Photo by Oran Viriyincy.

After eliminating paper transfers in favor of ORCA last October, Kitsap Transit commissioners voted yesterday to allow for limited paper transfers through the end of the year.

The resolution places “paper transfers back on our vehicles until the end of the year,” said Laurie Talbert, public information coordinator for Kitsap Transit. “It is a limited transfer, because unlike an ORCA transfer which is valid for two hours in any direction at any location and between regional agencies, our paper transfer is limited to the next connecting Kitsap Transit bus or foot ferry and is valid only at our transfer centers.”

ORCA is a regional transit pass that automatically handles transfers, but it costs $5 to purchase a card, and that had some social advocacy groups questioning the equity of requiring cards to handle transfers.

The issue was put in front of commissioners “after input from social service agencies in our area that provide bus fare to their low income clients  “They have requested additional time to help their low income clients convert to the ORCA card.” In Kitsap County, cards are only available at a Ferry terminal, one Safeway store, and online. Other Safeway stores will begin to carry the cards later this year, according to the Kitsap Sun.

“Kitsap Transit offers a low income fare, but must obtain their initial ORCA card in person at our Customer Service Office,” Talbert explained to us. “The logistics of getting each of their clients to our office has been difficult and the elimination of our paper transfers and the implementation of the $5 card fee have made that trip to our office more costly for the agencies. The temporary return of our transfers will cut their cost to convert the remainder of their clients to ORCA.”

The lessons of Kitsap Transit will be instructive as other agencies begin to eliminate paper transfers. Thanks to reader Mike Fisher for the tip.

20 Replies to “Kitsap Transit Adds Back “Limited” Paper Transfers”

  1. More than once I have had my ORCA card debited for a second trip charge that I thought was within the 2-hour transfer time (from scan out on Link to boarding a pay on entry bus). It is too time-consuming to call about it, so I’ve chalked it up to a “cost” of using ORCA.

    In addition, the ORCA transfer policy is less generous than the paper transfer policy was, and eliminates the discretion of the operator – which makes some trips that were previously covered by one fare and transfer into two fare trips. And you don’t know for sure until you tap your card.

    No having confidence what you will be charged is an additional issue. With cash you control whether you hand it over and our drivers are lenient.

    If paying $5 for a card is a barrier, so is not knowing if you’ll be charged $2, $2.25, $2.50 or $2.75 for a trip. Or whether you’ll be charged an extra $2.50 (or whatever) when you thought your transfer covered it, but all of a sudden your card was debited.

    These are additional reasons why pay per ride (non-pass) riders are resisting the transition to ORCA if a paper transfer is available as an option.

    It might ease the transition if there were an implicit all day pass at double the fare within the zone(s) you traveled.

    ORCA is conceptually a good idea, but the implementation in Puget Sound, coupled with inconsistent fare policies, and contrasted against more generous paper transfer policies, is going to create resistance to use.

    1. Extra charges to your ORCA are bugs in the system! I know it’s a pain but please report it. If you’re in a financial position to do so you might even tell them you don’t need a refund.

      Also keep in mind that Metro did not implement the ORCA technology themselves, and all the agencies need our support in making it work. They can’t be everywhere seeing what happens, keep reporting bugs wherever you notice them.

      1. Unfortunately, too late to report. It was on an unregistered ORCA, and the unexpected charge drained the balance to zero (and the driver didn’t ask for the 50c it was short), so I tossed it onto my pile of spare cards, for friends, guests. After it took me about 10 calls to reclaim the value of a registered card that my partner lost, I hadn’t considered calling ORCA about an extra fare.

        On several occasions I’ve had extra charges when I thought it should have been on a transfer. I know it wouldn’t have been an issue with a paper transfer. Now when I have Metro-only trips, I just pay cash and take a paper transfer.

        Many cities that have gone to an electronic card give riders a discount or bonus for using it (e.g. NY Metrocard gives 15% bonus value, Boston MBTA fares are lower with Charliecard) and they have simpler fare structures. The bonus compensates for any overcharges. Something to consider here and give riders an incentive to switch (a carrot – a bonus, rather than the stick of no transfers)

      2. It’s still worth reporting so they at least have a count of the overcharges. That helps us when we lobby them to “do something” about it.

        The 2-hour limit is renewed every time you “pay some cash”. So it’s when you tap in to Link or Sounder. And if your second segment is more expensive than your first so you have to pay a surcharge, you should get two more hours. But if the second segment is the same price or less, you won’t.

        Day passes, week passes, and a maximum daily fee all make sense. The maximum daily fee would be most convenient, so that people don’t have to think about what they’ll do later in the day or lose money if they don’t do it. $10 would be just over two Sounder trips but four local trips. So it wouldn’t be “one round bus trip and then you’re free” like it used to be. Unless Sounder were excluded. But Link will have longer distance fares too when ST2 opens, and we can’t exclude Link.

    2. An all day pass at double fare would be $9.50. Perhaps it would be better to max out a daily purchase at $10/day.

    3. Carl,

      I’ve tended to presume that the 2 hours starts from scan-in on Link (not from scan-out). Could that be the cause of your temporal confusion?

      1. Yes that could well be. I started at Seatac and it was probably a good 40 minutes between tap-in, wait for train to leave, and arrival downtown with tap-out. I understood the 2 hours to be from ORCA “event”. Had I tapped out at I-D and then tapped back in, would have I have gotten an extra 30 minutes?

      2. If I’m correct, then no. If you tapped out at I.D. and tapped back in, then your second trip should show up as “XFER” (i.e. a transfer from the first journey, begun at the FIRST tap-in).

        Frankly, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to tap in at SeaTac and reach your final destination ANYWHERE within two hours. This is not an ORCA issue: it is a testament to the lethargy and infrequency of Metro’s service — as well as the idiocy of “pay as you leave.” (Metro drivers’ hyper-generosity with paper transfers amounts to tacit acknowledgement of this; unfortunately, they exacerbate the problem of “soft fare evasion” and discourage acceptance of the significantly boarding-time-saving ORCA).

  2. Like it or not, Transit (all kinds) is in direct competition with autos.
    Pay at the pump taxes for roads isn’t fair, but it’s simple and catches all but the EV’s (soon to be a bigger problem). Other charges for autos are pretty straight forward, like insurance, car payments, and licence fees.
    Transit should keep things as simple and straight forward as they can, or loose market share to the autos.
    Transit riders have to endure a system of passes, tickets, fare zones, and time of day charges, for each agency they come in contact with. Add in the complexity of train, bus, for multiple jurisdictions, then multiply that times the number of agencies a rider encounters if they travel outside their local area, and it gets to be a mess.
    I’m suggesting transit be a basic public service, funded by a national and state fee, using a common payment system. That starts the debate over how to do it fairly, but constrains the methods to a universal access system.

    1. “I’m suggesting transit be a basic public service, funded by a national and state fee, using a common payment system”

      Yes, We already have a common payment system. It’s called the Dollar Bill. It is legal tender for any debts public or private. Now, transfers and everything else is another matter. Some overall coordination, like what the Swiss have would be nice but i doubt we’d ever go that far.

  3. The real problem with ORCA is getting money on the card. A rider without an internet connection, even with a card, would have to travel to one of two locations in the entire county to put on their $5 fare for the day? That’s a huge burden for a bus ride. It’s not as large of an issue for those of us that can afford to put, say, $100 on at a time or just go online and use a credit card to add value. If you’re living hand-to-mouth and really need that $5 a day savings by getting a transfer, this is a much larger issue.

    We should be able to use the existing fare collection system in place on buses to add value to cards. We should also be able to buy an ORCA card right on the bus.

    1. You can also do it at the TVMs at all Link and Sounder stations, although that doesn’t help everyone in the County.

      1. In Kitsap County, the Kingston IGA and the Bainbridge Island Safeway have ORCA add value stations. By the end of the summer, all of the county’s Safeways will have add value stations, which are available whenever the stores are open. At that point, Kitsap County will be reasonably well covered, as the IGA and Safeway stores are all on long-standing Kitsap Transit routes, with bus stops next to each store.

        Whenever I’m in Kingston, I stop by the IGA, and it takes the friendly cashier at the customer service counter a couple of seconds to add cash to an e-purse. It’s quicker than doing it through a TVM, and you’re given a receipt.

        And there are an ever-expanding number of add value locations throughout the system.

      2. This network should have been up and running before widespread deployment of the system, plus the partering agencys should have had Orca TVMs installed at all transit centers, stations, and P&R lots before 1, Jan 2010

    2. Can’t you load more money at any of the TVMs? Granted, that still not widespread of an option, but they are in more than ‘two locations in the entire county.’

      I know for sure that they work for buying and loading money when first buying the card, and the option was on the menu for loading more money.

      1. “the county” doesn’t always mean King County — ORCA is regional, and this article is about Kitsap County — no Link, no Sounder, no TVMs.

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