Kitsap Transit “No More Paper Transfers” flyer
Kitsap Transit “No More Paper Transfers” flyer by Mike F

This Saturday, October 31, 2009, will be the last day Kitsap Transit issues paper transfers for cash paying customers. Beginning the next day, Sunday, November 1, cash paying customers must pay for each leg of their trip or use an ORCA card to receive a two-hour transfer. [Update: Commenter Mike F notes that there is no Sunday service in Kitsap Transit so the new policy will take effect on Monday.] ORCA cards can be obtained for free online or in person at various locations until the end of January 2010. The cards will cost $5 afterwards.

Kitsap Transit is not the first local transit agency to eliminate paper transfers. In 2006, Everett Transit stopped issuing paper transfers and reduced their fare by 25¢. With Everett Transit as part of the ORCA system, transfers are once again issued and honored. Community Transit and Sound Transit will follow Kitsap Transit in replacing paper transfers with ORCA cards beginning January 1, 2010. Also starting in the new year, ORCA will be the only way for cash paying customers to transfer between transit systems. So if your trip involves services from more than one agency and you pay your fare in cash, you’ll need to get an ORCA card and put money in your E-purse to get a two-hour transfer. While King County Metro and Pierce Transit will keep paper transfers for use within their systems, I recommend getting an ORCA card while they’re free.

61 Replies to “Kitsap Transit to Replace Paper Transfers with ORCA”

  1. That reminds me, I need to build my ORCA Card RFID scanner so I can clone passersby and ride the bus for free.

    1. good luck with that. The security of the smart chip that ORCA is based on hasn’t been cracked yet, even by professionals.

      1. Even by professionals? Isn’t someone trying to ride the bus for free off someone else’s ORCA account about as close to professional as one can get with this sort of thing? Or is there a way to make a living off ORCA hacking? How many professional ORCA hackers are there, especially if they’re all failing at their job?

  2. I sure hope to hear Metro announcing a similar policy soon to go into effect by the end of 2010.

    1. you mean suck even more right? Seriously we have one of the least friendly for tourists systems I have seen.

      1. Too bad December is the last month for the plastic Puget Pass. Not that it was of any use to tourists to begin with (except ones who ride the bus at least 36 times within a month).

      2. My bad – what’s the one that folks can buy and use like a day pass system-wide? I see them all the time but the name escapes me. They’re like the hard plastic cards with a magnetic stripe, but made of flimsy paper rather than plastic.

      3. I never knew that!

        I think they don’t call it a Day Pass because they don’t want people using it as one = lost revenue. It’s the best deal in town. Get a $2.50 day pass for $5 and ride Link, 2-zone ST Express, 2-zone Metro peak as much you like.

        No idea if those will still work come New Year 2010. I didn’t mention in the post that Metro fares are increasing by 25¢ on Jan 1, 2010.

      4. At any rate – if these passes stick around, could be that “tourist solution”. That would of course mean actually publicizing it, and there’d be nothing stopping locals from using it.

        Or perhaps it could be re-branded as a 1-day Orca card that gets used as a swipe or flash pass rather than a tap pass.

    2. How would a tourist know that it had ever been any different? I’ve ridden plenty of bus systems where you had to pay per ride and bus systems where the transfer was only good in your original direction of travel. I’ve also seen plenty of tourists on Metro look utterly confused when handed a transfer, so I don’t know if it’s possible to design a fool-proof system that doesn’t require a little self-education on the user end. I do think they should offer an ORCA tourist pass, that’s the first thing I look for when going to a new city.

      1. I deal with tourists all day long, and the 2 comments we get most often are, “The buses are free downtown? How cool” and “Each system is different – thanks for letting us know how yours works.” We constantly have to remind ourselves that they DON’T need to know everything and want simple directions and instructions – the minutia of our system are irrelevant to them unless they are transit geeks.

      2. Yeah, when I went to San Antonio I had to pay extra to get a transfer and must give it to the driver when I board the connecting bus. That and the fact that I had to take a unmarked shuttle bus to a parking lot to transfer to a city bus to get downtown.

        I think ORCA makes it easier for visitors. No figuring out how much to pay is the biggest benefit. Just make a version of the card that’s cheaper and not as durable for short term use or a Visitor’s pass like others suggest.

      3. Zed I’m more referring to the difficulty of tourists to handle things like peak off peak, 1 or 2 zone, not having signs with the route maps or even stop information on some, many drivers not announcing the stops, that kind of thing.

        Making ORCA have a refundable deposit would go along way to making tourists happy. they could just load it up at the airport and cash out when their trip is done.

      4. Actually my experience with tourists is that they tend to be pretty humble about not understanding what’s what – and asking, and responding to the information they’re given.

        It’s the local residents who tends to get angry and fly into a frazzle when you do something silly like tell them that their 1.75 off-peak pass is a quarter short for a peak ride.

      5. The lack of information is a problem for infrequent local riders and even frequent riders like us, not just tourists.

        The question is what do tourists think of Seattle’s transit system?

      6. Answer: as an infrequent visitor, I got the handle quickly on Metro, Pierce, and Sound (and yes I even know that Sound Transit doesn’t have their own bus drivers). (disclaimer: I have family in the area, but they don’t take the bus system so I had to learn on my own)

        What would really help would be a TriMet like all-day-all-zone pass. Yes, I know you now have the “Link round trip” passes, but it should be renamed and I should be able to buy one that’s good for anything & everything.

        A few years ago (can’t remember if they still do it), C-Tran had a $6 Go Anywhere pass that was good on all C-Tran and TriMet buses (including MAX trains) and good for all day use. No having to worry about zones, Ride Free, or anything. Just show-and-go!

      7. Yes, our fare system is hard to understand for someone that’s lived here for over 40 years (yeah, easy for ya young’uns ;-).

        Deposits are bad for tourists. Make it large (~$20) then they won’t buy it. You just don’t know when you’re a vistor so you opt out. Make it small and it’s not worth recovering; either for the agency issuing the card or the person returning it. Just build it into the cost of the visitor pass.

      8. Justin, my comment was a reply to DaveO’s comment about Kitsap Transit’s new no paper transfer policy.

  3. Boooo. I can’t see the evil generated by the paper transfer and don’t see the justification for making transit more difficult for the casual, infrequent, or visiting user.

    I recognize that transit systems are generally engineered for commuters, but they are often relied upon by visitors (tourists), and we should be doing everything we can to welcome new riders – some complicted card scheme (which is how a lot of people are going to interpret this ORCA thingy) creates a barrier to entry.

    To say nothing of the sense I get that Big Brother is watching me.

    I’m just sayin’

    1. Hong Kong requires exact change for its ferries, buses and other transit systems, and doesn’t fool around with paper transfers. They also sell an Octopus card similar to the ORCA card, and I bought one without trouble the first time I went there for a 2-day visit. It was not a big deal.

      I agree that signage and other information could be made more tourist-friendly, but the disadvantages of paper transfers (rampant fraud, encouragement of cash fares, slower boarding times, printing expenses) outweigh the benefits.

      To improve the tourist experience, transit agencies might market day or week passes utilizing an ORCA card, and allow tourists to get some sort of a modest refund for returning the ORCA card at the airport station.

      1. I think they need to improve ORCA before it would improve anyones experience. If you’re going to charge a deposit refunds need to be at a lot more places than just the airport. A lot of people don’t travel through the airport. That said I can see some advantages beyond the obvious (not having to carry exact change and figure out our wacko fare system). Experience Washington (aka Washington State Tourism)could incorporate it into their Go Seattle Card. This would also give them feedback on where people went outside of the paid attractions (and conversely areas being avioded and figure out what needs to be fixed).

      1. If you fly in airplanes, use a credit card, an ATM or have a building security key card, you are being watched far more than the ORCA goddess will ever watch you.

    2. I can’t see the evil generated by the paper transfer

      My understanding is that the issue of use of paper transfers between systems is that there isn’t a way of tracking how many are used and how often reliably. Thus, the systems have to do a lot of estimating when it comes to having Community Transit reimburse King County Metro for those fares.

      The “evil” is in the dollars being lost – or at a minimum not reliably tracked – between systems.

  4. Wow, I expect a lot of confused and angry customers on January 1st when they find out they can’t transfer for free without a card. I think a good idea would be for the first week or two to have bus drivers carry pre-loaded ORCA cards good for one trip so that users who don’t have an ORCA can get one hassle free.

    For tourists, they should also implement a “One Day Pass” ORCA that they can use on any transit agency for that one day. Would be a lot easier than having to navigate the menus particularly when you don’t know where you are going.

    1. Distributing ORCA cards on buses is interesting. Kitsap Transit drivers have been instructed to be lenient (at their discretion) during the first week and remind riders to get a card.

  5. They need to make a souvenir version of the ORCA card for tourists and transit junkies. The S.F.Muni has a Passport / CityPass (paper at this time) for tourists that comes in several versions from rides only on up to rides + attractions. The BART system was in the habit of issuing commemorative fare cards for special days like when the Trans-bay Tube was opened. (Naturally one had to overpay their fare so as to keep the souvenir card.)

    1. The SF monthly youth pass is so cheap that I’m getting one for when I’m there Thanksgiving weekend; it works on all MUNI lines and even the cable cars, so at $15, it will pay off after three cable car rides. Good deal.

      1. Good luck with the three cable car rides – waiting in line for those will take your whole weekend. I pity the people whose ancestors used to actually commute using those things. They sure are cool though.

  6. Getting rid of paper transfers will wreak havoc amongst those who save up their transfers and use them over and over again. Good riddance, cheating bums.

    1. or those people will not even bother trying to look like they are paying. right now fare enforcement on buses is almost non existent and I thought I saw a reduction in this area with the new budget.

      1. “Almost”?

        It IS non-existent, and drivers themselves are actively discouraged from – and even at times reprimanded for – reminding passengers about paying the correct fare.

      2. We really need to go to a proof of payment system like Link. In that world, we (drivers) only need to assist people who want to pay their fare. If they don’t want to pay then the fare enforcement folks can “help” them with a reminders of policy, tickets, and ultimately no-trespass orders from the system (in theory at least. No idea if ST does this with Link or not…)

      3. Proof of payment didn’t seem to work out so well on Portland’s buses when they tried it between 1982-1984. Tri-Met did an excellent job of educating riders and non-riders before the switch. The ticket validator equipment was really unreliable because they modified them. Most riders liked the new system but it cost 3 times as much to collect fares over the traditional system, most of the added costs from enforcement.

        If you’re interested in reading the report, I put it up at

        I’m not sure how modern fare collection equipment would change that.

      4. I’ve been on quite a few buses where the operator refused to drive on until some fare evader ponied up, despite the fact that these buses were already 5-10 minutes behind schedule. Regardless of whether or not those drivers got reprimanded by Metro, they sure as hell got earfuls from me.

        Fare enforcement isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a driver’s job. Unfortunately I can’t see ORCA or the elimination of transfers doing much to fix the problem.

      5. Fare *enforcement* isn’t a driver’s job, but letting folks know what the correct fare is – and tracking non-payments – is part of a driver’s job.

        Sometimes I’ll wait to move on as someone digs for a pass or fare – but only because I don’t want a person with their hands jammed in their pockets to fall when the bus starts moving. Usually I’ll tell folks to have a seat and bring their fare up when/if they find it, usually accompanied by a (sincere) “Take your time” from me.

        I’ve heard tell of Pierc and CT drivers doing as you suggest – refusing to move the bus unless and until a passenger who is obviously bent on not paying “ponies up”, but my understanding is that those systems policies have a stronger expectation of fare collection enforcement as a part of driver duties.

        One thing that I struggle with is this concept of “fare dispute”, particularly as a customer complaint issue. What you describe – delaying a bus for the purpose of hard-lining someone trying to wiggle out of paying a fare – meets the definition and isn’t acceptable. Were I a customer on a bus so delayed, I’d likely call customer service or use the online form to describe what I observed. This won’t necessarily result in a driver reprimand, but at a minimum would be logged as a “service request”, and the driver would have a discussion with a chief about it.

        However, I don’t believe that every interaction about fares (i.e. telling a customer that peak fare is $2.00 not $1.75; asking a customer if they have the current transfer rather than yesterdays, or one that is the right color or wrong letter; asking a customer to take their pass out of their wallet (some just flash the top quarter inch that pokes over the sleeve in their wallet – often bogus), etc. are “fare disputes”. I’ve also had customers complain to me when I’ve to their view not said enough – or anything at all – to folks who have leapt off the bus without paying, or announced in advance that they had no intention of paying but would ride anyway. Usually these comments are along the lines of “Why don’t you do your job! I paid MY fare – why don’t they have to! Kick them off the bus!”

        At any rate – I think that some on-board enforcement sweeps, even random, infrequent (but well-publicized) operations would go a long way to discourage fare evasion, and support drivers and the passengers who responsibly pay their fares.

      6. Matt,

        Actually my job title is “Operator”. Our manual (called “the book”) contains over 5 pages of material having to do with the collection of fares, recognition of passes, etc. That thingy to my right is called a “fare box” and requires logging in, setting up, and entry for all passengers who choose to show rather than swipe their card, are a juvenile or senior, or pay in addition to having a reduced fare or off-peak card.

        That other thingy to my right is called “Orca”, and its sole purpose is the collection of fares from boarding passengers. We Operators receive several hours of training not only on collecting cash and pass based fars, but on operation of the Orca system to collect individual and multiple fares.

        So fare collection IS a responsibility of bus Operators – always has been.

      7. Well, there’s a BIG part of the problem right there, Jeff…

        Why can’t we have a new rule that encourages drivers to remind riders that passes need to be swiped? I’ve never understood why it’s okay to “flash” something at the driver.

        The only good exception I have seen to this is when the bus is overcrowded and the driver lets riders off through the back doors. Some will walk to the front to “flash” the driver.

      8. Mickymse,

        Why can’t we have a new rule that encourages drivers to remind riders that passes need to be swiped?

        Probably because Metro has taken this “no fare disputes” policy to a paradoxical extreme where any and all mention of fares or payment to customers is considered a “fare dispute” (and therefore the driver is at fault) any time a customer calls or e-mails to complain that a driver inappropriately confronted them about a fare.

        I’m with you – the “flash pass” thing is largely if not entirely an outgrowth of sheer laziness on the part of passengers (drivers are still supposed to hit the “8” key when shown a pass that isn’t swiped).

        I think that there’s a lot going on here – from genuine concern about putting drivers in a position where conflict might occur, to wanting to make riding the bus as convenient as possible to continue to encourage ridership. At the same time, less and less is being asked of passengers, and one would think that appropriate fare payment might be the ONE thing that folks can agree should definitely be happening.

        A conversion to an all ORCA type payment system might go a ways towards changing rider culture, but I doubt it. In the old days, if you didn’t pay, you didn’t ride, and drivers made change. Go figure.

    2. Never underestimate the ingenuity of the “cheating bums” out there. They will figure out other ways to get a free ride. That said, they are a minority of the passengers on system as a whole. Even at Atlantic base, where the trolleys are, they are still firmly in the minority of passengers. As irritated as I get dealing with fare evasion it’s comforting to know that most of my passengers are trying to pay the correct fare. (If only it were a simpler fare structure…)

      1. Some folks also over-pay, and I’m not sure what the metrics are on that one. Quite often folks will pay $2.00 for an off-peak fare, simply because sliding two dollar bills in is easier than one bill plus change or all change.

        I’m never really sure what to do with the folks who ask permission to ride for free. Riding without paying is a crime – and I don’t believe that I’m empowered by the County to give anyone permission to commit a crime. Usually I just tell them what the fare is, and that I can’t prevent them from riding even if they can’t or won’t pay.

  7. As a transit enthusiast, I collect transit smartcards from my travels. I now have the OrcaCard drom Seattle area, the GoTo card from Minneapolis. I amost got a smarttrip card from Washington DC but it didn’t work out.

    This is in addition to the Chicagocard plus I carry in my current home town.

    1. I have an ORCA of course, a Smartrip, and a Bangkok Skytrain and Metro (the two systems have different smart cards…). I’ll try to get a Translink in SF.

      1. I lived in Bangkok and collected a few of the Skytrain 30-trip cards. I moved here before the Metro opened but I did get to tour a station under construction. It was Children’s Day and they allowed the public with their kids to tour an unfinished subway station! You’ll never see that here.

      2. Wow that’s great! When I was there everyone had to go through a metal detector to get in, it was kinda crazy…

  8. Thinking outside the box for a moment, It seems the FTA doles out enough money each year to have some say-so in transit fares.
    With each system using diferent equipment, and diferent fare structures,(even systems in the same area), is costing Americans a bundle in overhead and lost passengers for the confusion factor.
    This is common in airline fare agreements between carriers nationwide, trucking fuel tax agreements nationwide, telecommunications, and other services — so why not public transportation. One Card For All. Let the computers sort things out, after FTA sponsored arbitration between properties. Want to opt out of arbitraion = goodby new buses paid for by uncle sam.
    Think of how easy it would be to get around the country on one card.

    1. Well, to take that to a new level, I think there needs to be a revolution in payment systems. The current cartel by visa/mastercard/amex/discover is very costly to merchants.

      We really need an inexpensive universal debit system that isn’t taking 2-3% of transactions plus per transaction fees. As much as people don’t like big companies and monopolies, this is something Google could do with their payments system. If they were smart, they’d make it open source. That would impress me.

  9. Getting back on the ORCA subject, for it to be successful, you need to install TVMs at every major transit center and P&R lot to sell and reload these cards, plus a better way of updating the buses enroute, instead of nightly at the base. Not to mention a wider full-service retailer network, plus 24-7 phone support. When someones ORCA craps out at 3 AM saturday morning, and they have to pay for every trip all weekend until they can get it swapped out during business hours on monday i dont think they’ll be very happy.

    1. Drivers have been instructed to honor non-functioning, and even “insufficient funds” reading ORCA cards as “flash-passes” (show the driver) for that trip. Since there are known inefficiencies in the system – like new cards not reading as activated for 24-48 hours, newly loaded E-purse balances not updating for the same time period, etc., it’s unreasonable to ask someone who has already paid for the convenience of using an ORCA card to pay cash as well because system bugs can’t confirm the validity of their card.

      If anyone encounters a driver not honoring their ORCA card or asking them to pay cash due to an “insufficient funds” or other non-read error, they should contact Metro customer service and/or use the online form.

      Every single customer comment – and believe me, some of them are out there and a real pain and humiliation for drivers to have to deal with – are addressed one on one with the driver if they can be identified.

  10. As Monday (November 2) was Kitsap Transit’s first day without paper transfers, I hit as many “transfer points” as I could (that’s where I expected any problems to be) while running several errands in Bremerton. From my vantage point, things couldn’t have gone any smoother. Every driver was cool, calm, and in control – none of the stress over the transition I had seen even a couple of weeks ago. Part of the reason may be that, collectively, their attitude towards the ORCA project is a sea change from last Spring. For whatever reason, most of the drivers seem to have finally bought into ORCA, and have buckled down and are making it work.

    The vast majority of riders on the routes I was on were using paper passes or ORCA cards (and every single person used their cards correctly!). Boarding and deboarding was quick and problem-free for the first time in my memory; it was like watching well-directed scenes in a film. I saw only five parties pay cash. Two folks asked for transfers, and I don’t know what the drivers said, but both riders nodded and sat down. One couple – very regular riders, so they had no excuse – were extremely upset when told they couldn’t have a transfer, but sat down and didn’t argue with the driver. A couple of ORCA cards didn’t work on one route, and the driver waved the riders on. There were, amazingly, none of the fare scofflaws that are frequently seen on Central and South county routes.

    I observed only two minor incidents. A clueless gansta-wannabe (he didn’t even know what bus he was supposed to be on) got really upset when the driver wouldn’t give him a transfer, turned on his tough-boy act, and started ranting at the totally unimpressed driver. I didn’t see how it ended, but considering that the transfer cutters appeared to have been removed over the weekend (two individual transfer cutters per bus had been the norm), and no transfers were visible, I suspect the driver won the round. Finally, to mar the end of a pleasant, full-moon travel day, on my last trip the driver wasn’t in her seat when passengers boarded at a transfer point in the middle of nowhere, so she made everybody pull out their pass or ORCA card and show her – after everyone was seated and had put away their passes and cards. She had no reason to pull such an annoying and unnecessary stunt, so hopefully somebody will have a chat with her, soon, about the new system.

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