Tap ORCA here

There is only one fare medium that allows you to get free transfers between Link Light Rail and buses: the One Regional Card for All (ORCA).

ORCA is a “smart card”, which you use by holding it flat against the reception area of an ORCA reader, until you hear a single beep. I keep my ORCA card in my wallet, and hold the wallet flat for a second on the ORCA reader, and it works just as if I took the card out.

The card allows 2-hour transfers, when using e-purse you loaded on your card, charging only the fare of the most expensive ride during that window, among trips on Link Light Rail, Metro buses, Seattle Streetcars, Sound Transit Express buses, Sounder trains, Community Transit buses, Everett Transit buses, Pierce Transit buses, Kitsap transit buses and water taxis, and King County Water Taxis. The day passes and monthly passes cover their face value for trips on all these services. For trips with fare higher than your pass’s face value, the difference is deducted from your e-purse.

Monthly passes generally cost $9 for each 25 cents of ride face value covered. Note that the ORCA card is not accepted on the Seattle Center Monorail, and passes are not accepted on Washington State Ferries, unless you buy a pass that is only for Washington State Ferries.

Regular ORCA cards are found pretty ubiquitously:

Ticket Vending Machines also dispense ORCA cards.
Ticket Vending Machines also dispense ORCA cards.
  • at Ticket Vending Machines in all entryways of all Sound Transit train stations. You can buy ORCA cards and load them up with e-purse (cash value for single trips), day passes, and monthly passes at these machines. You can also buy paper tickets and day passes, but they are only good on Link Light Rail. The only reason to buy the paper fare media is to put off forking over $5 to get the ORCA card. But it is better to buy the ORCA card, as the transfer savings will make up for the purchase cost within a single round trip involving a transfer.
  • at the King Street Center at 201 S. Jackson St, just west of King St Sounder/Amtrak Station and International District / Chinatown light rail Station. The office is open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm on weekdays, except on holidays. Westlake Station also has a Customer Shop that sells regular ORCA cards, but the only reasons to go there are to pay with a check, or to get one of the non-standard ORCA cards. The Westlake shop is only open the first four and last four business days of the month, but will be closed this week, while its staffers are at University of Washington Station and Capitol Hill Station.
  • at the mobile shops set up by the ORCA to-go crew this week at University of Washington (UW) Station and Capitol Hill Station, from 9 am to 4 pm, through this Saturday, April 2. Crews will be at both sites simultaneously.
  • at many retailers.
  • ordered online.
  • ordered through the mail.
  • Husky Cardthrough the University of Washington, in the form of a U-Pass loaded onto a Husky Card, for students and salaried employees, enabling you to ride free on all the services that honor transfers on ORCA. Most hourly and temporary UW employees are eligible to purchase a TEMP Pass through UW’s Transportation Department. If you commute by transit every day, the TEMP Pass is a really great deal at $150 a quarter. That is even cheaper than the $162 per quarter three monthly ORCA LIFT (low income) passes cost, and covers higher fare on more services.
  • through many other employers. Ask your human resources department whether it participates in ORCA Business Passport

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RRFPSenior ORCA cards (for riders age 65+), which come in the form of a Regional Reduced Fare Permit, allowing you to get reduced fares on all local public transit services throughout ten counties, can be obtained from the ORCA to-go crew at UW Station and Capitol Hill Station this week, at the King Street Center, online, or ordered through the mail. RRFP cards cost $3, before adding e-purse and/or passes.

Disabilities ORCA cards, which also come as an RRFP, can be obtained from the ORCA to-go crew at UW Station and Capitol Hill Station this week, and at the King Street Center.

Low-income ORCA LIFT cards can be obtained from the ORCA to-go crew at UW Station and Capitol Hill Station this week, and at Public Health and various other agencies, including the Public Health office next to the King Street Center. To qualify, your household income must be below 200% of the federal poverty level. Public Health offers a range of benefits in addition to the ORCA LIFT cards. The card itself is free, but you still have to load e-purse and/or passes. You have to use loaded fare product in order to get the low-income discount fare.

Youth ORCA cards (for riders age 6-18) are made available to many students through their public schools, but can also be obtained from the ORCA to-go crew at UW Station and Capitol Hill Station this week, at the King Street Center, online, and by mail. For adults who qualify for the ORCA LIFT card, you can also get free youth ORCA cards from the ORCA to-go crew, and at Public Health, for your dependents.

Children under 6 years old ride free, when accompanied by a fare-paying adult, limited to two to four children per adult, depending on the service.
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Once you have your ORCA card, you can load e-purse and passes at any location distributing the card. Be warned that if you order fare products online, they might take a couple days to load onto your card.

Before boarding Link Light Rail, you have to tap at one of the standing yellow ORCA readers (and hold your card flat against the reading area until you hear the single “beep”). You will see the message “Permit to Travel”. Be careful not to double tap, as that cancels the permit to travel, and the beep sounds the same. If you aren’t sure whether you have already tapped, just tap again and read the message.

Questions? The most frequent ones have been answered here. Some tougher questions might be answered by the experts in the comments below. Or call ORCA customer service at 888-988-6722 / TTY Relay: 711, or come by and meet the ORCA to-go crew while they are at UW Station and Capitol Hill Station all week, 9 am to 4 pm through Saturday, April 2.

64 Replies to “Want Free Transfers Between Link & Buses? Get the ORCA Card, All Week at UW & Capitol Hill Stations”

  1. Slog had a thought-provoking-if-not-necessarily-deep blog post last week that elaborated on a pretty good question raised by a Transportation Riders Union petition.

    https://www.thestranger.com/slog/2016/03/22/23823256/transit-riders-union-concerned-that-two-class-based-public-transportations-systems-taking-shape-in-seattle

    Metro (with the blessing of the Seattle city council) hands out hundreds of thousands (millions?) of paper single-ride bus tickets to social service agencies, who then hand them out to those in need. Insert paper ticket into the bus fare machine, get transfer, get ride. No ORCA cards are involved in this process, and it doesn’t seem like social service agencies are about to line up to start handing out ORCA cards and then populating them with fares.

    The central point: if those most in need must rely on the very system — paper tickets and transfers — that ORCA is destined to supersede, what will we do as advocates? ORCA is undeniably powerful and should continue to be the preferred authoritative fare media throughout the region and across all transportation modes. ORCA Lift is a positive step but even that program will miss a swath of transit-dependent riders.

    It is a vexing conundrum. We would all stand to keep it in mind as we discuss and promote the benefits of ORCA.

    1. The issue you describe is no different than what one encounters in San Francisco. One can ride BART from SFO to 16th and Mission, yet try to use your machine bought ticket on the trolley bus and you’ll get no where. MUNI and Bart tickets are independent of one another. …but buy a Clipper card (similar to our Orca) and one will have seamless payment and transfers.

      The TRU is making a mountain out of a mole hill.

      1. This is not a question of technology integration; it is one of social equity.

        Anyone with time and resources can solve their way around the admittedly-stupid issue (I too have been personally caught up in the very issue you describe in San Francisco), but not everyone is so fortunate.

    2. The solution could be to allow social services agencies to load fare onto ORCA Lift (using a small fare processor like you see at Safeway or QFC) or sell paper ORCA cards to social services agencies that are loaded with a one-day pass. That way you get the social benefit… along with the benefit of ORCA.

      But according to my conversation with Metro the plan is to create MORE paper fare media…
      Metro and ST are working on creating a multi-part ticket that includes both a 1-day pass for Link… and multiple coupons the user can tear off, insert into a farebox and get a transfer.

      Right now Metro sells a $2.50 bus ticket to a social services agency for 50¢… Sound Transit sells 1-day Link passes for $1… these combined Link/Metro tickets would sell for $1.

    3. Metro doesn’t hand them out for free.
      http://www.kingcounty.gov/operations/DCHS/Business/BusTicketProgram.aspx
      The Reduced Fare Bus Ticket Program provides subsidized bus tickets to eligible human service agencies serving persons who are homeless and/or low income. Agencies that receive an allocation pay 20 percent of the value of the tickets, with King County Metro Transit Division covering the remaining 80 percent of the tickets’ value.

      The social service agencies do not want to switch from paper tickets, it lets them keep control, and they don’t have to build processes to cancel orca passes that have been sold by their intended user.

      The blocker to moving to Orca lift is the social service agencies who are in the program.

      1. It sounds to me like the social service agencies have some valid objections. Clearly, for people that are capable of holding on to and maintaining an ORCA card, and that are interested in doing so, ORCA Lift is a useful, powerful program. A lot of these people don’t need a social service agency to intermediate between themselves and the transit system.

        Maybe there are a lot of people that need a social service agency to interact with the transit system but are capable of and willing to hold onto ORCA cards. But the agencies know their clients, and just based on what I’ve heard, it sounds like a lot of people would either lose or sell them. Maybe some people would repeatedly collect cards from multiple agencies and sell them.

        To serve these people, it makes sense to have a fare medium that’s very cheap to produce and has a clearly indicated face value. ORCA is not that. That’s a real disadvantage to an electronic fare system. It’s not like there’s no alternative. Non-electronic POP systems exist and work pretty smoothly in many cities! Maybe there was a good alternatives analysis when ORCA was adopted showing that in the long run electronic would be better for us. But it does not serve this case very well, and it’s probably less of a burden for the transit agencies to handle these paper tickets than for both social service agencies and transit agencies to deal with a the proliferation of ORCA Lift cards that would result from a pure electronic system.

      2. Or we could just print paper RFID media like Clipper does here in SF. It’s the same damned system, after all.

      3. Gaaaaah. The magnetic stripe fare media were better. They were cheap enough that they could be literally handed out at no extra charge. The only reason agencies added a “deposit” fee for them was to *prevent littering* by returning a dollar if people handed them in!

        Either make the cost of an ORCA card $0, or switch to a fare medium where the cost of it is $0.

    4. Why don’t we just let ST fare inspectors accept the paper single-use Metro tickets and transfers as proof of payment?

      1. My guess is that this is because Sound Transit won’t get any of the money that was paid to King County Metro by cash to obtain that transfer slip. With the ORCA system, each transit agency gets the appropriate amount from fares.

    5. ORCA LIFT was designed to help low-income riders who can afford to pay some fare, but not the full regular fare on an ongoing bases. The committees that worked on it were repeatedly reminded that it might not solve homeless mobility issues.

      Stay tuned on this blog for more about fare options for very-low-income riders, who cannot afford to pay any fare, in the next couple weeks.

      But feel free to offer suggestions.

  2. “at the mobile shops set up by the ORCA to-go crew this week at University of Washington (UW) Station and Capitol Hill Station, from 9 am to 4 pm, through this Saturday, April …”

    It’s great that Metro is doing outreach at the stations but 9 am to 4pm misses both the AM and PM peak.

    1. +1. It’s not quite as bad as it otherwise might be, because people who just want a standard Orca (instead of the youth discount, senior discount, etc.) can just get it from the vending machine, people who need those discounts are less likely to be traveling during peak, and people who fall in the cracks can still make a separate trip on Saturday. But, still, they should overlap at least one peak.

  3. Atlanta makes everyone get their version of Orca (Breeze) to ride their rail system – but the card is only $2. The system is easy to adopt. Just do it!

    1. Los Angeles also makes everyone get their version of ORCA (TAP) to ride their rail system – but the card is only $1!

    2. A majority of bus smart cards in the US remain free. $2 is the most any other bus smart card costs in this country, among agencies that do not also accept private contactless (smart) bank / credit union cards. However, ORCA 2.0 hopes to make payment via private bank and credit union cards available, along with smart phone payment. The nuisance of the $5 fee will hopefully become moot about 2021 or so, if all goes well.

  4. Anybody else in NE Seattle get a mailing from Metro to get an ORCA card with a week’s worth of fare?

    1. I did but I still haven’t received the card. Are they waiting and sending them all out at once? It sounds like they will work for a week from receipt of the card?

    2. Wrote too soon. I got my card Monday evening and used it today. Appears to work for a week, but that the deadline for use was April 9. My guess is that they work for a week from first use, with an e-purse that goes poof on the 9th.. At least that would be easiest to code for.

    3. I’m pretty sure these cards will continue to work after April 9th, but that the pass will expire. After all, the point is to get ORCA cards in more hands. (Honestly, I’m not a fan of these sorts of promos, when the real problem — the $5 fee — is so obvious.)

  5. I’m curious as to why these complications are permitted to exist. Any idea why? Who benefits? One major tool in fixing the problem. Find, and publicize, the cost of one minute lost operating time. A good thing for politicians, and the voting public, to know for more reasons than fare policy.

    Mark

  6. I’m not interested in contributing information about my everyday activities to yet another central database, particularly not one that is run by a government agency, so I generally just pay for bus rides with cash. For a few months I did experiment with the idea of purchasing an ORCA card, using it up, throwing it away, and buying another one. This would have been considerably less frustrating if the machines would accept $100 bills, since that’s the point at which it doesn’t burn quite so badly to waste $5 on a mifare card that cost pennies to manufacture. But they don’t, and so getting an ORCA card is a hassle, and as a result it’s been months since I’ve bothered to do it. I’m not looking forward to any increased measures toward making the system mandatory as it seems vanishingly unlikely that they will do anything which makes it more private.

    1. You are welcome to value privacy over economy but surely you pass by a https://www.orcacard.com/ERG-Seattle/p2_002.do?m=42&i=542 or a retailer (pdf link) on a semi-regular basis that you can hand over your cash too even if you are forced to spend an extra thirty seconds stuffing twenties into the machine. IMHO the ease of transfers makes the hassle worthwhile. If you don’t register the card and it is stolen the value is lost but that’t the cost of preserving your privacy. You could even mess with “the man” by handing out your used cards to visitors or the homeless.

      1. Sure, if I lost the card the value would be gone, but that’s no worse than losing the cash I’d have used to buy it. I am rarely guilty of littering when it comes to those small paper units of currency, so I’m not that worried about it when it comes to an ORCA. Besides, I’ve gotten six or seven weeks of free rides over the years after picking up other people’s lost ORCAs, so even if I did lose one I’d have to shrug it off and call it karma.

        Also, by “throwing it away”, I didn’t mean in the trash – I leave spent ORCAs in those little card-holder slots on the front of the TVMs, basically offering the next passer-by $5 to help me “fuck with the man” by reusing it. I do the same thing with store loyalty cards from time to time, sticking it somewhere obvious on my way out the door and signing up for a new one under a new fake name the next time I shop.

      1. Perhaps you haven’t been following the news about surveillance and privacy over the past few years, but between the NSA, the FBI, China, cell phone stingrays, “parallel construction,” ubiquitous wiretapping, secret courts, surveillance of activists, secretly recording all of Google’s internal data traffic (until they realized they were under NSA attack and started encrypting everything), the astonishing abuses perpetrated in pursuit of the “war on drugs”, and all the rest of it, the surprising truth of the matter is that the tinfoil-hat crowd of the 2000s simply weren’t being paranoid enough and the reality was in fact much worse than anyone suspected.

        What is the government doing now that we haven’t heard about yet? Data being collected today will be archived forever; whether we know about anything bad they’re doing with it now, are you willing to assume that they’ll never find something dangerous they can do with it in the future? The government we have now has been behaving badly for a long time and nobody seems able to do stop them; I’m not willing to gamble that this will change for the better, and the only thing I can see that I can do to protect myself is to avoid creating any more data than necessary. So, I am making a habit of thinking about privacy and making decisions which protect it whenever I can. Of course it’s not an absolute thing, and of course there is still plenty of data being collected about me which I can’t do much about, but I still think it’s worth protecting my freedom as best I can by making choices which protect my privacy whenever I have the option of doing so.

      2. (For what it’s worth, while I work in the software industry, did a little bit of hacking back when I was an irresponsible teenager, and have a fair number of friends and acquaintances doing digital security work, I have no particular expertise in the area; I just follow the news. I observe, however, that the people who do have such expertise tend to be not so much paranoid as just blatantly cynical, assuming that any bad thing which could be done most likely is being done by somebody, somewhere, because this so often turns out to be true whether there is currently any evidence for it or not.)

      3. This level of paranoia is just a compulsion for the purpose of making people think their lives are more important than other people’s lives. As if anyone cares where one unregistered card goes on the bus. This person should probably just move to the woods and build a shack. But then the government would always know where they are – drat!

      4. Beating a dead horse, I know. BUT, if Mars is in the Social Security system, had/has any kind of bank account and/or had/has a driving license or state ID card, believe me, he is in THE MAN’S system.

      5. Grant, you’re getting it completely backwards. It’s not paranoia, it’s principle. Of course nobody cares where I go on the bus; nobody *should* care, nobody should need a log of my movements, and that’s why I refuse to create one. It doesn’t matter, so they don’t need to know, so I’m going to do what I can to avoid telling them, because nothing good can come of it.

        Lloyd, of course I’m perfectly well aware of that. Like I said, it’s just principle: I’m doing what I can, where I can. Why do you think my original complaint concerned the difficulty of buying an ORCA with cash? It’s because I don’t want to link my bank account to my travel documents, and I don’t want to make that link because it’s none of their goddamn business what I do or where I go.

    2. (I just had a flashback of being at the Speakeasy Cafe. In any case…)

      Do you ever just trade your empty Orca card with other people? Or is that still too much tracking?

      1. I see nothing wrong with that idea, but how would you find people to trade with? I just left my used cards in those little card pockets on the fronts of the TVMs, figuring that somebody would probably be happy to save $5 by reloading it.

      2. Why does it matter if they know where an unregistered card goes? If a card goes between Westlake and Beacon Hill every day, isn’t that what the transit network is for? Why are your trips to Beacon Hill significant when a thousand other people’s arent?

      3. But Mike they’d know that someone rode the bus then! As if they couldn’t tell by asking Metro or just looking in the bus window. Great, now we have to cover the bus windows too… LOL

    3. Thanks for the reminders that there are plenty of ways to travel in an untracked manner, (liking paying cash when buying a card) if one really does not want to be found.

      For those who find a card left in a machine, I would discourage you from using it. It may have been reported lost/stolen. If reported stolen, and you try to use it, don’t be surprised when you find yourself surrounded by transit police a few minutes later.

      I do hope the agencies have not done anything rash, like sign an agreement with a group to dispose of anonymized travel-pattern data that could be used to improve route planning.

      1. It’s going to be extremely rare to have an officer catch someone right away for taking an ORCA left somewhere. No police agency would dispatch an officer for a piece of property valued at $50 or less. Most likely, the card would be hotlisted and just not work.

  7. “ORCA is a “smart card”, which you use by holding it flat against the reception area of an ORCA reader, until you hear a single beep. I keep my ORCA card in my wallet, and hold the wallet flat for a second on the ORCA reader, and it works just as if I took the card out.”

    Actually, you just need to have the card very close to the reader. It doesn’t actually have to touch the reader. As for “in your wallet” be cautioned if you have other cards that use RFID for “prox cards” the reader may become confused which card it is supposed to read.

    1. Yet another reason why I keep my credit card out of my wallet – I found those will conflict with the ORCA reader. Not looking forward to the chip and pin cards.

      1. Chip and pin isn’t the same as the tappable RFID ones you see. Those can be waved above a reader, like an ORCA card. The RFID Cards can be read through a wallet. Chip and pin need to be inserted into the machine.

      2. But there are cards with contactless chips that allow you to pay without swiping or inserting your card. Key bank is one of them.

        And there may indeed be a conflict because of those dang chips.

      3. Those dang bank card chips are part of the future of ORCA account-based payment. The masses will have to adapt, and I think they will do so, easily. Indeed, it will be much faster than setting your smart phone to transit-payment mode.

    2. I’m going to attempt to steal the “Tinfoil Hat of the Year award” from the thread above. I have a Car2Go RFID card that I only use every month or two, but it’s in my wallet just in case and interferes with Orca reads. So I wrapped it in tinfoil and that really does work!

      Now, you have to rip open the tinfoil to use it, so it wouldn’t work great if you bounce between Link and a Car2Go every day. But there are commercially made slip covers that work similarly.

      1. I had that problem but then I realized I didn’t really need the Car2Go card so I stopped carrying it. As long as your phone is functioning you should be able to open the vehicle with your phone.

    3. My solution is to keep the Orca in the top fold pocket of a trifold velcro-sealed wallet, and keep the other RFID cards in different pockets. When I get on the bus, I flip up the top fold, tap it, and reclose my wallet.

  8. Mars, it puzzles me, and not in a good way, how much personal information people are now willing to put out in places literally anybody, or entity, can get hold of them and keep it forever. And also use it. The Founding Fathers would be so mad they’d play darts with the goose quills they’d just used to write the Bill of Rights.

    The most God-awful things to me are all these sites buying personal legal records and the like to sell on the open market. “See who’s been arrested!”

    I think it needs to be against the law both to buy and sell public records. You need them for a legitimate purpose? Fill out public records yourself, stating your purpose- which should be strictly limited by law.
    With immediate notification to the subject.

    I think present tolerance is mainly a testimony to how seldom the last several generations in this country have been hurt by either their government or any of the quadrillion people, or entities, can get hold of their communications and travel patterns. I hope that either status quo holds, or that people can take action when it starts to slip.

    Though also seems to be a fact that people in brutal totalitarian countries are still willing to take the chance. There are also grounds to argue that on balance, the fall of the Soviet Union and history ever since show that the new information technology really gives The People an advantage over the forces of authority.

    I think that most of us really think that amid all the other information loose in the universe, we ourselves, personally, will never be doing anything of interest to anybody who isn’t advertising what we just bought. I think that huge majority of ORCA users worry a lot more about not getting our cards back if we lose them.

    I’m not sure my senior card will let me choose to be unrecorded. For 54 extra dollars a month, or about 12 dollars a week- could be worth it. Having been through the Nixon administration, I’m trusting the creepy feeling in my spine to activate when it’s time. And seriously- might start paying cash for usual purchases, to make tracking me harder.

    Or to see to it I don’t have to give up favorite things in order not to be traced by them.

    Mark

    1. My personal information was widely available so long ago that I figured it was a lost cause. I jealously guard a short list of things — financial access passwords etc. — but for the most part I rely on post-hoc auditing to avoid fraud. Paper statements for everything.

      Honestly, post-hoc auditing is my attitude towards fighting creeping totalitarianism, too. I have just enough contacts with just enough people with just enough money, power, and influence that if fascistic authorities try to do something abusive to me, they would have a world of political payback coming. Honestly, most of you regulars at this blog probably have enough contacts too.

      Of course it helps that I’m (a) not embarassed by anything, and (b) don’t need to be afraid of losing a job, so I can’t be blackmailed over my taste in porn or anything like that. That’s most people’s biggest realistic worry about privacy — blackmail.

      1. Yeah, I just got a notice from a bank I stopped doing business with 15 years ago, and it was their legally required notification that all my personal information remains on file and thus they are still legally able to sell it to whoever it is they choose to sell it to “in the course of normal business transactions” or some such.

  9. Anyone have an update on the ORCA / monorail fare integration proposal? Last I heard (in the blog post below) there was hope that SDOT would hire a consultant in early 2016, and the study would likely complete late next year. Even if transfers were not supported, merely being allowed to pay a full cash fare with an ORCA card would be an improvement over the status quo.

    https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/11/14/monorail-orca-study-results/

    I do wonder how much the usage would change if transfers were supported. Tourists and sporadic festival visitors are less likely to have an ORCA card than the commuting public, so maybe their behavior wouldn’t change much, but if transfers were supported I suspect there would be a noticeable bump in commuter ridership.

  10. “Note that the ORCA card is not accepted on the Seattle Center Monorail, and passes are not accepted on Washington State Ferries, unless you buy a pass that is only for Washington State Ferries.”

    So it’s NOT really ONE Regional Card for All – it’s one of several that you need for truly regional transit.

    1. The card works fine on the ferries. It just uses the cash balance or ferry pass that is loaded onto the card.

      I’d call for a boycott of the monorail contract operator until such a time as they see fit to accept the ORCA, except everyone who might find the monorail useful transportation is pretty much already boycotting it because it doesn’t accept ORCA.

  11. RE the Regional Reduced Fare Permit for seniors and the disabled. Transit systems appear to require this unique permit in order to take advantage of fare reductions. Which means of course that visitors are unable to use the senior fares since they won’t have our local permit in their pocket.

    I’ve seen visiting seniors at the airport pay the senior rate for their Link ticket. Do the fare inspectors really cite those folks for not having our RRFP?

    1. This particular scam seems to be endemic among transit agencies, nationwide, probably worldwide. It’s theoretically possible for a disabled out-of-towner to get the disabled permit and the disabled rates from a transit agency, but they’ve all made it so difficult and complicated and time-intensive (involving showing up in person at a particular office during limited business hours) that no visitor will ever do it.

      I think the transit agencies either like forcing disabled visitors to pay higher fares, or just don’t care.

      1. Visitors can get the senior RRFP by mail, if they plan ahead. Federal law allows agencies to use a special ID card for determining who is eligible for the federally-required half fare. This is enough of an imposition on transit agencies’ budgets that I can understand why they would not also want to do senior eligibility determination each time someone boards a bus and they are trying to get moving.

        I have not checked on whether disabilities RRFPs can be done through the mail, with proper documentation, at least in some cases. Thanks for the reminder.

        That $3 fee may be decisive in convincing short-term visitors not to get the card, even if they end up spending more money because of not getting it.

        ST policy requires possession of the RRFP to get the discount. To the extent that a brief lecture from a fare enforcement officer gets a few more residents to get the RRFP, and hopefully put loaded fare product on it, then I think the outcome is a positive one.

      2. Thanks for the good comments, Brent, but my question is really about visitors, most of them arriving at the airport. Do the Fare Inspectors really cite, or even lecture, visiting seniors and disabled people about their transgressions?

        The notion that visitors need to go online, burrow down far enough to find info on fare policy, submit the required application, wait for reply, etc. etc….well, we can see the absurdity.

        When I was in Richmond BC and riding the then-new Canada Line, the senior (“concession fare” they call it) rate appeared to be available to all seniors, so that’s what I paid. No complications. If anyone asked about my qualifications, I could simply show them my ID.

        The bigger question is why local transit agencies have to make simple things so damned complicated. Why can’t our senior fare be as simple as our neighbors to the north?

      3. As Everett Transit states on on their web site,

        The half-fare requirements of the Federal Transit Act Section 5307 (d) (1) apply to any person presenting a Medicare card duly issued to that person pursuant to Title ii or XViii of the Social Security Act.

        So they have to accept the Medicare card as half fare payment. Of course, fare gate systems don’t have to sell you half fare cards at the station – that’s how BART gets away with only having senior tickets sold at random vendors and not at BART stations.

  12. Thought experiment. Why does it cost $3 to travel from Bothell to Seatac via ST 522 to WestlakeLink or Redmond to Seatac via ST 545 to WestlakeLink, but it costs $3.25 to do the same trip via MT 372 to UWLink or ST 541/542 to UWLink. Or even just UW to Seatac? Heck, If you start at UW and take the 48 to Mt Baker and transfer to Link, the fare is $2.75 whereas Link all the way is $3.25

    As Link gets longer, mixing distance based fares with transfers that give you full credit for the initial fare make zero sense. Either all fares should be distance based, based on origin and destination, or all should be flat fares, maybe with the county zones.

    And then there’s the gamesmanship when Metro is charging $3.25 2-zone peak fares, that it makes sense to transfer to Sound Transit for the cross lake portion of the trip to save 50c. (.e.g at the SR-520 flyer stops.)

  13. One doesn’t even need to remove the ORCA card from their wallet or purse and risk losing it: the “X-ray vision” of the ORCA system “reads” the card anyway in many cases!

    1. Hell, I’ve seen a few people just do some sort of fancy Bollywood dance type move at the fare reader with their rear and it reads the card in their wallet in their pocket.

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