ORCA promo on CT schedule

ORCA’s Joint Board last week discussed changes and enhancements (“new work”) for the next round of implementation in June called Maintenance Release 18. Much of the new work in MR18 has to do with the website and streamlining customer service. Work to be implemented in March (MR 17) will affect back office operations: Autoload enhancements, bank holds, business account management, RapidRide card readers at stations, and transaction history.

Currently, routine Maintenance Releases are scheduled 4 times per year. Costs for new work are shared among the agencies using a complex formula based on the previous year’s ridership, except agency specific work. There is $1.5 million in the regional fund for system enhancement. The agencies will address funding beyond that amount during 2013 budget process.

Due to the publicity for this meeting, Sound Transit’s CEO, Joni Earl, opened the meeting expecting the first public comment to be ever given before the Joint Board. Alas, there was no public comment. The next Joint Board Meeting is on February 13, 2012, 10:30 am at King Street Center’s 8th floor conference center. This is your chance to let the managers and staff of all seven Puget Sound transit agencies know your thoughts about ORCA.

Summary of the meeting and work items for June, after the jump.

Representatives from the vendor, Vix, gave a report. The Joint Board discussed the agenda for its Futures Workshop, where they will work on a vision for ORCA based on current industry trends. Vix will be presenting their work in other cities and new technologies like Near Field Communication.

Next in discussion was 2012 legislative bill requests. One concerns proof of payment for certain transportation fares. HB 3183.2/12 (in its 3rd draft) concerns the disclosure of personally identifying information on certain transit passes and fare payment media. It clarifies that “personally identifiable information includes use of information pertaining to a specific, individual transit pass or fare payment media” and “information that may be disclosed regards the acquisition and use of transit passes or fare payment media”.

Results from the second online ORCA survey were presented. The survey was not a statistically valid survey as there was no random selection of respondents by a criteria (very important), no prevention of multiple responses from the same individual, and was limited to those using the website. Sound Transit conducted the survey this year. Metro conducted the first survey in 2009. 183,951 registered cardholders received an email with a link to the survey. 11% (20,734) responded. 2,500 responded to the 2009 survey.

Community Transit’s CEO, Joyce Eleanor, asked about doing a controlled survey and commented that the results haven’t significantly improved since the last survey. CT conducts an on-board survey every 3 years. Metro conducts a telephone-based rider survey every year. Kevin Desmond, Metro’s general manager, suggested coordinating each agency’s survey to achieve the same result without having to conduct a separate regionwide survey.

A good portion of the meeting was spent discussing the process of prioritizing the new work under a limited budget. The list of new work for the next maintenance release presented to the Joint Board were selected by agency staff. However, two of the work items did not yet have a cost estimate. Eleanor was worried that there may not be enough money left to do the “big ticket items” like the disposable card.

She stated the need for the disposable card, which would benefit people with low income/human services organizations/tourists and has been asked for by customers. Desmond thinks there should be a business case to justify disposable cards, which have an ongoing cost for the cards. He also raised the question of cost and benefit for three items which would affect about 6,000 customer service transactions per year but would cost over $200,000 to implement.

The list of work items for Maintenance Release 18, scheduled for testing in June, includes regional and agency specific items.

Regional items:

  • Bulk Card Orders Fulfilled at Customer Service Office (CSO) Allows customers to purchase or add value to multiple cards in a single transaction. (vendor price TBD, item removed from MR18)
  • Transfer Card Balance Allows fare products to be transferred from one card to another regardless of card category (Adult, Youth, Senior). Allows passes to be transferred after the 15th. ($130.9k)
  • Call Center Remote Revalue Allows a customer service representative (CSR) to restore expired value added online. This happens when someone adds value to their card online and didn’t tap their card within 60 days*. (price TBD)
  • Security Roles for Ad-Hoc Reporting Improves the security of personally identifiable information and privacy of cardholder information. ($17.6k)
  • Youth Card Replacement Allows registered Youth cards to be replaced via the website and customer service without additional proof-of-age by storing card owner’s date of birth in the back office. ($89.6k)
  • Portable Customer Service Terminal (CST) Allows all card types, including printed Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP) cards, to be issued in the field such as at community events and locations. ($137k)

Agency specific items:

  • Streetcar On-Board Fare Payment (Metro) Design and implementation of Driver Display Unit-less onboard card readers for use on existing and future streetcar lines. ($700k for current generation readers to $1 million for next generation readers)
  • ACCESS autoload (Metro) Metro continues to use paper ACCESS passes for customers who automatically renew their pass each month. Allows ACCESS customers to set up and use Autoload since ACCESS vans do not have ORCA equipment for customers to tap. ($70k)
  • Non-ORCA Fare Products on the Customer Service Terminal (CST) (Metro) Allows sales of non-ORCA fare products like human service ticket books and taxi scrip through the CST. Allows sales of those products to be tracked by customer and reduces Metro’s dependence on the old Counterpoint point of sale system. ($120k)

* Originally, customers who added value remotely must tap their card to activate the value within 30 days or it expires. Multiple staff (CSR and supervisors) are involved in restoring value to the card. After customer complaints, the period was extended to 60 days. Why have an expiration date? ORCA staff explained that over time, add value transactions accumulate in the system. Each time a card is scanned, the reader has to search through those transactions. Having too many of them in the system would “bog it down” by increasing the card transaction time, meaning a delay every time a card is tapped. The vendor does not recommend eliminating the transaction expiration date.

28 Replies to “ORCA’s New Work and Joint Board Meeting Report”

  1. The one big statistic that pops out for me is the ten-fold increase in survey participation by email recipients.

    I suspect that most cardholders who get their ORCA through their employer or at an ORCA VM are not on that email list, so most of the email recipients would be people who bought their ORCA online. That the satisfaction rating went up slightly (but within the statistical margin of error) is a positive sign.

    Still, the percentage of ORCA users being reached through this survey is small, and telephone surveys suffer a similar, if less statistically invalid, limitation.

    The only statistically valid way I know of to survey ORCA users is to survey them at the place of tap. Yes, that will skew the data toward frequent riders, but asking the question about how frequently the respondent rides will allow for a sampling-set correction. It also allows non-ORCA riders to participate in the survey, and say why they don’t use ORCA.

    I’m not saying this actually needs to be done. I’m just saying an email or phone survey is heavily skewed toward online purchasers.

    1. What makes a survey invalid is that the survey does not accurately represent the population you want to know about. Sample size is only one factor; how the sample is chosen is another.

      “phone survey is heavily skewed toward online purchasers.”

      How is that so?

      1. Random digit dialing?

        So that nine out of ten respondents (if they happen to be in the service area) can say they hate the bus service they don’t use even more for doing unsolicited solicitation calls?

        There is bad juju in that approach.

        Right now, the urgency is to get more riders who board in the Central Business District to start using ORCA. So interviewing passengers boarding in the CBD, as was done last year, is exactly the sort of data that is needed to do the job at hand.

        Even then, Metro/ST/CT have to be assertive enough to recommend some unpopular policy changes, and their elected overseers need to have the spine to back them up.

        I don’t oppose day passes, but they are a silly distraction when we need to think about the whole system. If October 2012 arrives, and every conversation we have about dealing with the RFA’s end is dominated by day passes, it really does make this blog look like a bunch of entitled individuals who just want the system to do more for their convenience, without regard to the cost to the system.

        So snap out of your “day pass” daydreams, and get with the program of analyzing what needs to be done to make the October 2012 transition a success. The day passes are not happening (in part, because its advocates on this blog failed to make a compelling case for them).

      2. Brent, read the methodology in Metro’s survey (linked in the article) before you spout nonsense about angry people outside the area telling Metro how they hate the bus service. RDD is standard in the survey/polling industry and yes there will be non-response.

  2. Community Transit is lucky to have someone like Joyce Eleanor, who didn’t cheap out on SWIFT, and doesn’t want to cheap out on the ORCA project.

    I’d love to see a guest column from her, or have her as a guest speaker at a meetup.

  3. Oran, Is Kevin Desmond saying a business case hasn’t been identified for disposable cards? Is this bureaucratic speak for no formal report outlining the blazingly obvious? Also, what was meant by the “three items” only impacting 6k customer service transactions? I assume that is separate from the disposable card issue?

    1. Charles, yes, the disposable card is still being studied. The three items are the transfer card balance, remote revalue, and youth card replacement. I can’t remember who said it but someone said not doing those could affect customer perception of the card i.e. a negative image that they don’t care about customer service.

      1. I would agree that even if only 6000 people per year took advantage of those items, it would be a huge win for Metro if those features were acquired. It’s like insurance, you grumble about paying for it until you need it.

      2. Or maybe only 6000 people expressed interest but more would use it if it were available. Seems like a fairly basic functionality to me.

    1. What is the fetish here for day passes? I still haven’t seen much agreement here how it would be implemented, or how it would be funded.

      If you want to deal with the effects of ending the RFA, a cash surcharge, and lots of places around downtown to buy ORCA, is the way to go.

      1. “What is the fetish here for day passes?”

        It’s to avoid raking up $12 a day or more in bus fares. Monthly passes don’t help if you’re only in the area for a few days or a week, or if you’re an occasional rider. A simple daily fare maximum will ensure the transit agency gets a reasonable amount of revenue without imposing unreasonable costs on riders.

    2. I get the feeling that ORCA meeting is mostly about the fare collection system not the fares. You should talk to the King County Council (or individual agency governing boards) about day passes. They are the ones who set the fares.

      I see daypasses serving a different function from a cash surcharge. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. The former encourages ridership from less frequent riders/tourists or those who can’t afford a monthly pass. The latter puts a monetary penalty on the most time consuming transaction and encourages pre-paid fares on ORCA.

      1. So long as Metro continues to issue paper transfers which have a much longer effective transfer value than the 2-hour ORCA transfer credit, the absence of a daypass on ORCA will encourage more cash fare payment. A rider coming into town for the day with several errands will pay the first fare in cash and use the paper transfer as long as possible, then pay another cash fare to get a new transfer, and perhaps then have to pay the zone differential on the bus leaving town.

        But I also agree with Mike – why should an ORCA eFare rider have to pay 4 or 5 fares per day when a montly pass rider pays 1.8 fares per day.

      2. Since ORCA is a regional card, the concept of a daypass would have to be appropriately allocated to all of the region’s systems. When I traveled to Gig Harbor last month using my $2.50 ORCA pass plus $1.00 in e-purse, that was divvyed up according to some formula among three different agencies (KC Metro, Sound Transit and Pierce Transit) the $3.50 (or likely much less) or what ever the value for the pass got them.

        Wouldn’t the proper venue for this decision be at the ORCA board with an RFA to the participating agencies to approve?

      3. King County Code 4.150.010 Rates of fare for transit program. subsection C.1 reads:

        Regional and institutional passes, in various single-trip value denominations and for various effective periods, may be issued and sold in accordance with the terms of an agreement approved by the county council and entered into with other public transportation providers in the region. Institutions include employers, groups of employers, educational institutions, transportation management associations and other organizations. The various effective periods, single-trip values and prices for the regional and institutional passes shall be established by the agreement. A valid regional or institutional pass may be presented an unlimited number of times during its effective period as full or partial payment of the applicable fare. To the extent the single trip value of the regional pass is not sufficient to cover the applicable fare, the rider shall pay the difference in cash or from an electronic stored value product, such as e purse.

        So at least King County implicitly allows an n-day regional pass as long as the ORCA Board could agree to do one, so long as the governing boards of the other agencies also allow the same.

      4. But why couldn’t there be a King County-only ORCA-based daypass?

        It wouldn’t be hard to explain this to the purchaser.

  4. Why is the state getting involved in proof of payment? If it’s legal, it doesn’t need a new law. If it’s illegal, Link and RapidRide are breaking the law now.

  5. NFC (Near Field Communication) support would be great if it works smoothly since you wouldn’t need a separate card, and phones are often easier to get out than a card in your wallet. Several newish phones like Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S have NFC, though not the iPhone 4S.

  6. Regarding disposable cards, why are the ORCA cards priced at $5 anyways? They cost maybe 50¢ to produce. Other CUBIC-operated (which ORCA is now) markets sell them at a 300% profit for $2.

    Is it ethical for ORCA to be making a 1000% profit on the sale of RFID cards?

    1. CUBIC has nothing to do with ORCA. Whatever left of ERG USA (the Seattle contract) is now owned by Vix Technology. As such, Vix is moving operations that were in California to Seattle.

      How do you know they’re making a profit on the cards and not spending the rest on system operations/card distribution costs?

  7. A word on basing policy on “fairness”, senses of what is “ethical”, etc:

    Reasonable people have lots of disagreements on what is “fair”, “ethical”, “moral”, “equitable”, “just”, yada yada.

    When you use this sort of line of argument, what you are doing is expressing a sense of entitlement to be the moral arbiter. Never mind all those people we elected to represent us. Who do they think they are, anyway? They’re just elected. Our bus service is subsidized, and heavily. In light of that reality, I urge people to steer away from moral superiority language in debates over best practices.

Comments are closed.