Southeast Seattle: What we’ve heard about people’s ORCA experiences

Courtesy Oran Viriyincy, Flickr cc

Thank you to everyone who has shared your thoughts with us. It has been an amazing experience to bring people together in southeast Seattle and listen to what they have to say about transit in their community.

Here’s a snapshot of what people told us about using ORCA and paying fares on Metro and Link light rail. Every transit user has a story to share on this topic–what’s yours?

When asked, “How do you pay your fare?” and “Do you use ORCA…why or why not?”, the majority of those we spoke with are paying cash and getting a transfer. As one woman described it, “I pay cash and get my ticket.” There seems to be something trustworthy about paying cash and getting something back, as well as interacting with a driver instead of a machine. People don’t necessarily trust the ORCA technology or understand how it calculates fares, especially with transfers and multiple zones.

People also told us that ORCA cards, as well as Youth and Regional Reduced Fare Permit ORCA passes, should be easier to get and re-load. People are unaware of locations like Bartells or Saar’s Marketplace where they can get and re-load ORCA cards and passes. There’s little or no advertising and the employees aren’t always trained.

When cash-paying riders choose Link, they told us they use a ticket vending machine to buy a ticket. However, these machines offer limited language support, making them largely inaccessible to people who don’t speak English well.

The most common concern we heard about fare payment was that fares have become too expensive for low-income people. People asked for transfers to last longer than two hours, for the annual pass to come back, or for other fare-lowering options. As one woman put it, “My rent went up, then bus fares went up. My income has stayed the same. Now my standard of living has gone down because I can’t afford everything.” Families whose children live within 2.5 miles of school and take public transportation to get there are paying $50 per month that they didn’t pay when the school district provided transportation.

These issues are not unique to southeast Seattle. They come up around the county. How would you address them? Tell us your ideas by commenting on this post.

Learn what others have said >>

How did we get here? >>

10 thoughts on “Southeast Seattle: What we’ve heard about people’s ORCA experiences

  1. I agree transfer times need to be longer!

    I had to stop doing water aerobics because it was costing more in bus fare than the class cost per month!!! The connections ON PAPER should have allowed me the time needed to take the bus to Valley Medical, do my 45 minute class, change, and take the bus back, all in the 2 hr window. The reality was, more often than not either one way or both ways the connections DID NOT HAPPEN, and I was forced to pay once again. We are a mostly one income family and the extra bus fare cost made continuing a class I loved impossible!!!

    With the Orca card, while there is ease of use, the 2 hr transfer window is not negotiable, but more often than not, when you get a paper transfer you often end up with more than 2 hours with buses that have longer travel times, such as the 101, one of the 2 buses I had to take to Valley Medical.

    I also agree the annual pass and the savings it afforded should come back!!! Years ago, I saved so I could buy an annual pass, because it was SO worth it. Now, it no longer exists, and it seems Metro is there, with their hand out constantly looking for higher fares, while those of us who’s incomes continue to go down are forced to make choices about things like what food we can afford as well as if we can even afford to pay for health care.

    Of course another solution to the problem here in my bus corridor would be MORE service, so connections with other buses could be made, which is LONG over due in this area with a large bur riding population, that continues to grow!

  2. Your findings about ORCA Cards shows something seriously wrong with how Metro gets feedback. You have actual data on how many people use Orca (Which I’m pretty sure is the majority of riders).

    Instead of looking at the actual data, you decide to listen to a tiny number of people who come to a few community meetings. Its the same reason you let the 42 stay as a route for so long. Its the same reason the 16, the 3, and the 4 will still be structured as ridiculously after September as they are structured today. This needs to stop. Metro needs to make decisions based on ridership and actual metrics. Not by listening to a tiny number of people who have the time to go to community meetings.

  3. Thanks for the opportunity to give feedback. I tried to buy an ORCA card for my son at Bartell but was told that only adult cards are sold at outlets. I had to go downtown to buy one for him. If you could have retailers who sold all types of cards, that would be really useful.

  4. Metro, please embrace ORCA as the boarding-time reducing tool it could be, if only its use were incentivized.

    Start by getting rid of the $5 disincentive to get the card (especially when the few other bus agencies around the country that still charge for smart cards make them available for $2 or less).

    Get rid of paper transfers. Give ORCA users a per-ride rebate. If everyone could get ORCA for free, there would be no more argument about such incentives being unfair to the poor.

    But what is unfair to the poor is slow, infrequent bus service caused by the continuation of our outdated cash-and-change fumbling system of boarding the bus. And, oh year, one-seat rides for people from well-to-do neighborhoods who do not want to mingle with the riders on the 7 or on the train. We invested a lot of money in Link and in ORCA. It’s time to use them.

  5. People who live close to school pay the same tax rate as people who live further away. End the incentive to live far enough away from school to get the bus subsidy.

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  7. Metro and Orca need to be clearer about where Orca cards are available. On the website (except for one hidden statement) it says you can buy orca cards at Safeway and Bartell and other outlets. That is also indicated in this post.

    In reality, you can only reload orca cards at these retailers, not buy new ones, as I recently discovered trying to purchase a monthly pass for a visitor. For a new pass one must visit one of the two customer service locations or purchase online (not useful when you need it same day!)

    Or, even better, start selling new orca cards in more locations!

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  9. Fix prices and transfer to policies so that MT buses & Link are fully equivalent and consistent, same price between 2 points, whether it’s a direct trip or a transfer, whether it’s MT or Link, either ORCA required for transfer or paper transfer available and honored.

    There’s no economically valuable benefit generated by having two incompatible policies which make transit service harder to understand and use.

    And yes, “cash” riders matter and they are more likely to be confused than monthly pass riders.

    There should be a single policy-making board for fares and fare policies.

    Then people can select the vehicle and routing that works best for them while ignoring fares, fare policies and fare media as they are all the same – and the agencies can be free to restructure service in ways that assume people can freely select and transfer between service.

  10. The community outreaches are a good idea. However, there should also be a balance between yieldig to what the community wants and what is efficient. “Natehc” is right about route 42. It should not be in operation. It was kept running only becuase a few people voiced concerns about it. If it were eliminated, those resources could have gone to more trips on route 8 or the 106; routes that see much higher ridership. In a sense, Metro should start being more aggressively progressive!

    As far as ORCA, there should be a temporary waiver of the $5 fee, and a massive campaign for riders in the south end to get an ORCA card. Outreach specialists should be at bus stops, transit centers, grocery stores, community centers, on buses giving away ORCA cards. If not, there must be a massiive push for riders, in the south end, to get on board with ORCA and inform them the cards are reloadable at many locations.

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