As part of the fare restructure that brought King County Metro’s $2.75 regular flat fare, effective this week, King County Metro has gotten all four counties in the ORCA pod to make the first Regional Reduced Fare Permit free for each recipient, also effective this week.
Regional Reduced Fare Permits are for seniors 65 or older, or riders with a qualifying disability.
The original proposal was just going to cover King County. Now Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap Counties are all waiving the $3 RRFP fee for first-time recipients, as well as for renewing expired RRFP ORCAs. Trading in non-ORCA RRFPs for the ORCAized version has also long been free.
Counties participating in the RRFP program outside the ORCA pod will continue charging $3 to first-time recipients. Participating counties all agree to honor each others’ RRFP cards for their respective RRFP fares, but the only inter-county transfer credit is on ORCA cards.
The first-time waiver answers the critique that some may see the card as disposable if it is free to keep getting. Most transit agencies with smart cards around the USA have simply been offering senior/disabilities versions for free, without the charge for replacements.
The card provides a discount of 50% or more on all transit services within the ORCA pod (with the exception of the Vashon water taxi), along with a 2-hour transfer credit among all ORCA-accepting services except Washington State Ferries.
In addition to the fee waiver, RRFP holders can now ride for $1 on all ST Express bus trips, effective this week. Other services with a $1-or-less RRFP fare include King County Metro buses, Link Light Rail, Seattle Streetcars, Pierce Transit buses, Everett Transit buses, Kitsap Transit buses, Kitsap Transit intra-county ferries, and Community Transit local buses.
ORCA LIFT cards, for adults 19-64 with a household income of 200% of the federal poverty level or less, have been free since the program was rolled out in 2015. Kitsap Transit’s low-income ORCA cards are also free. The cost for a replacement ORCA LIFT card was reduced from $5 to $3, effective this week.
CORRECTION: The original post stated that ORCA LIFT cards could be replaced for free. The author apologizes for the clear and obvious error after video review.
The LIFT and youth fare for all trips on ST Express buses is $1.50, starting this week. Other services offering a LIFT fare of $1.50 or less include King County Metro buses, Link Light Rail, Seattle Streetcars, Kitsap Transit buses, and Kitsap Transit intra-county ferries. Services that offer a youth fare of $1.50 or less include all of these, plus Pierce Transit buses, Everett Transit buses, and Community Transit local buses.
The youth ORCA card (for riders age 6-18 — riders aged 5 and under generally get to ride free with an accompanying adult) continues to cost $5, except for children of LIFT cardholders and anyone receiving free passes through public schools. The $5 youth card fee is the highest in the country among transit agencies using smart cards.
Metro proposed reducing the fee to $3, but the County Council preferred to prioritize adding service. Regular, senior, and youth ORCA cards can be ordered by snail mail. Only disability and low-income cards require an office visit.
A handful of services accept mobile ticketing on your smart phone for RRFP and youth discounts: Sound Transit’s trains, Seattle Streetcars, King County Water Taxis, and Pierce Transit buses. Metro buses also can take mobile payment for just the youth discount. A major downside to that payment method is that the only service that offers transfer credit outside of day passes is Metro buses. Mobile day passes are offered on Sound Transit trains, Seattle Streetcars, and Pierce Transit buses, and are not portable between services.
Mobile ticketing, with transfer credit and passes on ORCA accounts, is expected to be a major feature of Next Generation ORCA.