Sound Transit buses and trains dive into 2010 with ORCA

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ST moves to all-electronic transfers on ORCA cards Jan. 1

The easiest and cheapest way to ride the wave in 2010 is with the region's new ORCA smart card. Riders are encouraged to get their ORCA cards before Sound Transit switches to all-electronic transfers on
Jan. 1.

Getting ORCA - One Regional Card for All - before the end of the year instead of using cash is the way riders can avoid paying twice. ORCA's "smart card" technology will automatically credits the cost of a first trip for riders who transfer within two hours.

Sound Transit will continue to accept cash fares. Beginning Jan. 1, however, riders using cash instead of an ORCA card to transfer between different trains and buses will pay the full fare for each leg of their ride. ST Express buses will no longer issue paper transfer slips, and paper tickets for Central Link and Sounder trains will no longer carry any transfer value for rides on other trains or buses.

Sound Transit's switch to all-electronic transfers on ORCA cards is part of the regional move to the ORCA smart card system for fares and transit passes. ORCA will replace about 300 various passes, tickets and transfers used by the region's seven public transportation agencies. On Jan. 1, transit agencies in the region will stop accepting paper transfer slips when a rider moves from one agency's service to another's. ORCA will provide the best value for all trips involving transfers between systems.

ORCA cards are accepted on Sounder commuter rail, Central Link light rail, and ST Express buses throughout the region, as well as aboard Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, and Washington State Ferries. ORCA cards are also good for rides on the South Lake Union Streetcar, and beginning Jan. 1, ORCA pass users can ride Intercity Transit's Olympia Express Routes 603 and 620.

ORCA cards can be used like cash or as a transit pass. You can load between $5 and $300 on the card's "E-purse" for trip-by-trip deduction, or load a monthly unlimited ride pass. For a limited time, cards are available with no card fee. Starting Feb. 1, a standard adult or youth ORCA card will cost $5.

ORCA Advantages
With electronic transfers and other smart card features, ORCA makes it easier than ever to ride transit. Gone are the days of rummaging for correct change and lost paper transfers. ORCA allows you to pay your fare quickly, with a simple tap of the card. With each trip, the correct fare, including any transfer value, is automatically deducted.

On top of automatically calculating and crediting transfers for buses and trains, ORCA cards offer many rider conveniences. 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 the card's 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.

Using ORCA on Sounder and Link
Train riders can bypass ticket lines and get the best deal when transferring with a loaded ORCA card. When using an ORCA card to ride a Link or Sounder train, tap your card at a yellow card reader before boarding. Present your valid ORCA card to the fare inspector upon request. When exiting, tap your card again at the station's card reader to complete your transaction and ensure that the correct fare is deducted. If you use the ORCA E-purse instead of cash and transfer to another train or bus, simply tap the ORCA card again on a bus or train platform within two hours, and the ORCA card will automatically credit the transfer value from the first leg of your trip.

How to get an ORCA card
There are many ways to get an ORCA card before Jan. 1. The most convenient is online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at http://www.orcacard.comCards are also available by phone, by mail, at several customer service and retail outlets throughout the region, and at ticket vending machines located at Sounder and Central Link stations. Beginning Dec. 19, ticket vending machines at the new SeaTac/Airport Station will also dispense and reload ORCA cards.

Over the coming months, ORCA will replace many of the region's other transit passes. Riders who buy their monthly passes online or by mail likely have already been converted to ORCA cards. Beginning today, riders who buy passes in person will receive those passes loaded on ORCA cards. Monthly PugetPass cards will no longer be available.

Riders who receive employer-issued transit passes will get new ORCA passes 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.

Reloading ORCA cards
Riders who need to add a new pass or more E-purse value to their ORCA card have several options for reloading their cards in advance of their trip, including online, by phone, by mail, or at customer service offices, retail outlets and ticket vending machines. The ORCA system typically takes 24 hours to process online and phone transactions. Riders who make online and phone transactions must tap their card at an ORCA card reader after that period, loading the pass or E-purse value onto the card's microprocessor. To add a new pass or E-purse value right away, visit any of the outlets or TVMs to reload your card. The pass or E-purse transaction will be processed and immediately ready for use. Riders are encouraged to use their new ORCA cards within 30 days of receiving it.

ORCA is a durable, plastic smart card containing a microprocessor. Under normal wear, ORCA cards are expected to last three to five years before they need to be replaced.