... soon featuring One Regional Day Pass for All
… soon featuring One Regional Day Pass for All

The ORCA Joint Board met Monday, held a brief public hearing at which nobody spoke, and unanimously approved the regional day pass program.

The regional day pass program, scheduled to roll out in June, creates an $8 ORCA day pass, good for the first $3.50 of fare on any transit service that honors the Puget Pass. It also creates a $4.50 Regional Reduced Fare Permit (for seniors 65+ and riders with disabilities) day pass, covering the first $1.75 of fare on any transit service that honors Puget Pass, but only available on the RRFP version of ORCA.

22 comments were received during the comment period, all supportive of the program.
6 expressed concern about the cost of getting an ORCA card.
5 asked for a youth and/or LIFT version of the pass.

The regional day pass has long been on the wish list of many STB commenters. The program took two years of development.

Previous blog coverage of the regional day pass program can be found here.

54 Replies to “Regional Day Pass Approved”

  1. The previous post about this topic indicates that the day passes will be available online. How will that work with regard to timing? This Orca help page indicates that it will take 24-48 hours after adding value to your card online before it takes effect.

    Will it be possible to buy a day pass online for the current day, or will I have to pay a full fare to get to a ticket vending machine to do that? If I know that I will need a day pass next Thursday, will I be able to buy it today, or will I have to log in 24-48 hours in advance and hope the pass gets credited to my card on the day I want to use it?

    1. Yes. As a visitor this pass could be very useful. The practicalities of how it works are kind of a pain.

      The bus fareboxes have information uploaded to them every night. So, in my case, since the pass wouldn’t be worthwhile for only half a day, I would have to buy the day pass while on the train headed up there. Then, when I get there, I tap the card on a bus and it uses the e-purse since the bus doesn’t know about the day pass yet. Then, the next morning, the information will have been uploaded to the buses (or so we can hope) and the day pass will be activated on the next tap.

      Or, I could buy the day pass the night before, and walk down to the nearest RapidRide stop and try my luck there, as the RapidRide readers don’t require the nightly information upload.

      It would be nice to have it so that you could just have the driver hit a button and have it activate the day pass then, or consume e-purse value to create a day pass, or something like that.

      But, then again, there’s lots of things that it would be nice if the system did. I’m just glad that there is finally a day pass of sorts.

      1. Anything that involves the driver hitting some buttons on the fare collection assemblage is not nice for the other passengers.

      2. … and really not nice for the passenger having to request the driver intervention, either.

      3. When I get a day pass in Portland on a bus, the driver has to hit a button on the control system. Pressing the button and having the system spit out a day pass takes about the same amount of time, or less, than having to tap an ORCA card twice due to a failed card read.

        A couple weeks ago I took a 36 all the way from Othello to downtown Seattle. There were enough double card taps over the course of the trip that they certainly made a difference. However, with a day ticket user those slightly more time consuming taps will happen once during an entire day.

        What other solutions are there? Telling everyone they have to go to the nearest TVM or card seller before using it seems like an invitation for the day pass to not get used that much.

      4. Usually from a bus ticket printer (they replaced transfers with printed tickets about two years ago). You put $5 or a non-validated ticket into the farebox, and the ticket printer prints out a day ticket.

        Granted, the process goes fast for me as I tell the bus driver that is what I am buying and show it from far away while the passenger in front of me is boarding. The driver doesn’t have to look down into the farebox to see what I have put in.

        The driver presses a single “button” on the touch screen, and the printing process is pretty fast.

        I thought adding these things would cause a general system meltdown as I was expecting them to be as slow as the MAX TVMs at printing tickets. They aren’t.

        I would also point out that when you pay for two passengers on a single ORCA card, you have to let the driver know that is what you are doing. So, there is already a process involving the ORCA that requires the driver to press a button, and the drivers seem to watch the ORCA machine screen to make sure that nobody is cheating the system.

        It winds up being a tradeoff: if the day ticket is something that is easily available then more people will use it, but then buying it from a bus might slow down bus boarding slightly. At the same time, that slowdown will only happen in the mornings, and the evenings might wind up being faster.

      5. I’m also a 12 minute walk from a MAX TVM, so if I have to I can get a day ticket there, but MAX doesn’t go where I work. It’s another 10 minute walk back to the bus I usually need. So, usually I don’t get the day tickets at the MAX station.

    2. Downloading ORCA product onto the card requires tapping at a machine that has the updated info including your purchase. Practically speaking, that requires performing the download at a TVM or any store location that has a device that can upload product to your card.

      It also means online purchases will not work same day. Next day, I don’t know.

      I don’t yet know how the day pass will be activated.

      One thing I do know (from asking them) is that all the agencies with off-board payment have essentially identical fare enforcement procedures, so you’ll have to be paying attention to what the reader shows. Mere possession of a day pass on your card, even after activated, does not enable you to avoid a warning or (if already warned by that agency’s representative) a $124 citation. You have to have tapped on for that particularly ride, and not subsequently tapped off or cancelled.

      Perhaps Sound Transit, Metro, Community Transit, and Seattle Streetcar could sit down together, and agree that it is in their collective best interests to encourage pass sales and ridership, instead of intimidating people who have paid their full fare in advance. The agencies each say they need to get their full share of fare revenue that might otherwise go to the other agencies. But, with all four PoP agencies doing this, all four agencies lose money and riders. I urge them to stop this Mutually Assured Dissuasion to ride transit.

      1. Main thing: Having to hit any button or touch any screen at any time behind the wheel of a coach in service not only aggravates the driver but slows service. Thereby costing lost operating time.

        Same with information that can’t be dispensed with the bus in motion. In other words, anything that slows service, keep out of the driver’s face, and also out from under the wheels of the bus.


      2. The ORCA pilot day pass operation allowed for multiple day passes to be loaded on one card. I would expect the similar, so you would load multiple days on the card and debit them down appropriately. Of course, the day passes will be drawn down before any cash purse is deducted, so you would have to have one card for day passes and one card for cash purse. I use that system in Los Angeles, by remembering which card design has the day passes and which one has the stored value.

  2. Seriously? After we making no real progress? Only $8? They vote on a day pass and it’s another fixed cost pass? Is having a flexible day pass something they are really against or something? Then again, fares are going up so fast I guess it almost doesn’t matter anymore.

  3. While I suppose the public is certainly no worse off having the option than not having the option, this doesn’t sound like something that would be particularly useful – too expensive in both time and money to obtain for all but the most unusual circumstances.

  4. Well, at least we finally have the all day pass that Portland and other cities have had for decades.I seem to recall weekend day pass for some years- which then got dropped.

    In a pro-transit city with a good economy, an educated population, and a relatively clean government compared to other cities with better transit, why is it so hard for our system to get easy things done?

    This is a huge advancement in one area: first time passengers arriving on Sounder won’t end up taking cab because it’ll take them a hour to figure out how to pay to get to Westlake on LINK.

    And when they land at Sea-Tac, all we’ll need is, after six years of operations, some decent signage in information to assure that average passenger can pay for transportation all over our region.

    Our marketing department should also be able to work out financial arrangements with airlines and travel agencies world-wide so passengers can have their pass in their luggage before they board the plane.

    Any chance that new card can be reloaded with any fare up to monthly to keep our system the transportation of choice for the whole visit?

    But the two years’ development time come at the end of at least 30 more. So here’s the most important question for the future: What’s our course of action for making hard things easy, rather than the present other way around?

    Mark Dublin

    1. I think answering your final question is worthy of an entire blog in its own right.

      Barring that, we might want to start a new page 2 entry dedicated specifically to making everything easier to work with.

      1. “Course of action” means we think a lot alike. A focused and well administered blog can be a valuable tool for communication. And also for initiating and coordinating action.

        Which means reliable numbers of knowledgeable voters in behind both long term strategy and immediate changes and repairs. Like eliminating needless aggravation in fair collection.

        But with the large constituency, the only real source of power is to work our ways into positions where we write the rules- as voters, but also as candidates ourselves.

        Fortunately, the prejudice against political parties themselves doesn’t go very deep. Otherwise the parenthesized word “prefers” would not preface party names on County Council ballots.

        Interest- campaigns, demonstrations, and individual efforts have their place. And additional parties certainly have their place for creating ideas and providing directed support- very much like consultants.

        And we could also have entered a time when the existing parties have completely outlived their usefulness- exactly like the days before the Civil War when the Whig Party collapsed, and the original Republican Party was born.

        But my point is that political parties are voters’ real mechanism for getting their hands on the controls of the mutually beneficial machine that Government is supposed to be. Neither a tyrant nor a benefactor, but a tool.

        “Grass Roots” is a term for the days of the Grange. We have two major an engine-rooms full of powerful machinery in terrible need of repair and replacement. Under the operating control of the kind of people generally doomed to run equipment in that condition.

        Where a sewer pipe broke in the basement forty years ago, and nobody noticed, or bothered to check, let alone found the budget to fix. Job 1 for renovation or replacement, blog or military campaign, is to requisition some serious tools for basic training.

        Can anybody think of three pertinent words that MOP is a good acronym for?



  5. The link in the first paragraph goes to an error page.

    It seems like this day pass is geared mostly for visitors/tourists since more frequent customers would be using Puget Pass. Would this day pass be on a normal ORCA card that costs $5 to buy? I think that would be a hard sell for tourists to have to pay $13 for the first day. And would the day pass be based on calendar days or 24 hours from when it’s first tapped? If the day pass is based on calendar days, and a tourist arrives on an afternoon flight, and departs on a morning flight, that’s 2 days where the day pass isn’t really useful.

    If my family from out of state comes to visit me in NE Seattle, that’s 3 adults and 1 youth arriving at SeaTac and heading straight to my house. They could either buy 4 adult day passes for $52 (or $32 if there isn’t the $5 cost). Or they could buy a normal ORCA card and pay $32 ($5 ORCA + $3 fare for Link + Metro). Or they could just pay $20.25 cash ($10.50 Link + $9.75 Metro for 3 adults + 1 youth). True the ORCA $5 cost would be offset if they take transit on subsequent days, but for a short-ish visit focusing on Seattle it seems like cash is the most economical.

    The day pass is definitely better than nothing, but I do think there’s room for it to be optimized to encourage it be widely useful. Mainly not charging the full $5 ORCA card fee, and making it more flexible in terms of how long it’s valid.

    1. Is your family going to be riding buses around with you all day? If not, it might just be more cost effective for them to all hop into a cab to come to your place.

      Day passes in this price point are only really useful for someone who expects to be spending all day on the transit system, constantly switching modes (for sight seeing, etc).

      1. Its also useful if some one wants screw up insurance. When I’m a tourist, I routinely seek out the day pass solution so that if I get lost or walk too far out of the subway and then have to buy a ticket again, well, day pass paid for itself that day. Otherwise I don’t stress it.

        I have to admit that for family logistics and cost of getting everyone a day pass, the cab is probably your better bet.

      2. My brother is enough of a bus/train geek that they’d probably go with public transportation. I just think there’s an irony that on their first and last day of the visit, cash fares are the best option. And for other days, they have to choose between a 2 minute walk to the nearest bus stop, and a 15 minute walk to QFC to buy a card. That’s not a very customer-friendly system.

        I lived in Cardiff, United Kingdom for a few years. It’s a similar size to Seattle, and from what I’m reading it seems to have a bus system similar to Portland. You can buy daily and weekly bus passes on the bus (monthly and annual passes have to be done at the downtown office). Printing out a daily or weekly ticket took pretty much the same time as printing a 1 way ticket, and made the system much more convenient for visitors.

      3. @baselle

        Being a tourist vs visiting family is a completely different transportation market.

        When I am on vacation somewhere I generally always go with transit.

        If I am visiting family who has a car, I just ride with them.

        No reason to make things harder than they need to be.

      4. I don’t own a car, so when my family comes to visit, it’s either public transportation, taxi, or rent a car. If either of the latter 2, then Seattle public transportation has failed at being an appealing, versatile option.

        Also, I wonder if any tourists will get annoyed that they bought a $13 day pass, get to Westlake Center, and then find out they can’t use their pass for the Monorail.

      5. My recommendation is for them to just eat the $5 cost of an Orca card, but use E-purse, rather than daypasses.

    2. The Day Pass is NOT a 24-hour pass. The Day Pass is activated the moment it’s first used, and it expires at 3 AM the next morning.

      And visiting seniors and disabled riders cannot buy a discounted Day Pas — those are reserved for holders of our unique RRFP card.

      Maybe all this is reasonable and logical to transit agency insiders, but to visiting riders, not so much.

      1. There isn’t much about the fare system in this region that seems logical to me.

        I consider myself to be a transit advocate. I lived in Chicago for 3 years and used the CTA system for pretty much everything. But I’ve lived in the Seattle area for 6 years and I’ve probably only ridden on any form of transit about a half dozen occasions or so. And the complexity of the fare system around here is part of the reason. A minor part, but a part.

      2. I’m pretty sure the RRFP has to be available to non-residents to comply with federal law. Visitors can order them through the mail, though.

        Youth ORCA and regular ORCA are also available through the mail.

        It is to tourists’ benefit to do their homework.

      3. Brent’s “do your homework” is an arrogant knock on tourists. How the hell are tourists supposed to grasp our fare structure (our fare non-system) when they make it so damned complicated?

        I just got back from Rome. Their day pass is €6 and is valid on every tram, bus, and train. One fare system, for one transit system. No guessing about different fares and different rules on four different transit agencies.

      4. My statement stands, Roger. Tourists who research a transit system before arriving can find ways to save. Did you look ahead at Rome’s transit system? If not, did you find yourself wishing you had?

        How did you find your way to the transit? What helped you find the best deal? Were there no suburban transit agencies to which you could transfer to travel away from Rome?

      5. I did indeed look ahead at Rome’s transit system, and it was simple and easy to figure out, even for a non-Italian speaker. Quite unlike the system we endure here today. The Rome system is so expansive I never reached its outer limits; I didn’t need to know what lay beyond, in its “suburbs.”

        Before being so dismissive of others, Brent, please remember that few transit riders and intending riders have the sophistication and knowledge of even the average STB reader. It shouldn’t be rocket science to be able to use transit as a system (as I was able to do easily in Rome). It’s clear that transit decision-makers are unfamiliar with the KISS principle.

      6. RRFP cards can be applied for by anyone in the United States, but that is not a federal law as Minneapolis refuses to accept anything but a Minnesota ID for senior discounts.

  6. It’s going to come as a surprise to visitors at the Airport Link station when they buy their Day Pass for $8 but then discover that their credit card is being charged $13. Because transit just has to charge $5 for each and every ORCA card it dispenses.

    1. It would be informative to determine what and how this $5 fee was determined. Unfortunately with the “ORCA Joint Board” running things rather than an individually accountable body (be it a joint powers authority, metropolitan planning organization, or similar) it is unlikely that anything gets done. Does this “ORCA Joint Board” have regular meetings anyway?

    2. Is this card permanently re-loadable. If the visitor wants to stay more than a day, can they put another day-pass on it? Or a monthly pass? Or use it again when they come back to Seattle?

      If so, I wouldn’t consider it that bad of a deal. However: any way to finally confront the agencies in a way that would deserved embarrass a wrong answer, and demand to know what that $5 really goes for?

      After all these years of participation in transit politics, and support of the system on my own time, I’m getting sick to death of convoluted explanation of senseless policies.

      But worst of all, the way the King County Council, much worse than the Sound Transit Board, just looks me in the face and doesn’t say anything.

      Any idea who’s going to replace Larry Phillips? Or who’d be good for transit if they did replace him?



      1. Of course the machine will tell you the cost is $13 for the Day Pass, but — count on it — all the marketing will say it’s only $8.

        Like Mark said, we make easy things hard around here. It’s an unfortunate part of our transit DNA.

    3. LA Metro advertises its day pass to visitors on the ticket machine marquee as $8, which includes the $1 fee for a new TAP card. People who already have a card pay $7.

      Pretty sure the machine tells you the total cost before you pay because some people would pay in cash.

  7. Silly question, why isn’t it just automatic? When someone tries to spend more than $8 in a single day, why doesn’t it just register as a “transfer $0”? That would accomplish the same result in a way that would be easier for everyone.

    1. It probably has to do with the accounting of how you would divvy up the fare at the end of the day. The Clipper system in the San Francisco Bay Area, also an ERG system, does “fare capping” for AC Transit and VTA, but only within the agency. The “ORCA Joint Board” would have to be tasked with coming up with such a system that everyone could agree on, which would take forever unless they had a stick like the Metropolitan Planning Organization (Puget Sound Regional Council) pushing them, but most MPOs are toothless bodies.

      In some areas MPOs run the fare system. San Diego’s MPO, SANDAG, sets fare policy for their region and mandates all the operators accept the regional pass.

    2. Revenue. The transit agencies don’t want this program to cost them an arm and a leg. I am actually not sure what convinced the agencies to offer this product. I don’t think it will draw new ridership.

  8. While i think it’s good that we’ve got the agencies on-board, I think we’re going about it all wrong. Instead of having to explicitly buy a daily pass (and other commenters have pointed out the pain of trying to do this online), just set a maximum-daily-fare of $8.

    So, a tourist who doesn’t know how much they’re going to use the bus/rail beyond the trip from the airport, can buy the card + $8 and be assured of never running out of money for that day. Multiple days could also be bought, and if one day you ended up staying in, or getting around without the bus, then you can save it for next trip.

    A resident who’s anticipating a heavy-transit-day won’t have to do anything, besides making sure their card has at least $8.

    Behind the scenes, I guess, once someone hits the $8 mark, we’d have to stop charging the e-purse (this would require a software change on the ORCA readers), and the daily transaction-reconciliation system which apportions the fares to each transit-authority would have to coalesce the day’s rides into an $8 pass purchase. This would be a bit more work, but would be a huge improvement for the rider.

    1. With some services costing $5.50 one way, an $8 day cap is not going to happen.

      It would cost the agencies too much revenue.

      1. You could write a interface based on “rides” and not charge someone after the third or fourth ride. You’d have to write some programming logic, but these are smart cards and someone could come up with a flow chart indicating how this would work.

  9. “good for the first $3.50 of fare on any transit service that honors the Puget Pass”

    What the hell?

    So what services are NOT covered? A normal Day Pass covers everything. This appears to imply that there are services which cost $3.75 or $4 which are not covered.

    Is it totally impossible for the Seattle area to make fare policy *simple*?

    1. Cities with universal passes usually either exclude commuter trains or allow the pass on only part of the train’s route. In Duesseldorf you can get an “A” pass for Duesseldorf city, a “B” pass for the city and first-ring suburbs, or a “C” pass for the entire transit district (Duesseldorf, Essen, Wuppertal). The S-Bahn lines go further to Cologne but the pass is valid only for trips within the pass’s area. In Russia yedini bilyeti are not valid on elektrichki, and in Chicago I don’t think CTA passes are valid on Metra. in San Francisco BART has no unlimited pass although you can use Muni passes or some kind of Muni+BART pass within the city.

      Our system integrated the services merely by price, so you can get a $2.50 pass, a $3 pass, a $5.50 pass, whatever. Long Sounder trips and future long Link trips are included in that system, and that’s where the $3.50 cutoff comes from. In other systems it’s by type of service or a geographical limit, but our system is based on fare price. There are other things we could do, such as excluding peak-express routes or Sounder. But that gets into what is Sounder? Is it a premium service for the wealthy, or a proletarian service we want everybody to use? The former implies excluding it from passes but also having parallel buses, while the latter implies including it in passes and deleting parallel buses.

      1. It’s just the incomprehensibility which bothers me. There’s a reason why in other systems it’s by type of service or geography. If you buy a day pass, the whole *point* is that you shouldn’t have to look up individual fares. That’s *why* you bought a day pass.

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