On Friday Sound Transit announced that they would join the other partner agencies in offering a fixed sales points for special-rate ORCA cards. On the last Wednesday of each month, beginning tomorrow, a booth in Union Station (the building that looms over International District/Chinatown) will offer these from 11-1:30pm.

Although the network of ORCA Card outlets is now fairly extensive, the set of staffed locations that can dispense discounted cards to seniors, youth, and the disabled remains tiny, and with limited hours. Youth cards are available by mail, but the others require showing up in person to one of the partner agency offices during regular business hours.

Last year the consortium created the Orca-on-the-go program to visit major events and selected groups and issue cards on the spot. All of the agencies paid for development, and Metro, Kitsap Transit, and ST purchased the equipment with the understanding that they would cover the whole region. The ORCA website indicates that groups may still call or email schedule these visits. I couldn’t get detailed statistics on this program in time for publication, but ST teams alone have generated about $2,000 in sales so far in limited deployments. Metro has visited 138 locations over the past 12 months.

While more visibility is always good, it’s hard to imagine a smaller improvement in availability. The Metro office is two blocks away, if less obvious, and has much more extensive hours. The best thing to say about the new service is that it’s a low-cost way to add capacity at the busiest time at that Metro office, when the lines become oppressive. Let’s hope there’s decent signage at the Metro office tomorrow.

20 Replies to “Another ORCA Purchase Option”

  1. 2-1/2 hours a month? That would seem to only add more confusion to the ORCA purchasing problem. People coming down having heard there was a place to purchase the card and finding nothing because it’s either the wrong day or time.

  2. I know it’s important to celebrate the little things sometimes, but I have a hard time getting excited about two-and-a-half hours of extra service per month. Can someone remind me why only Youth cards are available by mail?

  3. yeah, one day a month during weekday work hours seems pretty dumb, and more so if it is only a few blocks from an existing option.

  4. Why can’t ST coordinate with public schools and youth centers to get youth ORCA cards out? Or simply give every student in the the public school system an ORCA card?

    Edmonds School District and Community Transit did an excellent job getting us student bus passes when I was in high school.

    1. Seattle Public Schools does give out free youth ORCA cards loaded with Metro passes, but only to students outside a certain radius that, at something like 2.5 miles, excludes a lot of people who still need to ride the bus to school.

  5. I find it funny that they’re advertising a booth open from 11-1:30 on a weekday as helping youth get their ORCA cards.

    1. It’s easily accessible if you are home-schooled in the ID, or already have an ORCA card so you can come in on Sounder. Oh, wait.

    2. Unless youth want a monthly pass, do they really need an ORCA? Aren’t passengers who are obviously under 19 allowed to fumble $1.25 in change, with no arguments? I haven’t tried it, but can someone buy a youth train ticket at a vending machine?

      (BTW, I’m not advocating changing that rule, when Metro is about to face a huge line-up for the low-income ORCA next spring, assuming Proposition 1 passes.)

      1. If they would like to transfer between modes or agencies, yes, they need an ORCA.

  6. I can pay at Starbucks with an app instead of a card.

    Why not an ORCA app for Android?

    1. For various reasons I won’t go into, I don’t use their iPhone App, but…

      If you do happen to be on the train coming down here to Portland for a visit and want to purchase your local transit ticket in advance of arrival, you can use the TriMet ticket App on your phone:

      My understanding is that eventually TriMet plans to do exactly as you suggest here, and get special readers similar to the ORCA card readers but instead of a $5 RFID card to tap it will instead use a multi-hundred dollar smart phone owned by the rider to function similar to the ORCA card. The ticket app described in the above link is only the first step towards that.

      Several companies in Europe also offer a transit smart phone ticketing package for transit agencies. The GlobalSherpa thing that TriMet got is apparently the first time a USA based company attempted to do this (which is one of the reasons why I really don’t want to have it store my credit card account information). So, it may eventually be possible to do what you are asking for here, but for the most part transit fare system vendors in the USA just aren’t there yet.

      1. Public transit gets on the bus with smartphone ticketing

        TriMet plans to move to an all-electronic fare collection system by 2015, even for riders without smartphones, Wired reported. Wired also said TriMet is the first transit authority that lets customers use mobile payments for any mode of public transit, including streetcar, bus, light rail and suburban commuter rail.

        TriMet partnered with local software developer GlobeSherpa to create the app and paid no upfront costs to do so, TriMet said.

      2. Why use tap at all?

        Not every rider owns a pricey phone. (I don’t, and am not planning to upgrade any time soon.)

        At least a quarter of the ridership are considered “low income” for purposes of the new low-income ORCA program (assuming Prop 1 passes). I suspect a huge percentage of them don’t own pricey phones, given how many rich bus haters are whining on their behalf about a $40 annual car tab, when almost half of those who would qualify don’t even own a car on which to pay a tab. Sorry for the digression. At any rate, we’re talking about devices far outside the monthly budget of a large chunk of transit riders.

        And than there is the issue of how many riders want to display their pricey phones at transit facilities, when there is a history of out-of-proportion violence by petty thieves at these facilities.

      3. lakecityrider says:
        March 25, 2014 at 11:52 pm
        Why use tap-to-pay at all?
        DART/The T/DCTA’s solution is an app:

        TriMet is eventually planning to go the way of an open payment card system similar to the new transit card system in use in Chicago. It’s a long story, and somewhat off-topic and just barely within the geographical range, but you can do some digging with a few newspaper article from the Oregonian. This is probably the best one to start with:

  7. now, only if ORCA provided an “all day pass” option, then we could give rid of paper transfers. It is ironic that the extra hours to get “youth” passes are available while kids are at school. Isn’t youth passes for those under 18? I find that College students do the same and pay $1.25, thinking it is a STUDENT pass and not a YOUTH pass.

    1. I really like it when I arrive in Portland I can walk just half a block and purchase an all-day Tri-Met pass at the vending machine at the transit stop.

      1. Or, for $5 cash, you can get the same day ticket from any TriMet bus ticket printer, including those that may stop closer than MAX.

  8. At the very least offer Saturday options of getting reduced fare permits. It’s very odd that the only place to get a reduced fare permit on Saturday is to take the boat to Bremerton. Let’s say that you are a senior citizen who is just turning 65 but works outside of a range of a customer service center where one could go during lunch. Now you’re forcing them to take the ferry for something where an office in a core city could open on a Saturday for the person.

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