Addressing the ORCA Joint Board Monday, Cheryl Huston, ORCA Regional Program Administrator, said there was agreement among ORCA’s participating agencies to keep the card fee for adult and youth riders but reduce the one-time charge from $5 to $3.
Currently, each ORCA card costs an agency $1.92 plus tax, according to Huston.
King County Metro Transit has estimated that lowering ORCA card fees for adult and youth riders to $3 would cost the agency $700,000 per year in card revenue.
Earlier this week, STB analyzed the impact completely eliminating card fees would have on Metro’s budget.
“The fee helps cover the cost of purchasing the cards and administration costs,” wrote Geoff Patrick, a spokesperson for Sound Transit, in an email. “Having a value attached to these reloadable cards also avoids the perception they are disposable. That is a perception that would increase costs of the ORCA program. These are cards that can and should last many years.
Huston said ORCA managers also want to simplify the card replacement fee by charging the same to both adult and youth riders. ORCA Lift cards are issued at no charge.
However, the proposal will also likely reduce or eliminate the card fee for the Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP), a regional pass for seniors 65+, riders with a qualifying disability, and Medicare cardholders that works on several systems within the region.
Huston said King County supports eliminating the RRFP card fee entirely, but other agencies were more hesitant.
“We have discussed King County’s interest in that zero fee, but there are other agencies interested in charging at least a dollar, so it’s not viewed as a disposable card,” Huston said.
According to Huston, the Puget Sound Regional Council allows transit agencies to charge up to $3 for the RRFP card or waive the fee entirely.
“We’d like to have a regional recommendation coming back in November,” Huston added.
Huston anticipates a more “robust” card fee proposal coming back to the board at the November meeting and action might be taken. The meeting is scheduled for 11 am on November 13, 2017, at King Street Center – 8th Floor Conference Center. Public comment is accepted during the meeting.
Huston also gave the ORCA Joint Board an update on the next generation ORCA interlocal agreement between all participating ORCA agencies: Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, Sound Transit and Washington State Ferries.
A “high-level summary” is expected to be ready in November to review and a solid draft ready by the end of the year, Huston told the board.