With the current ORCA system “near end of life,” upgrading the ORCA card system is estimated to cost roughly $125m, according to Scott Gutierrez, a King County Metro Transit spokesperson.
The ORCA agencies are predicted to share the entire cost, with $95m predicted to be the region-wide cost with the other $30m related to agency-specific costs for implementing next-generation ORCA. Gutierrez said the sharing formula is mostly based on ridership projections through 2021. Exceptions include products that apply only to certain agencies, such as paratransit-specific fare products which will be shared only among the agencies that offer paratransit services.
In comparison, the current ORCA system cost $88m in today’s dollars to implement in 2009, according to ORCA documents. Brittany Esdaile, a program manager at Sound Transit, said at the November 13 ORCA Joint Board meeting “the cost is fair and reasonable” and implementing the new system will be “a bigger effort this time around as the region has grown.”
Esdaile gave a slightly lower estimate of $120 million — $95 million for regional shared costs and $25 million for agency-specific costs. At a recent Capital Committee meeting, Sound Transit estimated upgrading ORCA will costs the agency $31.5 million.
Transition to next generation ORCA will be delivered in phases in beginning in 2021 by the seven agencies that accept the ORCA card: Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, Sound Transit and Washington State Ferries.
In a recent survey of ORCA users found the biggest dislikes of the current system included a delay after reloading funds on the cards, limited sales locations and the website. Currently, customers must wait 24-48 hours to use funds after refilling cards.
Riders also wanted a mobile option to pay fares. Through the next generation ORCA, riders will be able to use a mobile app to board buses and trains, and instantly add value to their ORCA cards. An improved website and more sales locations are also promised in the next generation ORCA system.
The next ORCA Joint Board meeting is scheduled for 11 am on December 11, 2017, at King Street Center – 8th Floor Conference Center. The board will likely discuss and take action on changing card fees for adult and youth rides. Public comment is accepted.
“We need to keep the existing ORCA system running while we develop the new system and transition over. It’s a little like rebuilding a house from the foundation up…while people are still living in it!” according to talking points provided to ORCA Joint board members.