ORCA Makes Big Splash in Regional Transit Scene

Publish Date

Regional smart card for fare payments kicks into high gear

SEATTLE – This week, ORCA – One Regional Card for All – will be expanding to more bus, train and ferry riders around the region. The limited rollout period for ORCA is now complete, and the seven partner agencies are launching major promotional efforts and moving forward with steps to phase out other transit passes.

ORCA is a smart card-based electronic fare system for public transportation agencies serving King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties. ORCA will replace about 300 various passes, tickets and transfers with a single card that works by simply tapping the ORCA card on a reader device.

ORCA was launched last April in a “limited rollout” phase to ensure the system could handle its complex transactions before greatly expanding its customer base. Over the past four months more riders have been added to the system so that there are currently more than 100,000 ORCA cards in circulation being used on about 8 percent of all daily transit rides in the region.

“Today is not just the big splash for ORCA. It’s also the public unveiling of what 10 years of unmatched regional cooperation can create to benefit residents and transit users in a more efficient manner,” said King County Executive Kurt Triplett, joined by board members and general managers of the seven participating agencies. The seven ORCA partners are Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, Sound Transit and Washington State Ferries. Together, the agencies serve more than half of Washington’s population and carry about 500,000 riders each weekday.

“ORCA provides easy access for riders, whether you are using a bus, train or ferry. With an ORCA card you can ride all these vehicles without having to worry about different fares or having the right change,” said Claudia Thomas, Lakewood City Councilmember, Vice Chair of the Sound Transit Board of Directors and Pierce Transit Commissioner.

ORCA rollout will continue for the remainder of the year as a print and radio advertising campaign encourages frequent and infrequent transit riders to get an ORCA card. Already, the seven agencies have used signage on their vehicles to get riders to convert to ORCA. Agency staff have also ridden buses, trains and ferries to talk to riders about ORCA and how to use the cards.

How ORCA works

ORCA is a durable, plastic smart card that contains a microprocessor. Riders simply “tap” their ORCA card on a card reader on board buses or at train, light rail and ferry stations, and enjoy their ride.

ORCA cards come equipped with an “E-purse” function that allows a rider to preload fare value onto the card. With each trip — whether on one vehicle or several — the correct fare, including any transfer value, is automatically deducted from the value on the card. Riders can also take unlimited trips by purchasing a monthly pass on their ORCA card.

With ORCA, customers will have more options for paying their transit fare. Riders can buy and revalue ORCA cards online, by phone, by mail or in person at transit agency customer service offices, ticket vending machines and select retail businesses around the region. ORCA cards that are revalued in person are available for use immediately. Cards that are revalued online, by phone or by mail will not have funds available for about 24-48 hours.

ORCA cardholders can check their accounts online, by phone or at ticket vending machines. Customers have the option to register their cards, which allows them to restore their card value if it is lost or stolen. Registered cardholders also can select an “Autoload” feature that adds value to a card automatically when their E-purse is empty or when their monthly pass expires.

Cash will continue to be accepted on all of the transit systems. However, the transit agencies plan to move from paper transfers to electronic transfers beginning Jan. 1, 2010. King County Metro and Pierce Transit will still have paper transfers that are good within their own systems. With ORCA, a valid transfer will automatically be available for subsequent rides on trains and buses within two hours.

When to get ORCA

Riders who purchase their own monthly transit pass online or by mail likely have already been converted to an ORCA card. Starting this month, riders who purchase passes in person will receive an ORCA card for their October transit pass. Riders who get their transit passes from their employers are being converted to ORCA as their employers’ annual contracts come up for renewal.

Riders who buy ticketbooks or tokens for individual transit rides will be converted to ORCA cards beginning in October. Along with the regional advertising campaign, agencies will continue to talk to riders this fall to encourage cash-paying customers to get an ORCA card. Vanpool and paratransit customers must check with their agency about use of ORCA for their rides.

At this time, riders can get an ORCA card at no charge but must load fare value on it for the card to work. After Feb. 1, 2010, it will cost $5 to purchase an ORCA card ($3 for Regional Reduced Fare Permit customers) in addition to the value the rider loads. Under normal wear, ORCA cards are expected to last three to five years before they need to be replaced.

For information about ORCA:

http://www.orcacard.com or 1-888-988-6722 (ORCA)/ TTY Relay: 711/ 888-889-6368


CONTACT: Linda Robson-(206) 398-5149 or linda.robson@soundtransit.org