The transfer trade

Transfer trade, n: The system of exchanging bus tickets, paper transfers, and bus passes for money or other items of value.

One thing I love about public transit is the mini economy that develops among riders. There’s always something for sale on buses and at stops: watches, flowers, cigarettes, tickets, candy. And, of course, transfers.

Though much more common before Orca cards became the norm for payment, the transfer trade is alive and well in Seattle. So are the many related practices. Some examples: “passing back” a transfer or pass to someone behind you in line, collecting and reusing expired transfers. (I once met a man at the 3rd & Pine stop who had an entire notebook of them—meticulously organized by color, letter, and time of day. If only his powers could have been used for good…)

And then there are the exchanges. On yesterday afternoon’s 27 ride, Busling and I watched a man trade two bus tickets for a bottle of Lubriderm. It seemed like a fair exchange, given the price of a bus ride these days. Plus, you never know when you might have a lotion emergency.

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