King County Metro Transit is taking a bold step into the 21st century - at least as far as passengers are concerned. To help ease some of the stress on existing infrastructure, KCMT is putting a bus ticket dispensing vending machine on Third Avenue located conveniently between Stewart and Pine street in Seattle, WA. The hope is that instead of pushing money into the farebox as traditionally accomplished, users will instead use the vending machine to accomplish the same thing.
By pairing with a vending machine manufacturer for the bus ticket vending machine, King County Metro Transit hopes to accomplish a few different goals at the same time. For starters, it adds a supplementary source of bus tickets that will hopefully relieve some stress during already crowded transit times. Additionally, the farebox has long been seen as a major source of delays for travelers in a number of different situations. Fumbling to cram cash into the front slot of the farebox can add several seconds to the D Line or E Line, for example. When you multiply "several seconds" by the thousands of passengers that pass through those areas on a regular basis, serious delays can occur as a result.
Metro indicates that there are currently around one tenth of the total number of passengers that go through the stop that pay with cash. To put that into perspective, more than 42,000 passengers use that stop to take 2,500 bus trips each weekday. Even if the vending machine is only accommodating one tenth of those customers, you're still talking about 4,200 people every day.
A concern about the practice, however, has to do with whether or not the vending machine will undercut the sale of regional ORCA cards. These fare cards are designed to be purchased in advance and used in much the same way E-ZPass is for drivers. You pay in advance to "fill" the card, swipe the card when you arrive and go about your way. If the vending machine manufacturer's solution is just as easy, it may harm that particular program.
The Metro program puts a twist on the traditional "vending machine for sale" process. Instead of purchasing the machines outright, the machine is being loaned for use completely free of charge. Additionally, the county will pay a $10,000 regular fee to cover maintenance and general operational costs directly to the vending machine manufacturer. Much of that cost will be taken care of by a federal grant, however.
Vending machines certainly aren't just for potato chips anymore. With examples like the way that metro is putting bus ticket vending machines to excellent use on Third Avenue, it's easy to see why more and more industries are embracing the technology on a large scale.