Home > Other, Transit > A better use for your change

A better use for your change

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

As part of my job as a bus driver, I often watch passengers work feverishly to unjam my fare box after they have attempted to stuff a month’s worth of pennies into it.  Since I tend to choose busy routes, there is inevitably a long line of impatient passengers behind them watching too. Anybody who pays attention to my Twitter feed knows I prefer passengers use an ORCA card and that I can get kind of snarky about it. While not perfect, paying with an ORCA card is much faster and gives the user a 2 hour transfer on service provided Sound Transit, Metro, Pierce Transit, and Community Transit. ORCA really is the way to pay for public transportation in the greater Seattle area.

But what about all those pennies, nickels, and dimes you have kicking around?  You may already know about Coinstar machines, located at many local grocery stores, that can automatically count all of your change, for a 9.8% fee.  But you may not know that Coinstar allows you to convert those same coins into eCertificates and gift cards for Amazon.com, Apple’s iTunes, Starbucks Coffee, Albertson’s, and many other retailers without a counting fee.  That’s right, at a Coinstar machine you can convert the mountain of coins that you’ve been holding onto for years into music, books, groceries, or jet fuel (aka Coffee).  Just take at least $5 in coins to any Coinstar machine and follow the instructions to get an eCertificate or gift card that can be redeemed at your favorite retailer or web site.

So how about it?  Why not give Coinstar a try?

Now, if we could just get the good people at orcacard.com to accept eCertificates, then you could convert ALL of your change into bus fare without jamming my fare box and with the added advantages that ORCA brings…  Think of all the road calls to repair broken fare boxes Metro could save …

  1. January 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    would love it if Coinstar let you load your Orca card ePurse directly with the change … even if that meant attaching your Ocra card number to your online Coinstar account

  2. NickBob
    January 11, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Dang, that’s good to know. Thanks-

  3. nwwoods
    January 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Now could you just convince people with Orca cards to dig them out of their pocketbooks / backpacks / gym bags / gunny sacks / body bags BEFORE they board the bus, as they too tend to generate long lines of impatient people…

    • January 12, 2012 at 11:54 am

      I count to five in my head and if the passenger is still fumbling for their fare, I politely ask them to have their fare ready next time. So far I’ve not had a single complaint and virtually all of the interactions are positive. The key is to make it about keeping the service moving and keep the conversation light.

  4. January 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    It’s notable that Coinstar also allows you to DONATE that change to many local nonprofit organizations.

  5. January 12, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    How many fare boxes get broken a day?

    • January 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

      Unknown, but I’ve seen enough mechanics on road calls to fix a broken fare box that I know it’s somewhat of an issue. I’ve often wondered if the cost of sending the mechanic out is worth the collected fares but I’m sure that depends on the route.

  6. Carl
    January 12, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Three observations on ORCA:

    A Metro paper transfer, which you can only get if you pay with cash, is more valuable than the 2-hour ORCA window, especially if you travel through downtown Seattle. The paper transfer is cut to give you about 2 hours from when your bus arrives downtown, and you only need to board the departing bus by that time and the driver has discretion. There are many trips where by the time you tap on exit with ORCA you are charged a second fare when the paper transfer would have covered you – both because of ORCA’s rigidity, but also because the two hours are measured from when you board bus 1 until you exit bus 2.

    Second – there should be a financial benefit to using ORCA. That would drive adoption. There is a benefit to the transit agency – faster boarding, less fare disputes, less cash handling, pre-payment. Share some of the benefit with the riders and you’ll drive adoption.

    Finally – there needs to be an all day pass on ORCA – esp. once the Ride Free Area ends.

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