Site helps broke bus riders cheat Metro transfer system

Those little colorful bus transfers distributed by King County Metro drivers award paying passengers free additional rides for a few hours, but some locals have developed a system to extend their use.

The New City Collegian reported on the service, called Seattle Bus Transfer.

The site operates through user participation in which the first person to catch the morning bus comments the color and letter of the transfer through a funny title. Today for example features hits such as, “orange telephone” and “orange ticklemonster”, so yes today’s bus transfer is an Orange-T.

Knowing the service isn’t exactly ethical, the site posts a disclaimer stating its purpose is solely for entertainment and users must take responsibility for their own actions.

Meanwhile, Metro officials say services will need to be further curtailed if the agency isn’t given power to raise more revenue.

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26 thoughts on “Site helps broke bus riders cheat Metro transfer system

  1. When I first moved into the city proper, I took one look at a transfer slip and thought, “People must hoard these and figure out when they can reuse them, right? I bet there is some way of finding that out.”

    Thankfully I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford a bus pass most months so I never bothered looking anything up (never mind the fact that I like public transportation and want Metro to be able to expand instead of lose money). Still, it always seemed like a exploit just waiting to happen.

    • What about those with lower income who can’t afford a switch to cash or orca? I was speaking with a woman at a shelter, and she depends on the transfers and she sometimes doesn’t have enough money in her bank account to pay for an orca card. The solution to this problem is pretty complex – you can’t please everyone sadly.

  2. This has been going on for years. It worked particularly well when I was a poor 20-something and just had a bunch of past transfers stuffed between my book pages. I’d typically get on in the ride free area and look what the color was. Easy as pie. I’d never do it now, bit too much effort.

    • What about those with lower income who can’t afford a switch to cash or orca? I was speaking with a woman at a shelter for my school project, and she depends on the transfers and she sometimes doesn’t have enough money in her bank account to pay for an orca card. The solution to this problem is pretty complex – you can’t please everyone sadly.

  3. Never underestimate the likelihood of unscrupulous jerks to take advantage of a system flaw to game/cheat their way. Hopefully, Metro will figure out a way to stop this from happening.

    Another example of the downside of the internet…

  4. I just had friends visiting from LA and they were surprised that Metro even gave transfers. In LA you pay every time you board a bus. So if it takes three buses to get where you need to go, you pay three fares (or get a monthly pass). With Metro already in a financial crunch, things like this will only prompt them to eliminate transfers entirely.

    Way to go, people.

  5. You have to save up LOTS of combinations in order to take advantage of this – and that’s quite an up front investment to get free rides. I’m lucky enough to have an employer subsidized pass, and wouldn’t look down on anyone doing this.

  6. I hope not. I went to school in a city that didn’t do transfers and it was irritating. I agree with others here. Everyone should use Orca cards or cash. Eventually everyone would get Orca cards since then you can transfer :-)

  7. I remember seeing people with books of past transfers when I moved here 20+ years ago. I was amazed when I would see someone standing in the bus flipping through to find the one that matched that day, and the driver would let them on. There was also always the “put your thumb over the letter and flash the correct color really quickly as you board/exit” maneuver for those who didn’t have quite the extensive collection.

    I’ve been broke enough to see the need for this. I generally always paid for my fare, although I certainly used expired (same day) transfers more than once. This website seems geared toward people who have the money to pay for bus transit but just want to get something over on the man or whatever, though. Do they not realize that the internet is open to everyone? If anything is going to motivate Metro to change their transfer system sooner than later, it’s this, so way to go.

  8. People do realize that this a tiny percentage of riders? And that fares don’t even make up half of metros operating budget? If you think this makes any difference in the big picture, you’re not well informed

  9. If people don’t pay their fair then services will suffer. Also consider that you are paying everyday to eat a cafeteria. Then comes along a person who finds a way to get a free meal, is that fair?

  10. So a low-income person gets a free ride after paying for many many transfers. Gosh, those low income riders sure are ruining America….

    Lighten up people.

  11. Its not pathetic because some people who do this don’t have enough money to ride the bus let alone some people barely have enough for food so after they have paid enough times to get all the transfers then it’s okay. Its different if you can afford it.

  12. While it may not be the most ethical thing to do, I’m not sure why a writer would waist their time covering this story on this blog. There are much more interesting and newsworthy things going on…and plus, if someone is actually broke enough to do this, you should probably cut them some slack. Times are tough and jobs are hard to come by. Seattle has bigger issues to deal with than a few people saving bus transfers….most people have ORCA cards anyway.

  13. It costs 25 dollars a week to ride metro twice a day for five days. When you are un or underemployed that is a lot of money. And it seems like ever six months to a year they are raising the rates again. I am glad they got rid of the ride free but honestly, how are the poor students or full time minimum wagers supposed to be getting around when they have to spend 100 dollars a month on transportation. Doesn’t seem like much incentive to play by the rules when your gross income is around 800 a month.

  14. Until metro implements a system for low-income riders, fare evasion such as this will always occur. Now that rapid ride lets you enter at any door, paper transfers will NEVER go away. I myself use my transfer collection to augment the tiny e-purse reloads I get from my employer.

  15. Metro/King County govt has set up a Low Income Fare Advisory Council to come up with a way to provide low income people with a discount like the .75 fare they give Youth, Seniors, and Disabled.

    It may very well end up being based on whether people are poor enough to have Food Stamps (EBT card).

    The meetings are open to the public, 4th Wed (4:00-6:30 pm) in the Metro building on the SE corner of 2nd & Jackson, 8th floor conference room. Come observe. Public comment at the end.

  16. The same thing happens on Portland-OR’s TriMet (but not for much longer). They use a single color at a time (changes four times a year) and 2 letters out of 8 for a day code. Only takes 28 transfers to do it here. But coming later this summer, they will be going the way of the dinosaur, with the addition of in-bus ticket printers (transfers will probably still be used if the printer is on the fritz). I know of LACMTA’s system of no transfers (and lower per vehicle fare cost) and wished TriMet adopted that system. Motab is right, if you need to ride more then one bus/train, then buy a pass (day/week/etc). But I would save money since I can take just one bus or train route to/from work. Of course, I would like to see TriMet use Smart Cards too.