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Tap your ORCA card on and off when riding Link light rail or Sounder Commuter rail

Q: Why do I need to tap on and tap off my ORCA card?

Publish Date

Sound Transit asks riders to tap on and off of Link and Sounder trains so we know the correct fare to charge you or the supplier of your ORCA card. 

Link and Sounder train fares are based on how far you travel. 

When you tap your ORCA card at a yellow card reader at the station before boarding the train, ORCA knows where your trip began and shows you are eligible to ride.

When you get off the train and tap off at your destination station, ORCA calculates the correct fare to charge against your card. If you don’t tap off, your card will be charged the maximum fare.

What if I don't tap on before boarding the train? 

Fare Ambassadors randomly board the trains at either end of the car and work their way to the middle asking every rider for proof they’ve paid their fare. 

If you have not tapped your ORCA card before boarding, it will not show as a valid fare when checked. 

Riders who don’t have valid proof of payment get a warning. Citations are not being issued during the Fare Ambassador pilot program.

But my employer pays for my card. It shouldn’t matter if I tap or not.

Because ORCA cards are accepted by six different transit agencies and the Washington State Ferry system, tapping on/off ensures your fare goes to the agency who gave you a ride.

All transit agencies rely on fares to help pay for their services. Tapping on/off gives your fare to the right provider.

And the price that employers pay for bulk passes is based on use the previous year. Tapping off when riding the train ensures the correct fare is charged your employer for that ride.

If your employer is constantly paying more for your ride than necessary, the cost of your pass could go up next year. 

Q: What about the bus?

You only need to tap the card reader inside the bus when you board.

Q: What about transfers?

When you transfer from one form of transit to another within two hours, your first fare is credited toward the second.

If the second leg of your trip costs more than the first, your card will be charged the difference.

For example, if you take Link from Westlake Station to the International District, the $2.25 Link fare will be deducted from your ORCA card. If you then take Sounder from King Street Station to Tacoma, ORCA will credit $2.25 toward the $4.75 Sounder fare, charging you $2.50.

ORCA resources

Check here for the latest information about the "beeps" you hear when tapping ORCA on/off.

Check here for more information about purchasing and using an ORCA card.

Check here for more information about why Link light rail does not use turnstiles

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