Monday, August 29, 2016

Joe Metro

"The Northwest fills the lungs, heals the pain in my chest…"

When I first heard Joe Metro it made me really appreciate riding the buses.  Seattle is such a green city…or tries to be one.  It's great to be able to rent out bikes for the day and ride around the city.  It's also pretty cool to be able to use all the forms of public transportation available in the city-- from buses to water taxies, the light rail to the sounder train.

Though it's more convenient to drive around the suburbs of Seattle, within the city, it's pretty manageable to live life without a car.

Fun Fact:  Since moving to Seattle, I've learned that our public transport has often been referred to as Joe Metro, hence the title of today's blog post!

For a few years now, Seattle has been moving from a cash-based tendering fare system to a debit-based one.

Hong Kong has the Octopus Card, which is a debit card that can be used to make purchases (at the post office, convenience stories, fast food restaurants, etc…) and also to pay the fare of public transport (like the ferries, buses, light rail and the MTR).

Seattle's Orca card is similar, but for public transport mainly.

Today, we caught the bus out to Burien (where I blogged about the Thursday farmers market).  The bus dropped us off at the Burien Transit Station, which is your basic Park and Ride.  Here is where we caught the Rapid Ride down to the Tukwila Light Rail station and rode the light rail into Seattle.

How to get an Orca Card?
You can get an Orca card at any of the Ticket Vending Machines at the Light Rail stations, which is what we did.  Online says that you can also get them at Transit Centers, like the Burien Transit Center, Park and Rides and Sounder Commuter Rail Stations.  Besides transit stations, you can also purchase Orca cards at a number of retail locations.

Orca Cards cost $5 initially.  You can always add value to the card at the Ticket Vending Machines.

What's the Rapid Ride?
We took the Rapid Ride over to our nearest Light Rail station. The Rapid Rides are supposed to come the most frequent of all other bus lines…ten minutes during peak hours.  The really cool thing about the Rapid Rides is that they send signals to traffic lights so they stay green.  So, they stop less and go more!

All Rapid Ride lines also have wifi, which is what I always need when I'm in Seattle because I don't have phone service.

How do you use the Orca Card?
The buses that we've been riding all state that you have to pay before entering the bus.  So, you can tap your Orca Card as you enter the bus.  The Orca Card machine is right at the fare tendering box at the side of the driver.

For the light rail, you have Orca Card reading machines at the entrances of the light rail stations and also on the platforms.

The Orca reader at the Burien Transit Center was down at the time, but you can normally tap it before boarding the Rapid Rides.  Because it was down, we just tapped our card on the bus.

The Burien Transit Center sits right along side a huge parking complex, which is where you can Park and RIDE into town…hence the name Park and Ride!  Back when I was going to UW, we would park here and catch the bus up to campus.  It's been mightily improved since those days, though.

How to fill up the Orca Card:
You can always check how much you have on your Orca Card at the Ticket Vending Machines.  If you need to add more cash to the card, you can just look for one of these Vending Machines and reload.

At most transit stations you can find a machine to add value and also check the value of your Orca card.    You can definitely find these machines at every light rail station.  There is one machine in Burien's Transit Station…pretty beaten up, but functioning.

Here's a view of the Rapid Ride.  We were traveling on the weekday…before noon, so it wasn't so busy.  I have been on the Rapid Rides a few times during non-peak hours and they always seem quite empty, which is nice.

Actually, all the trips we've been on with the Seattle public transport has been pretty empty.  I think that the only times it is crowded is during game day…when everyone is catching the light rail into town and popping off at the Stadium Station.

From the Burien Transit Station to the Tukwila Light Rail Station is about 10 - 15 minutes.  I feel like it was quite fast because I just used the time to check some emails and we had reached our destination already.

After hopping off the Rapid Ride, we tapped our Orca cards and entered the Tukwila Light Rail Station.  The trains are also quite frequent, which is pretty nice.  We weren't in any rush anyhow, but it was nice to know that we never had to wait too long for the next train.

The light rail is always expanding, but this summer, the stops are:

The UW area station-->

1. University of Washington Station

The downtown Seattle stations--> 

2.  Capitol Hill Station
3.  Westlake Station
4.  University Street Station
5.  Pioneer Square Station
6.  International District Station
The Century Link and Safeco Field stations (South of downtown stations)-->
7.  Stadium Station
8.  Sodo Station

All other stations, mostly around residential areas of the city-->

9.  Beacon Hill Station
10.  Mount Baker Station
11.  Columbia City Station
12.  Othello Station
13.  Rainier Beach Station
14.  Tukwila International Boulevard Station

The current terminal south of Seattle city-->

15.  SeaTac/Airport Station

The Angle Lake station is opening soon…as the light rail extends south of Seattle!

This day, we mainly just went down to Pike's Place to do some souvenir shopping, but here are some other things you can do in Seattle town:

1.  Check out Seattle Center, where you can find the Pacific Science Center, Children's Museum and take a run through the International Fountain…the Chihuly Glass Museum!

2.  You can get out at the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station and explore Broadway, stroll around Volunteer Park...walk over to First Hill and visit the Frye Museum...

3.  The International District, AKA CHINATOWN, is always fun to have lunch/dim sum in…

Everything is totally easy to get to via riding public transport…touristy things, for sure!

Hope this blog proves a bit useful to some who want to find links on how to get Orca Cards, know a bit about the public transport…and also want to know what you can do in Seattle.