Link: Our first “real” ride

On Saturday evening, I finally caved to Nerd’s nagging to ride Link again, and we decided to head down to Columbia City for something to eat. It was our first time riding for real–as in, not on a opening/celebration day–and I am happy to report that (despite the rumors I’ve heard about empty trains) we had tons of company on our ride. If anything, we had too much company; we had to stand for the first several stops.

We also hit our share of new-travel-mode snags. For example:

• Payment was confusing. When we got to Pioneer Square station, we first thought we had to use our Orca cards in the ticket machines upstairs. We struggled to figure out what to do until a nice ST employee (who was servicing one of the machines), told us that we didn’t need tickets. We only needed to swipe our cards on the card-reading machines–once before boarding and once after debarking–inside the stations. He also warned us that if we forgot to swipe on the way out, our cards would be charged $2.50, which is the cost of the most expensive ride.

Soon after we boarded the train, the ST fare police came aboard and asked us to demonstrate proof of payment. Everyone in our car held up their tickets; we held up our Orca cards. It’s not clear how the guy knew we actually swiped them, and it’s really not clear how this proof of payment system will work as more and more riders get Orca cards. Maybe I’m missing something?

• The train had “technical difficulties.” Midway through the climb to the Beacon Hill Station, our train stopped at a little booth-type thingie, and two official-looking men with orange vests got on. They stomped their way through the train for about five minutes (without explanation), then left. The train continued to Beacon Hill Station, at which point the driver came out of his booth and kicked us all off with a short, barely intelligible explanation. One of the other passengers told me that the bells were not working, so that train could not be driven with passengers.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long for the next train (after all the drama, ours was only a minute or so ahead of the one behind it), and the rest of our trip went smoothly–except, that is, for all the stops at lights.

We decided to skip the train ride home and instead opted for the trusty (ahem) 48. The ride was without incident, except that when I swiped my Orca–a little over an hour after paying my fare on Link–I was charged the full $1.75 fare. Guess the “transferrable fares” part isn’t up and running quite yet.

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