In my previous post, I proposed selling carrots on Metro buses, and allowing people to use their ORCA cards for this purchase.
ORCA cards have the ability for what’s called an E-Purse. This stores money on your ORCA card for travel that isn’t covered by a regular pass. I use my E-Purse* to pay for the occasional ferry trip, which is outside the coverage area of my pass, and deposit money into it using a credit card and ORCA’s website.
When writing the carrot piece I had no idea if ORCA cards could theoretically be used to purchase non-transit goods and services. After all, if your employer is paying for part of your ORCA card and recieving a tax benefit for doing so, it wouldn’t make sense to allow people to buy carrots (or anything else) with that money. So I sent an e-mail to the contact page on the ORCA website, and recieved this reply (emphesis mine):
The E-purse that is on the ORCA card can only be used for transportation services. The reason for this is to prevent cardholders who receive transportation benefits from using them for non-transit purposes in keeping with FTA and IRS regulations. However, there is memory capacity on the card to implement a second E-purse that could be used for non-transit purchases. Although this isn’t on our short term horizon, it may be something that we explore in the future.
So it’s possible. Let’s think of the implications of carrying real money on your ORCA card.
- Just as it’s quick and easy to board a bus using ORCA, you could pay quickly at convenience stores.
- Pay for parking with a swipe?
- Vending machines.
- Bus carrots.
Of course, these benefits would be incentives for more people to carry an ORCA card. And it turns out that there’s at least two systems that have already implemented this – Tokyo’s Pasmo and Suica Cards.
* Which I always coordinate with my E-Shoes – it’s a bold look for a man.