The demise of the Ride Free Area and surging demand for public transportation have combined forces to virtually guarantee packed standing loads on my final trip. When I get stuck behind a train, which happens almost every evening, I usually start denying rides at University Street or Pioneer Square stations where frustrated passengers longingly eye the space in front of the yellow line. I’ve heard stories of harried passengers, after being passed by multiple overflowing buses, being pushed to the brink of violence and DEMANDING to be allowed to ride forward of the yellow line. Some drivers may demur and allow it, but as the bulletin to the left shows, management appears to be quite serious about enforcing this rule.
But perhaps management pressure on drivers doesn’t motivate you. Frankly, why should it? How about enlightened self interest? When you are on a 30-ton vehicle you may think it’s very safe, and it is. A combination of the heavy frame, professional drivers, and stringent safety regulation makes them so. But there are times where the safety bubble of a bus can be pierced. The picture to the right illustrates why being in front of the yellow line can be such a bad idea during a crash. So please stay back and, ideally, move as far to the back of the bus as you can to make room for more people. We’ll get you there, even if you have to wait for one of the next couple of buses.
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?