Area

TO DO List before eliminating the Ride Free Area

February 6, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Metro is currently studying the effects of eliminating the Ride Free Area in Downtown Seattle.  While I favor the elimination of the Ride Free Area for a host of reasons, it is critical that fare collection be fully optimized before implementation of such a policy.  The steps below would incentivize ORCA use, speed boarding, and also streamline collection of payments:

  • Ubiquitous ORCA availability at drug stores, grocery stores, Coinstar vending machines, train stations, airport, hotels, etc…  $10 for a pre-loaded $5 ORCA card with a small built-in profit for the vendor should be possible.
  • Tourist-friendly ORCA cards with day and multi-day passes should be readily available
  • Provide discounts for loading large dollar amounts onto ORCA cards to further incentivize ORCA use
  • Coaches would be tap/pay at front door, exit through rear door except at high volume stops such as transit centers and certain downtown stops.  Designated high volume stops would have off-bus ORCA readers and drivers would open ALL doors.
  • Registered lost cards of ALL kinds, not just Adult, should be reissued by a simple process on orcacard.com.  Click on “Lost card”, make $5 payment from a credit card or from E-purse balance, and receive a replacement card within 2-3 business days – mailed to the registered address.
  • A flat $3 cash fare – Cash payment, even by those who are well-prepared, significantly slows service – Make them pay for the privilege to encourage ORCA usage
  • Streamline Human Services passes – For those who truly can’t afford transportation make it simple to get a pass from their social service agency of choice (WorkSource, Downtown Emergency Service Center, Hopelink, etc…)  Giving out ORCA cards would prevent those receiving subsidized/free passes from being stigmatized. Obviously fraud can be an issue when giving out free passes so monitoring will be necessary.
  • Eliminate paper transfers – Replace with a rotating color/letter Proof of Payment (POP) voucher with coach number and day purchased punched
  • Proof of Payment required on ALL transit at ALL times.  (A warning for the first offense within a year followed by fines for further offenses should allow grace for passengers who occasionally forget their ORCA card)
  • Youth and Reduced fares would ONLY be available to passengers with a Youth ORCA card. (You’d be surprised at the number of “youth” I see on my bus with heavy facial hair)

Metro management frequently uses the phrase “Safety, Service, Schedule” to emphasize our priorities.  While I generally agree, I’ve always felt that “Schedule” is part of “Service”, especially for those passengers trying to make a connection.  We need to focus more on “Schedule” in certain instances.  In the realm of fare payment, we need to remove from the bus as many interactions that slow service as possible.  Above is my priority list for streamlining fare payment but how about you?  What are your ideas?

  1. February 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    “coach number and day purchased punched”
    What would coach number do? With over 900 of its 1300 vehicles in service during peak, picking an active coach number is fairly easy.

    • February 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm

      A POP voucher would only be good on the coach that it was issued on – it is not a transfer. Thus, once you exit the coach, it would no longer be valid. It’s not a perfect idea but it’s one way of doing POP. The point is to give people an incentive to use an ORCA card – Cash payment would still be an option, but ORCA is better and faster.

  2. MissBeth
    February 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I love all your ideas.

    As a rider with 45 yrs of bus riding experience I think things have gotten WAY out of control! From the riders who habitually fail to pay their fare, to what I perceive to be TO MUCH admin and not enough drivers/routes, as well as just all out rude drivers!

    On the last point, while I understand the driver of today is NOT the driver of 45 years ago, courtesy never goes out of style. I know todays drivers have a lot more pressure placed upon them, and that safety is also a huge issue, but rudeness only begets rudeness in my ever so humble opinion.

    When the RFA was started, it was a wonderful thing that made people come out of their of offices and shop in the DT core during their lunch hour. When metro started the no RFA after 7PM rule I knew it would only be a matter of time before talk of eliminating it altogether would start.

    I’ve ridden buses in other cities, and I have to say one of my faves is Vegas.
    If you don’t have a pass, you simply buy a pass of varying denominations at a machine at the bus stop and you insert it into the fare box, it reads it, and spits it back out. If it’s expired, you just pay the fare. I think this sort of system would take care of the folks who still want to pay with cash or coin. Your idea of a card one could buy for the day or multiple days is similar to what they do in Vegas.

    I **LOVE** the idea of a discount for folks who pay more than a certain dollar figure. I stopped buying an annual pass when Metro stopped offering them with a cost savings. Only thing I saved by buying an annual pass was the hassle of going somewhere and buying the monthly or 3 month passes they once offered.

    I like the idea of issuing passes through places like Worksource, but sadly, with all the cut backs in most agencies, the system as it stand now just makes it more difficult for the drivers as the people at these agencies just simply hand the passes now being given out, without following proper steps to insure the passes are used as intended, such as placing the date, in INK so a pass can’t be modified! The 1st time I saw one of these passes I was shocked that Metro would even have such a thing!!!

    I say lets simplify things and get back to the basics, passenger taps card, gets on bus, and driver drives the bus, safely from stop to stop, & keeps their focus on the job of driving.

    Just a few of my thought on this subject on a lovely Sunday afternoon 🙂

  3. Carl
    February 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    If you eliminate the RFA, you need to offer a day pass for ORCA cash users. If they ride downtown to do a few errands, they shouldn’t have to pay extra for their rides around downtown. Somewhere around 2-2.5x the base fare should be an all day pass. Ideally it should just be implicitly built into ORCA as a cap on the fare. Maybe it is $6 within one county, and $9 intra-county, and it should include Sounder and Link.

    • MissBeth
      February 6, 2011 at 9:14 pm

      I think the idea of doin away with the RFA is to eliminate the word FREE.
      When I worked downtown, I walked to pike place and back, which with bad legs is no easy fete.

      It’s still cheaper to walk, or plan an extended lunch on occasion, than it is to drive your car downtown and pay the 4 bucks an hr. to park your car.

      Change isn’t always a good thing, but in this case, for the most part, it is.
      I’ve talked to a LOT of people who would rather have a root canal, than ride a city bus anymore. The RFA has made riding the bus a disgusting adventure most of the time. Don’t even get me started on the nort bound stop on 3rd b/t Pike & Pine….even in broad daylight it’s a VERY scary place!!!

  4. February 7, 2011 at 6:53 am

    I’m interested in the arguments for/against getting rid of the ride free area. What are the benefits vs. costs of eliminating the RFA?

  5. downintacoma
    February 7, 2011 at 9:46 am

    It seems as though ORCA readers are proliferating, but no one is making any noise about it. Turns out my local Safeway – a short walk, and somewhere I am at least once a week or so as I’ve inevitably forgotten something for dinner – has an ORCA reader behind the centrally-located customer service counter, and has for several months now.

    Even a small “ORCA services here!” sign hanging on or above the counter would suffice. Hrmph.

  6. MissBeth
    February 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Getting rid of the RFA will eliminate people getting on who NEVER intended to pay, or who hold up a bus full of people as the ACT like they can’t find thier fare, transfer, or a bus pass of some sort. Since you pay as you leave currently, a lot of people abuse the system, and have for a very long time.

  7. Margaret Edgar
    February 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    I’ve got one. How about disallowing luggage during peak hours. I transfer to the 28 downtown on my way home from work. Inevitably there is someone – or sometimes a couple – climbing on board with gigantic suitcases and all manner of carry-on. The 28 is already like riding home in a sardine can, but adding a behemoth trunk can mean that some riders won’t get on. The pioneers had to cast off large items in order to cross the plains. Perhaps we need a similar policy for luggage on Metro.

    • Lloyd
      June 18, 2011 at 8:49 am

      I’d rather get rid of the louts and loudmouths and loiterers and let legitimate riders with luggage on the bus.

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