Last summer, King County Metro and Sound Transit agreed to lower youth fares for ORCA users from $1.50 to 50 cents (Metro) and $1 (Sound Transit) for the season. Many students get free passes for the school year, but pay the full fare during the summer (here defined as June 17 – September 4).
Ridership isn’t always terribly responsive to fare changes, but this is not one of those cases. Youth ORCA card use shot up 34%, 39%, and 42% for Metro, ST Express, and Link respectively over Summer 2016 counts. It is unclear if this is new riders or the conversion of cash-paying riders to ORCA, but it’s a data point that suggests incentives to not use cash drive ORCA conversion. This comes out to over 1,500 additional boardings per day. Metro also handed out 11,000 youth ORCA cards during the promotion.
Youth cards remain available via mail, or in person at a handful of locations.