One of the more striking results from Metro’s RapidRide A Line customer survey is the ORCA usage rate and why people do not use ORCA to pay fares (page 30). 55 percent of those surveyed don’t use ORCA. Of the top reasons for not using ORCA, 32 percent don’t know where to obtain the card, 32 percent say it’s not convenient to obtain an ORCA card, 14 percent don’t know what an ORCA card is, and 7 percent can’t afford to buy one.
I’m surprised to see Metro not promote ORCA more prominently along with RapidRide’s launch. If customers only knew that they could conveniently purchase and reload an ORCA card at RapidRide’s northern terminus, the Tukwila International Boulevard Link station, we wouldn’t have the results we see above.
Tukwila has four self-service fare vending machines (TVMs) that take cash and cards, and speak in three languages. What Metro could do is produce a banner or two (or use existing ones), some in-bus placards and maybe record a message to be played periodically on the bus promoting ORCA (like on Sounder). That alone could eliminate 78 percent of the reasons people don’t use ORCA. Metro does have a brochure explaining how to pay on RapidRide in seven languages but it doesn’t explain what ORCA is or where to get it.
Without TVMs at every stop, RapidRide greatly depends on ORCA and multiple doors to speed up boarding. One less cash payer equals many seconds less dwell time at each stop. Multiply that over each person and each stop and many minutes are saved. ORCA readers at every door would also help.
The good news is when people do use ORCA, 69 percent use the off-board reader at stops (not every stop has a reader). On the proof-of-payment (POP) system, 84 percent said they were checked for proof of payment by a fare enforcement officer and 58 percent thought the number of inspections was appropriate. I hope this means positive encouragement for continuing and extending POP.
For comparison, 44 percent of Swift riders pay fares with ORCA. So Metro, don’t feel too bad. The upcoming B Line also has an ORCA vending machine at the Bellevue TC terminus. The rest of the RapidRide lines do too. And Metro didn’t have to spend a dime for those machines. So please take full advantage of them!