3120040638_4a0df38e16There’s a lot of talk about ORCA being confusing or not very well defined. Well, of course. The card isn’t available yet. There isn’t much information on Metro’s site about it. Once we get ORCA in our hands and we’re using it on buses, light rail, and Sounder, it’ll make sense.

A new rider to our area won’t realize that there was some other system that we used to use — they’ll just realize that ORCA is the media we use to pay for transit, and get a card in their hands.

Head past the jump for what we know about ORCA, what we don’t, and to see why ORCA is a good thing for our transit network.

What we do know about ORCA is the following:

  • ORCA is a unified card that will be supported by all the local transit agencies, including the ferry system and ST’s rail networks.
  • ORCA doesn’t need to be swiped: You physically place the card near a reader.
  • ORCA will automatically calculate light rail fares for the rider. You will tap the card at a reader when entering the train, and again when leaving the train — this is needed because the fares are distance-based. Readers will be on the platforms, not on the trains.
  • ORCA will handle transfers automatically for riders — and pay the difference if needed. It will transfer between light rail, buses, Sounder commuter rail, and even ferries where appropiate. Between all regional agencies.
  • ORCA can act like a monthly pass, just like the current PugetPasses. Potential for weekly and daily passes are obvious — all on the same card.
  • ORCA can act as an “e-purse,” or basically cash. If you load $20 on to the card, you can use that $20 for any transit agency in the region. The e-purse can automatically re-fill from a linked credit card. If a registered ORCA card is stolen, its value can be transferred to a new card. Your current balance will be shown on ORCA readers when you move your card to the reader.
  • ORCA can act like both a monthly pass and an e-purse. So if you buy or are provided with a $2.00 monthly pass, you can also load a few bucks on your e-purse to handle that $2.75 light rail ride to the airport. Only 75 cents will be deducted from your e-purse. (You can also pay the difference in cash.)
  • ORCA will be required to transfer from bus to light rail at a reduced or free fare.
  • From a blog post last November: ORCA will be rolled out over a six-month period beginning this Spring. PugetPasses and other pre-paid media will be phased out over time, but existing media will continue to be accepted in the mean time.

ORCA solves a lot of problems. It takes the burden off the driver for determining the correct fare associated with transfers and such. It can evenutally reduce the accepted media for buses, simplifying the boarding process.

What we don’t know is the fate of paper transfers. It hasn’t been announced whether Metro will keep bus-to-bus transfers around nor whether Metro buses will accept light rail tickets as transfers. Reducing paper transfers saves money and reduces littering and waste. By outright eliminating paper transfers that cash-paying riders receive, transit agencies would de facto discourage cash payment. Another way would be reduced fares for ORCA riders. Encouraging ORCA usage is a good thing. Riders fumbling with bills and change slow down boarding and make the system slower for everyone. (D.C.’s transit agency just eliminated paper transfers.)

But a new system takes time to implement and understand. Eliminating paper transfers before ORCA is well-understood could lead to confusion. There should be a time between ORCA’s implementation and the elimination of paper transfers, during which Metro can educate its riders.

But light rail is an entirely new system. It should not be bogged down by paper transfers that will only form habits we’ll have to break in the future. It is already the case that a rider transferring from a bus to light rail will have to use ORCA to receiver a transfer discount. Similarly, I assert that Metro shouldn’t accept light rail tickets as transfers otherwise we’ll have a lop-sided, confusing system. Metro should require ORCA to transfer from light rail.

The one oddity is that Metro’s time frame for rolling out ORCA over six-months starting in the spring doesn’t seem to match ST’s Link light rail launch date of June. Unfortunately, ORCA has been plagued with delays and a staggered and uncoordinated roll-out will look mighty embarassing for all agencies involved.

(Photo credit to Oran Viriyincy.)

80 Replies to “Is the ORCA Card Good for Transit? Yes.”

  1. The only part I dis-agree with is not using a light-rail transfer to bus. This SHOULD be allowed.

    1) You can use your Sounder ticket as a bus transfer to ST Express, Pierce Transit, or Intercity Transit, why wouldn’t light-rail work the same? Do you eliminate this and end up pissing off several thousand people whom transfer to other modes that do use the ST Tickets?

    2) You can use the Seattle Streetcar fare as a one zone fare on any transit agency as well. It is a standard “ticket” that you exchange to the bus driver.

    3) No, paper transfers will probably not go away on the simple basis that people are not going to just purchase a ORCA card just to visit for a week or two. They aren’t likely to buy a ORCA card just to try out bus, Sounder, or Link.

    4) Metro needs to be more proactive in getting information out about ORCA. Most agencies have this information out 6 to 12 months prior to launching the system. Regardless of the disaster of the system has been SO FAR, there is still no excuse why a blog should have more information than the implementing agency(s)

    5) It is GOOD that you can still use ORCA has a Monthly/Yearly pass. My employers biggest concern was that ORCA would eliminate the monthly and yearly option and was looking at eliminating transit passes. Again, this is the lack of information on part of Metro.

    6) And finally – I’ll be happy to use ORCA on WSF – I’ll just have to remember to have a balance on the card since passenger only fares is $2.00 more than the highest Sounder fare. This gives me an excuse to visit the really awesome Mexican restaurant on Bainbridge Island more ! Yay!

    1. Orcas is coming. That’s a given. According to Metro’s Orcas Manager, all passes and paper transfers will be phased out over time. Also, the only way to not ‘double pay’ between Link and Metro is to use your Orcas pass/epurse.
      I think the biggest hurdle will be during the transition period from current multi-agency fare/zone/peak/off peak/distance based fare structures to an eventual common fare structure accepted by all agencies. Something simple, straight forward, and hassle free for the average transit rider.
      It seems a lot of the debate is focused on the ‘bean counters’ mentality of making sure your agency is maximizing it’s own revenue stream through what ever fare structure it has in place. In hard times, this is understandable. But, from the user standpoint, any layer of complexity added to an already confusing fare structure can be maddening — serving as a turnstile to discourage new riders to the system. We should be promoting new riders, and old riders alike.
      An example is having to ‘double tap’ your Orcas card for all Central Link rides. Is the extra burden of making all alightees que up to ‘tap out’ justified for a train that travels fewer than 15 miles. Does the extra nickle a mile really focus development into close in stations, or have the bean counters just made life a bit more dificult for the masses?
      How about getting off a Metro bus. Does every rider have to que up to the farebox on outbouand trips, tap out to get credit or debit for the number of zones traveled and time of day traveled?
      Anyone that’s riden a crush loaded bus will know the answer to that one. Right now the driver just opens the back door, and some flash their Puget Pass or paper transfer at the curb, and others don’t. It’s the honor system. If everyone has to pay with Orcas or cash, the line to the front of the bus is going to be long and slow. Metro will surely require a ‘don’t open the rear door’ policy if the bean counters have their way. How else will they get credit for the ride? Also, the riders who’ve had their epurse recently debited will ‘howl’ if the driver opens the back door.

      Here’s an idea. With Link stopping short of the airport for at least 6 months after startup, and Orcas being phased in over the next year, why not use the 6 month period between July and December let everyone ride Link for free.
      It’s a great promotional idea, builds ridership, introduces old and new riders alike to a new way of getting around town, and says, “THANK YOU PUGET SOUND! – YOU HUNG IN THERE WITH US, AND VOTED FOR MORE”
      What better way to start a new decade? 2010

      1. Ride Link for free? Now there’s a promotion.

        As for crush loaded bus, tell me about it, especially since there’s only two places I can sit on the bus. At least here (unlike where my brother lives in southeastern Virginia where passengers are rude about it), (mostly) everyone kindly moves out of the way when I wheel onto the bus.

        One common fare structure makes sense since for the drivers now, there’s too many different kinds of transfers and passes (my ID, U-PASS, PugetPass, all the different agency transfers, Metro Stickers, Sounder passes, etc). It’s confusing even to “transit junkies” like me (pitty the poor soul trying to commute to and from work) as someone commented in a previous post.

    2. Paper light rail -> bus transfers shouldn’t be supported, because paper us -> light rail transfers aren’t. It’d be confusing to go one way and not the other.

      In addition, given that light rail fares vary it’d make fare collection for Metro operators manual and slow. If someone wants transfers, they should get an ORCA — and let’s make sure the barrier for getting an ORCA is very small.

      1. I agree…everyone should have an ORCA card of some sort. You would want all your regular users to have ORCA, but you also really need something easy for casual users and visitors. Anytime I visit a foreign city I almost always get an all-transit pass for a particular time period. They are usually sold at the same ticket kiosks that everyone uses. You would need something similar to keep the barriers to entry small. But it would seem wasteful and costly to issue plastic cards with RFIDs for a one-day or three-day pass.

      2. Think I buried the lead in my post. It’s not the “if” I’m concerned with. Not having visitor passes is not even an option. It’s the “how” I’m concerned with. If we want to go all ORCA, how does that work? That sounds like it could be awfully expensive and wasteful. Other city’s passes always seem to be paper. I’ve not been to London in a very long time though so I’m not familiar with the Oyster card setup which many folks here seem to make comparisons to.

  2. Couldn’t there be a card reader at the back exit of busses, too? Then those with ORCA cards could get on and off at either door, just like the trains will work.

    Also, the new decade won’t start until Jan. 1, 2011.

    1. Sure, and you could have Orca readers at all the transit centers, park and rides, most downtown busy stops (3rd/Union, Campus Pkwy, etc), but with Metro’s budget in shambles, that years off, if ever.
      Your right on 2011, but I’m also a member of the flat earth society!

    2. The modern Gregorian calendar was not adopted until 1582, and before that time keeping track of dates was very imprecise. It is meaningless to discuss whether decades begin when the final digit switches from 9 to 0 or from 0 to 1. 2011 is NOT exactly 2011 years since the birth of Christ. The date is off by at least a few years.

      Common parlance has decades beginning when the last digit switches from 9 to 0, not 0 to 1. Because neither is more “accurate”, advocating deviation from the standard only adds confusion to language and makes you look like a wannabe know-it-all.

  3. Questions I’m curious about:

    1) How widely available will ORCA cards be for purchase? Are we still talking mostly grocery stores and drug stores? How about convenience stores? Will I be able to buy them at the airport?

    2) How will recharging the card work? Will it have to be done online? At a retail location? At a kiosk? How many kiosks will there be?

    1. I seem to recall from an old STB post that you will be able to refill the card online and I think at retail outlets too. I really hope they add more convenience stores and such as locations to pick up a card, mostly for the convenience of reloading the card.

    2. In addition to those locations Craig described and online at orcacard.com, you should also be able to “feed” your ORCA at Sounder and Link ticket machines.

      1. I post from Minneapolis (love Seattle, have lived there before, etc.) — anyway, we have the GoTo Card which is like your coming ORCA, and yes, you can refill at light rail ticket machines, including putting monthly passes on the GoTo (our passes are even better — they’re rolling 31-day passes, starting from the date of first use, so if you first use a pass on 17 Dec., it’ll be good to 17 Jan.), and the machines even take credit cards! (Side note: I recently saw a soda machine at Southdale that takes credit cards….)
        I would guess ORCA will have similar capabilities. Oh, and good luck w/ your light rail!

  4. How about mailing an ORCA card to every household in the tri-county area with one round-trip on it ( pre-loaded)?

    Costly but would get some folks on transit…

    1. Not a bad idea and the next 12 months are going to be a “big deal” for local agencies. I’d also include Kitsap County since Kitsap transit will be part of ORCA as will WSF.

      Are there any other agencies that aren’t part of Puget Pass that are participating in ORCA?

    2. Metro can include pre-paid return envelopes for people who don’t want it. U-PASS does this every quarter when it mails the validation stickers.

      Alas, we have to buy a stamp for our mail-in ballot to King County Elections.

      1. Excellent point. T

        his past election you actually didn’t have to buy a stamp. They had dropboxes. That’s what I did because I was too cheap to pay the 42 cents.

  5. What’s to prevent someone who wants to scam the system from NOT refilling their card – just leaving it at zero – then when it registers as zero, the scammer simply claims to the driver that he just paid to put credit onto the card, and he doesn’t know why it’s not registering as being empty. The driver will have no way of knowing whether that’s true or not. Unlike the old passes, there will be no expiration date on the card.

    1. From what I’ve seen, the ORCA implementation seems highly engineered to keep people from gaming the system. In the example above, the ORCA database could make a note every time a card is scanned with zero credit. When it happens enough times, the system could flag the card and notify the driver that the card is bogus.

      1. OK, then what? Does the driver demand the card, or put on their ‘law enforcement cap’, holding the suspect until security arrives? That’s always popular with everyone else on the bus trying to get home. Let’s all wait 30 minutes at a bus zone while Mr. Jerk gets a ticket. That’s how drivers get assulted!

      2. Brian Ferris is right. This isn’t an ORCA problem. Imagine someone using a three month old PugetPass. The driver will probably ignore it for safety & speed reasons. Drivers very much do not want to be fare enforcers, believe me. ORCA is better than cash in that way, too. At least a scammer using ORCA is passive aggressive.

  6. ORCA will be very helpful when everything has been transitioned.

    I just hope that the agency my office uses to distribute our “transit benefit” cooperates with the ORCA transition. Currently they mail me a Puget Pass monthly and deduct it from my paycheck. However, last year when the fares raised $.25 on Metro, the benefit agency didn’t bother to send anyone in my office a pass. I can imagine it will take a long time to transition any 3rd party transit benefit providers for companies that are not HQed in Seattle. Although I’m going to make a broad assumption that other large cities with a bigger mix of transit options have similar systems (you mention DC just eliminated paper transfers) so hopefully the 3rd party agency can handle the ORCA switch.

  7. If ORCA is going to roll out this year then the education process on it needs to begin now. That includes with companies that subsidize employee commuting costs.

    The fact the official information about ORCA is so sparse and so old does not inspire confidence that the appropriate information will be made available in a fashion that is both timely or comprehensive.

    So thanks at least for this posting.

    1. This is why I like the idea of mailing a card with a pre-loaded round trip to every household in the service area. The mailer could include information about how ORCA works and how to reload your card.

  8. To be added to the “don’t know yet” column: Are they really going to charge for the things? I think it’s a terrible idea to do so.

    1. Wouldn’t surprise me. I had to pay $3 for my reduced fare permit; for laminating costs and such I guess. These cards aren’t just laminant so I’m sure they want people to pay for them. I agree though, it is a bad idea.

    2. Once the initial period of distribution the word is each card will cost $5. Given that something like 25% of riders are new within a year, this means that most riders within 4 or 5 years will have had to pay the $5 surcharge.
      I think the disposable may be cheaper, but again, it is not a 5 cent paper/magnetic strip card seen elsewhere.

      1. No, it’s a 10 cent RFID chip seen elsewhere. I’ve seen them free in many countries, though they are collected in the turnstyle at the end of the trip. Since we aren’t automatically collecting them I could imagine, say, a $.25 refundable charge. But what are we going to do with day-users? Charge an extra $5 to ride Link? Go back to our current painful paper-based system in addition to Orca except just for short-term users? That just makes Orca one more payment system.

      2. We may need to ask the agencies what they intend to do. I may have heard a bad rumor. The card has Public Key Infrastructure which I understand to be costlier to create than a simple RFID tag. I’ve heard $5 as the cost for making each card and that the full cost would be passed to users and not in the normal fares.

      3. You certainly do want people to pay the full cost of the ORCA card, whatever is, because you want them to have an incentive to not lose it or forget it at home.

      4. If it really costs us $5 (god I hope not), then this is a real problem. I suppose we’ll have to charge the full price, but then have a separate system for short-time users. I suppose we could set up a refund system (like the airport Smarte carts), or (groan) have a separate paper-based system.

      5. Charging additional fees for the “privilege” of using ORCA is stupid IMO. People will not buy them if they have alternatives. The benefit to the agencies should be the financial benefit of more efficient loading and deloading of buses and transit, less overhead of duplicated systems, etc…

      6. This is asinine because it discourages casual users and those who are just visiting. If ORCA becomes the only way to transfer it becomes a huge barrier to transit use. Sure with Metro, CT, ST express, and Sounder overloaded during peak hours it may not seem like a big concern to the agency planners. However Link may bring a lot of new people to try transit.

        Then there is also the problem of the planned metro transit changes in SE Seattle and SW King County funneling people on to link. Many of the current riders in those areas don’t have passes and are elderly, poor, or non-English speakers. What efforts have been made to educate these communities about ORCA or to minimize the impact of removing what had been free transfers? Then again maybe the goal is to ensure only rich white yuppies ride link and all those icky elderly, poor, and and dark skinned people stay off of it.

      7. Re: Daniel K: This is one reason why discounting fares for ORCA riders is a good idea. The cost of a card becomes an investment towards cheaper rides.

      8. Sure, if they discount rides for ORCA users, but if they don’t charging a fee for the card is wrong. We’ve already been charged for the cost of developing the program and now we’re going to be charged again for the media they chose? Better to bury the cost in their budget and the entire fare collection/advertising income collection (they don’t come close to maximizing advertising revenue sources) process.

      9. The GoTo system in Minneapolis has the following policy: Getting one is free as long as you have it registered in your name. An un-registered one costs $5. Replacements for lost or damaged cards are $5. Non-working cards with no apparent user-caused damage are replaced for free. (I’ve had two cards screw up on me in 15 months, maybe a bad omen….)

      10. Don’t forget the possibility of a deposit rather than an outright fee for the cards. London’s Oyster cards are a “refundable £3 deposit if you are only adding cash to pay as you go.” (If you aren’t adding cash to pay as you go, and are buying a pass instead, I think that means there isn’t an additional deposit at all. They didn’t charge us £3 to get our 7-day pass in September.) A $5 deposit seems more reasonable than a $5 charge — and I think that if you are buying a monthly pass, for example, that the cost should just be rolled in to the pass.


      11. Interesting. What’s “refundable” mean? Does that mean that basically the minimum amount you can put on an oyster is £3?

      12. If so, that kills the idea of a deposit. You want people to bring the cards back to be used again, not just throw them away. (runs off to do a little research) Apparently you can get a refund for your deposit at any ticket window.

    3. Here is the coin version I’ve seen – sold at 0.01 euros in small quantities. I’d link to the card version, but they don’t list a price.

  9. Orca technology is good. Skehan has isolated the problem: bean counters have been responsible for the specifications of the project, rather than agency representatives concerned about making the system simpler and faster for customers and operators. Distribution locations like Bartell is only an afterthought. There is no cheap disposable version (like WMATA has) for visitors; everyone will have to get ORCA (visitors will have to pay a fee for a so called disposable version that is still a thick heavy plastic card). Full-time riders will get in the groove, but it will only increase the barriers to public transportation for potential new riders, visitors and infrequent riders.
    Readers at the back door have been considered and ERG (Orca tech people) say it can’t be done without changes to the system as it is. It is rumored that the processing of the tap takes longer than a swipe card. A crush loaded coach could be a nightmare.
    My dream is that the whole project collapses and the legislature steps in and hires T-Mobile or some other customer-driven technology company to start from scratch. The new technology will be cell phone ready and would be first focused on making it easier for customers and operators and leave out the bean counting until afterwards. Given how fast FlexCar was able to transition to ZipCar (smart cards and all) I think a private company could do it in 6 months to a year. The 10 years and millions spent by the transit agencies will have not gone for naught; we will have learned the valuable lesson of not allowing bean counters to manage major technology projects.

  10. “Your current balance will be shown on ORCA readers when you move your card to the reader.”

    This is both good and bad. I’m not sure I’d like others behind me to be able to see my card balance as I use my card – just makes you a target for thieves – and I can see this slowing down the process as people check out their own balance. There should be an option to card users to not display the current balance on the card other than when you’re out of money on it.

    Another question: what stops the readers from double dipping? If these activate from proximity, if you’re on a crowded bus and have to stand near the reader what’s to stop it from reading a nearby card hanging by the side of a passenger? This could be a serious problem.

    1. The practical read range on these things is probably going to be six inchces or less. It will probably be similar to a contactless key card for building access, if you’ve ever used on of those. So there are going to be very few situations where you are hanging out close enough to the reader for this to be an issue.

      Add on top of that, the reader should be smart enough to know that if you’ve scanned twice on the same bus to only deduct once.

      1. It’s pretty easy to do something like “oops it’s only be 10 seconds since you paid a fare!”

        Most of the time though your fare counts as a transfer. So even if the system was dumb, it’d just double count you for the transfer. But there’s no way the system is that dumb.

      2. We assume a lot with our “should” and “no way” comments. As a software developer, I KNOW that every scenario under the sun will not be coded for, and many you’d think should be won’t be. Someone simply needs to think it isn’t going to be an issue to not have the systems set up to address the possibility.

        I can definitely imagine being forced to stand within 6 inches of the reader on a crowded bus.

        Anyway, another reason to get info out is to address such concerns and get such feedback, so I hope someone involved with ORCA is reading this thread.

    2. Regarding “double dipping”, the Minneapolis GoTo system prevents that. Any card used twice at the same reader within so many minutes is rejected as a “passback”. The primary purpose is to keep people from “passing back” their cards to someone else but it also prevent you from being charged twice. If you *did* touch the reader after the window of disablemant ended but before your transfer expired (2.5 hours here) it would just harmlessly read as a transfer.

    3. “This is both good and bad. I’m not sure I’d like others behind me to be able to see my card balance as I use my card – just makes you a target for thieves – and I can see this slowing down the process as people check out their own balance. There should be an option to card users to not display the current balance on the card other than when you’re out of money on it.”

      Now the equivalent of a store or a restaurant is not the same as a small, claustrophobic bus, but I’m a student at Seattle University (which gets shafted by the bus system by the way, most of its bus service is “on the way” to someplace else and they truncated the 9 several years back, so as a resident of the U-District, I have to take the 49 several blocks short of the actual school – not that I’m bitter or anything), and our student ID cards come with accounts we can use to pay for meals, and when we do so it displays our balance. It takes maybe two nanoseconds to see your balance, really, so I don’t see that being a slowdown concern, especially if the balance displays for only two seconds or so. The “target for theives” is a bigger concern, but ORCA cards will be targets to some extent anyway.

  11. The card is supposed to keep track of the time for transfer purposes, so it seems like if it registered a second time, it would just register as a transfer anyway.

    1. In addition to that, the readers could be active only when the doors are open and up to a minute after they close. That is useful if they want to do a distance or zone-based system on buses/trains under the proof-of-payment system, or prevent accidental deductions and cheating.

  12. I would like to see the bus cost 50% more for tickets to encourage ORCA use. This is the best way to get people on it. I REALLY hate waiting for 5 mins for people to board…

    1. Agreed. It is in the transit agency’s best interest to have a fast moving system that gets people on and off quickly and from point A to point B quickly. They will want to give people an incentive to use the ORCA card because it benefits the agency in many ways that they do.

      However, given the thinking I’ve come to see in this region, I’m not holding my breath that officials will see it that way, and by not doing so they’ll just be inflicting a blow on their own service offering. Par for the course I’m afraid.

  13. I have heard that U-Pass is going to be integrated with ORCA. Does anyone know the details of this, or when it will be implimented? Will I be able to use U-Pass to ride the ferry?

  14. Perth’s transit system (Transperth) uses a ‘smart card’ system similar if not identical to ORCA. Perth has multiple zones, a ride-free area in the CBD, three free downtown circulator bus routes (CATs) as well as trains and ferries. Basically you just “tag on/tag off’ each time you enter and depart a bus, train or ferry. Although buses have processors at each door, for some reason they only allow you to board at the front door. If you don’t ‘tag off’, a default fare equivalent to the cost to the final destination of the vehicle you’ve boarded is assessed the next time you ‘tag on.’

    Processors are also located at train station platforms and on ferries.

    You do not need a card if you are traveling in the free-ride zone or on the CATs; however, if you plan to travel outside of the free area you need to “tag on.”

    When transferring, you need to “tag on” and “tag off” each service. You aren’t charged each time; if you are in the 2-3 hour transfer period, the software reads it as a transfer and does not charge extra.

    On the trains you do need to have a valid ticket, but as like the buses if you are travelling between stations within the free-ride area your card is not charged when you ‘tag off.’

    Transperth sells the cards at various retail outlets (although not all that many), as well as at their infocentres. You can’t buy them at ‘add-value’ machines located at the train stations, but as the name indicates you can add value there as well as automatically, on all buses (by cash, through the driver) and at some other locations.

    We found it pretty simple to use and as we arrived in Perth by rail, it was easy to get a card right there. It costs $10, which covers a debit charge if you go farther on a trip than the value you have on the card. Of course you will get the red light/’not valid’ the next time you have the card read if you don’t add value!

    (You can still buy cash tickets and day passes, but as the day pases aren’t valid during peak hours, we chose the smart cards.)

      1. Nahhhh–I love this blog and get a lot of great info from it; I just thought the systems were so similar in scope (multiple means of conveyance, ride-free zones etc.) that there were some parallels that could be drawn. We found the system in Perth to be easy to use, as visitors more-or-less unfamiliar with the area (other than the buses seeming to always be on the ‘wrong’ side of the road!). ;-)

  15. So, basically, they planned this entire system, with buses as a major component, *without initially considering the back door exits*? Honestly, that’s just gross incompetence — it’s not ERG’s fault that it’s hard to change, it’s the fault of the planners associated with metro for not putting it as a high priority in the plan in the first place.

    My guess is that the planners don’t even use their own public transportation system.

    Why does it seem like everyone in leadership positions in public transit (and transportation) agencies in seattle is a first-grade moron… christ. Snow packed by design, indeed…

    1. There’s no one in the back to make sure you tapped your card or that you have a cash fare. People could just walk on without paying. Encouraging people to exit in the back at all times would be a good idea, but you don’t need an ORCA reader for that.

      1. they should just force you to get on in the front and exit the rear (except for disabled), but of course that would make too much sense for most.

        I think people here are too concerned with fare evasion considering right now there is almost no enforcement. You can just waltz on any bus without paying. In fact I had the pleasure of listening to someone behind me talk about laminating Metros policy and just flashing that at the driver.

      2. So, I was writing a response re: being able to tap-in at front, tap-out at back — and then I just realized *I* was being the dumb one here. I don’t know how ORCA will work WRT to multiple zones, and I was assuming tap-in, tap-out because of the description of the Perth system above. But, of course, it could just work the same as the existing fare system.

        Nevermind. :-)

  16. Right now you can just flash a PugetPass at the driver and it’ll count; unless there’s some visual evidence on the card itself that it’s in “pass mode”, you will have to actually tap the card. That makes it even more imperative that people actually have their cards ready BEFORE boarding the bus.

    1. Ah, but the nice thing about RFID is that you can just be close to the reader. Just swing your purse by the reader or tap your wallet on it.

  17. Search Google Finance for ASX:ERG (that’s the stock symbol for the ORCA smart card system vendor) and you’ll get an idea of why the system has been delayed for so long: the company that makes the cards and equipment is very, very bankrupt.

  18. tapping is a fantastic system. having spent time in both new york (metrocards – swipe in only) and london (oyster cards – tap in and tap out for rail, single-fare tap in on buses) – the oysters are far simpler to use. stick it on a lanyard, in your wallet, whatever– just hold the whole thing up to the reader and it beeps.

    what i’m interested to see is how ST plans to program the readers for entry and exit to avoid fare evasion. what they should do:

    buses: tap-in machines mounted at main entry door, tap-out machines on platforms. having tap-outs on the bus at the exit door is pointless.

    sounder: machines tap in and out at all platforms. conductors carry little devices (see london: transit cops randomly board buses and check oyster cards for valid fares with small handheld readers) and assess fare penalties.

    link: same as buses. tap in on the trains, tap out on the platforms. makes sure people dont quickly hop off at fare boundaries to tap out then jump right back on the train.

    1. Hong Kong’s Octopus systems is also a fantastic system that we could learn from. The Octopus card is not only used for payment all public transport system, it can also be used as payment on parking metres and at most convenience stores where it can also be refilled.

  19. I have a Regional Reduced Fare Permit, and am wondering how the RRFP will work with the ORCA card. I’m hoping someone can let me know because I am quite confused how it will work. Also, is the ORCA only for train, or bus as well? Guess I’m REALLY behind on the news! :-)

    Thanks for any help…

  20. So if I “buy” one or three of these things how long will they remain good if they go unused? I might go six months or more without using it. If I get in on the pre $5 fee it would be worth having some around just to give visitors but not if I have to ride once a month just to prevent deactivation.

  21. I’m from Boston where this thing is available as the Charlie Card, and love it. The best part is, you don’t have to take it out of your wallet. Just put your wallet near the reader, and you’re on your way.

    I didn’t see a lot of people lining up to get this, but you should grab it. It’s free and stores your monthly pass or stored value electronically. Since there’s no magnetic stripe, you don’t have to worry about that getting scratched or sliding it through.

  22. I took Community Transit From Lynnwood to Downtown Seattle yesturday while my car was being worked on and actually enjoyed it. Here is my problem. I know how much it cost me to drive my 2000 Ford Focus to and from work. And it’s 1/5 of the cost of my fare range. If I had to pay for parking, I know it would save me money.
    I tried to go to the Orca Card web-site, and not only was the text at the top of every page scrambled, I could not find any place that listed what the cost to “charge” the card was. (I.E. price per week, price for 2 weeks, or price per month).
    Unless I can calculate what, if any savings it would mean to me…..I will continue sitting in traffic. It’s almost as if the people working for the puget sound transit systems just assume that most people who use mass transit either have to or are not capable of calculating the cost differences between taking the bus or using their own vehicle.
    If they want me us this system, post the Fees for charging the card, and let me figure out if it’s worth it.

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