ORCA smart card replaces most paper transfers Jan. 1

Publish Date

On Jan. 1, 2010 transferring between buses and trains in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties will be changing. Paper transfers will be replaced with electronic transfers on ORCA cards for trips that involve transferring between agencies.

While King County Metro and Pierce Transit will still offer paper transfers that are good within their own systems, Community Transit and Sound Transit will switch to all-electronic transfers. Everett Transit and Kitsap Transit have already phased out paper transfers on their systems, so the switch to the new electronic transfers offered by the six ORCA bus and train agencies means riders throughout the region can get a better deal with ORCA.

Cash will continue to be accepted by all seven of the ORCA partner agencies, but beginning Jan. 1, riders using cash instead of an ORCA card to transfer between different agencies’ systems will pay the full fare for each leg of their ride.

To help riders get an ORCA card and get the best deal with electronic transfers, a promotion that is in effect now through the end of January encourages riders who haven’t obtained an ORCA card to do so. During the promotion, ORCA cards – ready to be loaded with cash value or a pass of the rider’s choice – are available with no card fee. Starting Feb. 1, a standard adult or youth ORCA card will cost $5.


ORCA Advantages
ORCA makes it easier than ever to take transit throughout the four-county region with technology that automatically credits a rider’s first trip when he or she transfers within two hours. With each trip, the correct fare, including any transfer value, is automatically deducted for riders using E-purse. Riders can also load their ORCA card with a monthly pass that is good for unlimited rides. Transfer policies for ferries remain unchanged with the ORCA system, with no transfers to or from Washington State ferries onto buses or trains.

Riders can get an ORCA card and add value online, by phone, by mail, at a ticket vending machine, or in person at transit agency customer service offices and select retail businesses around the region. ORCA cards that are revalued in person are available for use immediately. The ORCA system takes about 24 hours to process transactions done online or by phone.

On top of automatically calculating and crediting transfers, ORCA cards offer many conveniences for riders. ORCA cardholders can check their accounts online, by phone or at a ticket vending machine. Customers have the option to register their card, 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 the E-purse is empty or when the monthly pass expires.

Switching to electronic transfers with the ORCA smart card system will help stretch the public’s transit investments by simplifying and streamlining fare collection and administration. 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. Switching to an electronic fare system also means that fare collection and distribution of fare revenue to each agency is done more efficiently and processed faster.

Over the coming months ORCA will replace many of the region’s other transit passes. Riders who purchase their own monthly transit pass online or by mail likely have already been converted to an ORCA card. Riders who purchase passes in person will receive their pass loaded on an ORCA card. Monthly PugetPass cards will not be sold to individuals after Dec. 14.

Riders who get their transit pass from their employers are being converted to ORCA as their employers’ annual contracts come up for renewal. Until then, employer-provided passes that are valid and unexpired will continue to be accepted by participating agencies. Ticketbooks will continue to be sold by King County Metro Transit and Community Transit in 2010, but these products will no longer have transfer value on other agencies’ buses or trains, and riders who use ticketbooks or tokens are encouraged to switch to ORCA cards before card fees are introduced in Feb. 2010. Vanpool and paratransit customers must check with their agency about use of ORCA for their rides.

ORCA is a smart card-based electronic fare system for public transportation agencies serving King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties. 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. Under normal wear, ORCA cards are expected to last three to five years before they need to be replaced.

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.



Transferring with ORCA

  • Transfers are easy with ORCA -- the card does the math for you.
  • Transfers work for all participating regional partners’ bus, train and light rail service, but are not available on Washington State Ferries.
  • When using a valid pass or E-purse on your ORCA card for bus, train and/or light rail service, your electronic transfer is activated when you tap your card on the ORCA card reader. The transfer is good for two hours after you tap the card.
  • The ORCA card reader recognizes each leg of your journey within the two hour period and you will not be charged the full fare for each subsequent leg.
  • The ORCA card will calculate the amount of ‘electronic transfer value’ your trip is worth based on the cost of the first leg of your trip. If you transfer to a service that charges more, you can either use your E-purse to pay the difference or pay cash.
  • If your ORCA card has an agency-specific pass, you will only be able to transfer within that agency’s services.

Add Value to ORCA:


  • When you add value to your card online or by phone it will take about 24 hours for the ORCA system to process the order. When you tap your card at an ORCA card reader after that period, the pass or E-purse value will be loaded onto your card.
  • To add a new pass or E-purse value right away, visit an ORCA Customer Service Office, a Retail Outlet or a Ticket Vending Machine. The pass or E-purse will be processed and immediately ready for use.

Tap Within 30 Days:

  • After you add value to your card online or by phone, remember to tap on the ORCA card reader within 30 days so the credit can be added to its embedded microchip.
  • If you have not used your ORCA card within 30 days of adding value please contact ORCA Customer Service.

View Transaction History:

  • To view transaction history online you must have a registered ORCA card and an online My ORCA Account. Fare payment and add value transactions may take about 24 hours to display in your Transaction History.

Pending Account Status:

  • When you add value to a registered ORCA card online, your My ORCA Account status will display as “pending”. Tap the card after the 24 hour processing period and the card’s pending status will change to “active”.
  • Remember, when you view your ORCA card’s activity in your Transaction History it will be an additional day behind your travel activity.

Resetting Online Password:

  • To protect your My ORCA Account online password, if you are resetting the password do not use a password you have previously used.

Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP)

  • To obtain a new ORCA RRFP, bring proof of age (65+), proof of disability or a valid Medicare card to your local transit agency’s Customer Service Office. There is a $3 card fee for a new RRFP ORCA card.

  • If you already have a valid RRFP you may exchange it for a new ORCA RRFP at no charge.

Reporting ORCA Issues:

  • To submit a comment or question about your ORCA card or a fare transaction, please include: the bus coach number; the bus, train or ferry route number; the date and time; your Card Serial Number; and any additional details of the ORCA incident.

For information about ORCA:

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

Contact: Linda Robson, Sound Transit 206-98-5149; linda.robson@soundtransit.org

Rochelle Ogershok, King County Metro 206-296-6515; rochelle.ogershok@kingcounty.gov