Jeff Welch at the Puget Sound Transit Operators blog has some interesting observations on how ORCA is being used, misused, and purchased. For example:
Technical Realities – Feel Like Bugs
Buses connect to the master database via wireless connection when they are at the base. There is no ongoing connection to the database. This means that when a passenger loads their card online before they leave for work – the bus that they are boarding most likely hasn’t received the database update that includes the information that their card now has a new pass or added cash amount. As a result, Operators have been instructed (via memo anyway) to accept ORCA cards as “flash passes”, and to let the passenger know that it can take 24-48 hours for an added pass or balance to reflect. The end result is that the passenger gets a free ride (if they pay by e-purse) or are just confused/annoyed by the error, the delay, and the ensuing (public) explanation at the bus door.
This is also becoming a growing new form of fare evasion, as unrepentant fare evaders catch on to the “I just loaded it this morning” meme. An empty card can be used for unlimited rides – all over the system (except Link and Sounder) with that brief explanation.
There have also been reports from customers (and questions directed at drivers) about issues with autoload, as well as multiple problems with employers purchasing the wrong passes (off-peak vs. peak; one-zone vs. two-zone, etc.) for their employees.
I wonder it it’s time to add something to the ORCA website that puts in very noticeable type on the payment screen that your purchase will not take effect for 48 hours.
According to ST spokesman Geoff Patrick, the ORCA vendor, Vix-ERG, has not yet been granted Full System Acceptance (FSA) due to persistent bugs in some of the equipment. Nevertheless “the ORCA agencies are looking at options to improve the user-friendliness of the website, with the goal of making improvements by the end of the year.”