The monorail in the 1962 World’s Fair Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

At its March meeting Monday, the Regional Fare Coordination Committee, a.k.a. ORCA Joint Board, unanimously approved an agreement that would allow the Seattle Center Monorail to start accepting ORCA payments.

The estimated start date for ORCA on the monorail is Metro’s September service change. In the meantime, the monorail has started accepting debit/credit card payment.

Once ORCA acceptance starts, the monorail will honor inter-agency ORCA transfers and passes. Fares will increase to $2.75 for regular payers, $1.50 for youth ages 6-18, and remain $1.25 for seniors 65+ and riders with qualifying disabilities. A new low-income (ORCA LIFT) fare category will be set at $1.50.

Transfer credit from a monorail ride paid for using an ORCA card will be good for full fare, within two hours, on:

  • King County Metro buses
  • ST Express bus reduced-fare rides and intra-county regular-fare rides
  • All reduced-fare and intra-Seattle trips on Link Light Rail, along with various other Link trip pairings
  • Seattle Streetcars
  • Community Transit local buses (pending approval of the low-income fare proposal by the Community Transit Board of Directors)
  • Everett Transit buses (pending approval by the Everett City Council of a low-income fare)
  • Kitsap Transit buses and local ferries.
  • westbound Kitsap Transit cross-Sound ferries
  • Pierce Transit buses (except for LIFT cardholders, who still have to pay the regular $2 fare)

Partial transit credit from the monorail will be applied toward the higher fares, within two hours, on:

  • the longest regular-fare Link Light Rail trips (or you can tap off and tap back on halfway to avoid an upcharge)
  • regular-fare ST Express inter-county buses
  • Sounder
  • King County Water Taxis
  • Community Transit commuter buses
  • westbound Kitsap Transit cross-Sound ferries

Washington State Ferries accepts ORCA e-purse, and various WSF-only passes, but not inter-agency transfers or passes.

The City will pay a pro rata share of ORCA operating and capital costs based on the monorail’s share of ORCA boardings.

Other Business

The Pod received a staff report on the Next Generation ORCA Monthly Program Dashboard, a high-level planning tool which has existed for over three years, and was finally presented to the Board. Jason Weiss from Sound Transit requested, perhaps in jest, that a high-level risk assessment be included in the monthly report.

The Board also updated its policy on Public Disclosure Requests.

28 Replies to “ORCA Pod Welcomes Monorail”

  1. Please tell me that Orca holders will be able to just tap and go, rather than having to wait in line behind cash payers to hand their card to a human attendant. Am I asking too much?

    1. Based on how the Monorail is run, with no proof-of-payment verification, yes, that’s not happening.

      1. With just two stops there’s no need for proof of payment, fare inspectors, etc. Just have two lines: an ORCA line and a cash line.

      2. Here is one of the ways to handle the throngs of new monorail riders when implementing Business Rule 300.

    2. We’ll see and I hope one gateway is made for ORCA users, but I doubt it. I mean, this is Puget Sound Public Transit we’re talking about here…

      Let me post some frame of reference here. We – we being transit activists – have had to pound the pavement and show up to a lot of meetings to even get this far. We still don’t have a Sound Transit Pro Shop to sell pro-transit memorabilia and lanyards and other basics transit riders can use to make transit riding more easier & promotable. I had to push and lobby very hard to get any kind of transparency out of ORCA Next Gen, and at one point told a Sound Transit employee who serves on the ORCA Joint Board to call the Sound Transit Attorney if she didn’t like my video camera’s presence at an ORCA Joint Board. My point being it’s a long process and an uphill climb for any and all reform, so we should celebrate this game-changing big win.

    3. That’s the problem. In terms of how to collect Orca payments, you basically have five choices:

      1) Hire fare inspectors to enforce that Orca payers actually tap.
      2) Install faregates for Orca card holders to enforce that you actually tap.
      3) Allow Orca people to tap and board with no enforcment.
      4) Hire a separate human attend to scan Orca cards.
      5) Make people with Orca cards wait in line for the existing payment booth behind cash payers.

      1) and 4) require hiring more people, which costs money. 2) requires a large new capital expense, even if it’s a one-time thing. 3) too many people would just walk on without paying.

      So, that basically leaves 5). It undermines much of the benefit of accepting Orca in the first place (not having to wait in line). But, it leaves nobody worse off compared to the status quo, while still providing some benefits, such as the financial savings of not needing to pay twice, and being available to those who don’t carry cash on them.

      1. You really don’t have to do much — you certainly don’t have to hire more people. You basically have two lines — the regular one, and the ORCA one. The ORCA line should be next to the regular one. Thus you have a booth, then the regular line, then the ORCA line. That means that someone from the booth can see beyond the regular line, and see people tapping with their ORCA card. Since the ORCA card makes a loud beep, it is pretty obvious when someone is trying to sneak on. Someone really clever could probably do that, but realistically, it won’t happen too often.

      2. I know that currently they split the lines in two with the people who have the monthly passes and the people who want to buy any passes they would probably just include orca in that line and be a little more strict about who goes where.

  2. >or you can tap off and tap back on halfway to avoid an upcharge

    People do this? It only just now occurred to me that this would work, but is potentially having to wait for the next train worth saving $0.50?

      1. I would imagine that people poor enough for the financial burden of $0.50 to be a big deal would certainly qualify for a low-income Orca card, for which all Link trips cost the same, negating the need for the extra taps.

        I can see it being done, if the extra $0.50 pushes you over the threshold of being able to make one more trip without having to refill the card. In certain cases, postponing the refill for one more trip is the difference between being able to do it online at your leisure, vs. having to do it at a TVM while you’re in a rush to get somewhere or catch a bus. If do the retap in one of the downtown tunnel stations, you can absolutely run to reader, tap, and run back on the train before the doors close – especially if you’re traveling with someone willing to hold the door open on your behalf.

      2. Hopefully those DSTT platform readers will be removed and placed on the mezzanines once the buses are out, as they will no longer serve any purpose on the platforms. (Even more hopefully all the readers are moved and placed in such a way as to create visual de facto fare gates.)

        Interesting how a STB article clearly spells out how to, in effect, jump the turnstiles – although in practice I doubt this happens much at all. asdf2’s comment above that anyone with a low-income ORCA card does not need to do this trick is on point.

    1. Is that what Brent meant, to tap on/off in the middle of a long Link ride to only pay the price of a short ride with a transfer?

    2. Normally you have to wait eighteen minutes or something to start a new trip. If you tap in at the same station right after you tap out, the reader says “CONTINUE TRIP”, so you’d still pay the surcharge.

  3. “Transfer credit from a monorail ride paid for using an ORCA card ..”

    Is the opposite not going to be valid then? I.e. there’s no transfer credit from a bus ride using ORCA and then using the monorail within two hours? Or is that a given?

    1. The fare applied to all the rides in the second list certainly covers the monorail fare.

      The fares from some of the services on the first list are less than the monorail fares, so the difference would be charged when tapping the monorail ORCA reader.



    2) Real happy to FINALLY see made public the ORCA Next Gen dashboard. Somewhat at my prompt ;-).

  5. Leave it to the Monorail to finally implement Orca once all the buses are kicked out of the tunnel for six months.

    Oh, and the run out and retap Link to save 50c won’t work after next week when the platform Orca readers are removed.

  6. ORCA use in the San Juan Islands is so rare you hand your ORCA card to the ticket booth and they tap it for you on s cash register thing and print you a ferry ticket.

    Is there really enough ORCA use on the Port Townsend – Coupville route to justify ORCA turnstiles there? Maybe those could be moved to the monorail and ORCA payment at that ferry route could be converted to some other ORCA collection method?

    1. But what if Island Transit starts charging someday, and wants to join the Pod?

      Or Jefferson Transit, for that matter?

      1. Supposedly there is only a limited supply of ORCA readers available that work with the current cards. If that is the case (is it?) they would have to wait until ORCA II anyway, when the rest of the ferry system would have to be changed over anyway.

      2. There is a finite supply of equipment. But they seem to be able to come up with enough for every project they want (e.g. 3rd Ave off-board payment).

  7. I’m definitely happy for ORCA acceptance, but I hope the nearly 100% fare enforcement reality remains intact…long line or not. The Monorail is basically free of vandalism, graffiti, and dodgy characters…a rarity on public transit. I use the definitely ‘dodgy character’ filled Metro everyday, so it’s nice to have a moment of transit utopia every once in a while on those Alwegs. Just to clarify, anyone occupying any level of society who pays their transit fare (or unintentionally doesn’t) is not ‘dodgy’…simple as that.

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