It has come to my attention that even some STB staffers and commenters with kids and some who qualify for the senior-citizen ORCA were unaware they could order regular, youth, and senior ORCA cards via postal mail. Given that reality, it is unreasonable to expect that the general public knows this option exists. And so, today, I offer a public service announcement.

If you have kids 6-18, and they don’t qualify for a youth ORCA through the public school system or any other program, you can fill out this form, include age verification (copy of a student ID, a driver’s license, a state ID, or a birth certificate) and a $5 check, and mail them to the address listed on the form.

Likewise, any of you trying to get a senior (65+) ORCA just have to fill out the front side of this form, include a copy of one of the following — your state ID or driver’s license, your birth certificate, your passport, or any state or federal document that contains your name and date of birth — then mail these and the $3 check to:

Metro Transit
201 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98104-3856

Getting a regular full-fare ORCA is even easier. Fill out the form, include a check for $5, and mail it. You can also order the regular ORCA card online, or buy one at many locations all over King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap County.

For those trying to get a disabilities ORCA, a little more work is involved. You will need a Medicare card or proof of disability, $5 $3, and will need to go to one of the sites where the transit agencies sell all pass types. For Metro, that means visiting the King Street Center at 201 S. Jackson St between the hours of 8:30 and 4:30 on a regular business day (i.e. a weekday that is not a holiday).

For those who qualify for the ORCA LIFT (the low-income card), you will need to take income-verification documentation to one of the several sites that vet people for income qualification and give out LIFT ORCA cards. The LIFT ORCA is free. The fare is not.

If you are considering which card to get, the disabilities and senior ORCA (also known as the Regional Reduced Fare Permit) gets you the cheapest fare on all services that accept ORCA. The youth or LIFT ORCA get the same fare as each other, wherever LIFT is accepted (currently Metro, Kitsap Transit, Link Light Rail, the South Lake Union Streetcar, and the King County Water Taxis). However, the youth ORCA gets you a discounted fare on all services that accept ORCA. A complete list of current fares for all payer categories is here.

32 Replies to “Did You Know You Could Order Regular, Senior, and Youth ORCA By Mail?”

  1. I believe RRFP is free (those who qualify) to comply with federal rules in light of LIFT. Used to be $3.

    1. Oh Hand Grenade of Antioch. Fixed.

      The only federal price trigger on fixed routes is that the off-peak single-ride fare for seniors and riders with disabilities cannot be more than half the regular peak fare.

      1. You are correct. I realized my mistake as soon as I posted it and researched and mistakenly created a new post instead of replying. Sorry :(

  2. Your post title would be a perfect Metro PSA sign that goes into the interior of all buses up near the ceiling next to the paid ads. They could put a new stroller policy sign up there, while they’re at it.

    1. Sam, don’t be silly. The county government tries to make things difficult. It helps justify all the jobs of people who help you get through the ridiculous rules. Sound Transit is following their plan (with, apparently, equal success!)

      1. If, by “make things difficult”, you mean setting up a one-stop shop where you can get subsidized health care, see a physician, get “food stamps” (now money added to one’s Electronic Benefits Transfer card), apply to be part of the county’s subsidized housing program, and get an ORCA LIFT, then, yes, the county is making things wonderfully difficult for people who need services the most. Next, everyone will have cheap, subsidized, chauffered chariots taking them all over the county. Down with government!

      2. I think it’s more a case of whoever’s job it is to decide which obscure Metro policies need to be advertised in the form of onboard PSA signs, makes the same amount of money whether they put in the extra effort, or they’re office deadwood.

  3. Too right, Brent. Good thing that anybody ticked off about one dysfunctional policy or another can start organizing a directed group of voters to get it changed. Which unfortunately works better in person than in Social Media.

    Chariot idea has some advantages, though. Overzealous meter enforcers will soon get tired of having to walk between power source and windshield to ticket chariots.

    Also even Caesar and Achilles and Ben Hur and those guys would vote like Classical Age citizens, meaning swords, spears, and axes and all kinds of Cecil B. DeMille and Charlton Heston violence to get transit down I-5.

    Though project might have to weight ’til Thor gets his chariot, which is pulled by fire-breathing goats, aboard Iceland Air. Hack this one into ORCA rules, and could get some attention.


  4. ORCA Youth…wouldn’t want to tangle with a bunch of indoctrinated transit riding teen blue shirts.

    1. Not really sure which colored-uniformed transit riders you mean, John. Most of the teenaged ones seem to favor black T-shirts emblazoned with skulls and vile verbal messages that are really the names of rock groups.

      Or, the identically blonde ones wearing green sweaters saying “Service Dog” in yellow letters. Also identifiable by their wagging tails and tongues hanging out. In yellow lab years, they probably class as teenagers.

      Or maybe the young people in blue Star Trek uniforms- mean trick, their boss keeping his Spock ears in his desk. Just to make up for it, young fare inspectors should all be given personal training visits to Securitas headquarters in Gothenburg, with a free streetcar pass each.

      Securitas is actually the only uniformed organization presently holding Europe together until its young people are able to turn it into the united country it has to be to have a snowball’s chance in the modern world.

      Great transit guards, too, helpful and friendly. Though Gothenburg system switched fare inspectors’ uniforms so they wouldn’t look too militaristic. They now wear stylish grey windbreakers with a flower on the back, lettered: “If you have a question, please ask me.”

      Good thought, though, John. Would be great to have a Seattle Transit Blog uniform. Black raggedy T-shirt advertising a band called “Kemper Freeman?” Or a sign saying “I am Sam. Don’t shoot!” Already stitched with bullet holes?

      Better than tie clips proclaiming: “Asperger’s Syndrome does TOO exist!”


      1. Glad Securitas in Europe seems to be somewhat above some of the former security services that used to roam that continent. As for our shores, in my few encounters with them here I have had universally bad experiences. Perhaps their own people should be recalled for training.

  5. Some Youths don’t want to bother going through getting a YOUTH ORCA card (or lost theirs and don’t want to get into trouble with their parents), so some of them get an adult card (from the TVM) with a pass value worth $1.50. Of course, being an Adult card, it will show up as being short and owing $$$ ($1.00 for ST Express or Metro Off peak, more for peak periods). As a bus driver, technically they did pay for their fare. However, I tell them it is not advisable to do this on Rapid ride or LINK light rail, as the FEO probably bust them.

    1. I think the typical young person who uses an adult card valued at $1.50 is more likely a 19+ year old trying to pass themselves off as 18 to take advantage of the less expensive youth fare, knowing that driver’s aren’t allowed to check I.D., than an actual 18 or younger person who just didn’t want to bother with the hassle of getting the official youth card.

  6. Getting a regular full-fare ORCA is even easier. Fill out the form, include a check for $5, and mail it. You can also order the regular ORCA card online, or buy one at many locations all over King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap County.

    The thing is, if you have internet access, you can also order a non-registered card by <A HREF=""Filling Out This Onliine Form and submitting it, along with payment information.

    Of course, it was much easier to fill out in 2009, when it didn’t require $5 payment.

  7. “If you have kids 6-18 … include age verification”

    While you’re at it, can you tattoo the age at which they turn 19 on their forehead? It would make discerning who is entitled to a youth fare easier. Alternatively, if we don’t want to permanently disfigure our nation’s future, perhaps reduced ALL reduced fares should require ORCA or the whole system switched over to Proof of Payment and fare inspectors be allowed to check ID.

    1. Velo, would you happen to know: Do youth ORCA get set to expire on the applicant’s nineteenth birthday?

      1. One would hope they do, but I don’t know for sure. Temporary RRFP ORCA passes do. I’ve occasionally seen people attempting to use them as ID to pay cash for a reduced fare long after the ORCA card has expired and will no longer allow them to load a fare onto it.

      2. I meant that the card is no longer accepted by the readers for the reduced fare. I don’t think any ORCA completely expire, unless they have been unused long enough to have the remaining balance taken away. I assume the “expiration date” is printed on youth and temporary RRFP ORCAs.

        RRFP have to be accepted at face value, due to federal law, to pay the RRFP fare. But federal law does not require that there be a cash senior/disabilities fare, or any fare at all, for that matter. All that is required is that if there is a Metro regular fare, that a senior/disabled off-peak fare be no more than half of the peak version of that regular fare. So, Metro could charge a single-zone/all-day $4 cash fare, and charge a single-zone/all-day $2 RRFP cash fare, even with the current electronic fares as is.

      3. One other question, Velo: Do reduced-fare cash payers usually get paper transfers that don’t mention that it was issued to a reduced-fare payer?

      4. Metro’s paper transfers do not have any punches indicating that a reduced or youth fare was paid – Only peak/off peak/zone exemption. Inadequate fare designations, limited color/letter rotations, and sites aiding those who hoard transfers means Metro’s paper transfers are virtually useless for the purposes of fare enforcement. Anybody who wants to cheat the system can.

        Changing transfer designs to include all fare types and adding expiration dates would improve the situation but then you’d need to encourage drivers to properly punch transfers at all times. Some drivers feel Metro “doesn’t care” about the fare so why should they? Given how easy it is to cheat the system it’s hard to blame them.

        Metro could show they “care” by making these changes and also issuing regular bulletins on fare evasion trends, ORCA use, etc… Ideally, we’d just get rid of paper transfers entirely. Assuming that’s the path management is on, then not bothering to redesign transfers makes complete sense while they continue to roll out ORCA LIFT and implement systems for All Day passes and Cashless payment.

    2. Also, are youth Orca’s transferable?

      I sometimes travel with my kid’s friends. They don’t have Orca cards, and for the journeys we make there is a considerable penalty for paying cash fares. I have been told by bus drivers, and have had this confirmed by Metro customer service, that it is impossible [I assume they mean against policy] to pay a youth fare on a regular Orca. I would like to get a spare youth Orca or two with a small auto loaded e-purse to pay their fares, but (obviously) I don’t have their IDs [that would be creepy], and in any case dropping $5.00 per friend doesn’t really make financial sense. The best bet might be to get spare Orcas for the kids — probably a good idea for other reasons anyway — and use them to pay their friends’ fares. Is this legal?

    1. I suspect (but don’t know for sure) that this is referring to kids who are eligible for school bus service, and for whom this service is provided by the local transit provider rather than the school district (e.g. South End high schoolers on Mercer Island).

      1. Okay, I have teens and this application process is not a mystery and has never been one. Only cranky people with an axe to grind are mystified.

        Seattle Public Schools do not offer yellow bus transportation to able (vs disabled) high school students. If you live out of what they consider walking range, they offer an ORCA card. Many high schools do not have reliable Metro service, so this is mostly a joke, but these cards are available and PROMOTED through the school system. As are cards for youth who would not qualify for a ‘free’ one.

        As for the reduced card being available by mail, that isn’t a deep secret either. Funny, all this information is on the website.

        As for seniors, I am not one yet, and cannot comment.

  8. Don’t forget that you can get an adult ORCA card at the many conveniently located ticket vending machines (TVMs) or at local retailers such as Bartel’s.

  9. This is a GREAT post, thank you!!! This is something that’s not well known and the transit agencies haven’t publicized it. This is a needless “gotcha!” But, transit agencies are, in general, poor at educating the public, and would be well served by having a few of its board members being riders such as contributors to this blog, folks who commute by transit, commute by different ways and systems, are familiar with the different fare policies, and understand the frustrations intimately instead of someone who only rides with the occasional dignitary or who rides the same route every day.

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