King County Metro is embarking on a process to phase out on-board cash payments.
Details are so far limited, pending discusssions with stakeholders. A briefing to the King County Council Budget and Fiscal Management Committee noted the discontinuation of on-board cash fares would happen in concert with the launch of the subsidized annual pass program and the planned launch of Next Generation ORCA by early 2023. Metro will engage with community stakeholders later this year and early next year to develop a plan.
The subsidized annual pass program offers free fares on all Metro services but Vanpool, and is available to recipients of several means-tested programs. The full launch of that program was announced yesterday. (Sound Transit is running a similar program on a pilot basis). It’s favorable to reducing cash use because lower income riders have historically preferred not to prepay for ORCA media.
Next Generation ORCA allows smart-phone payment and private bankcard payment, so that paying fares becomes easier for infrequent riders or those without a current balance on their ORCA accounts. The new ORCA cards will be available at a far greater number of retail locations.
Metro’s fareboxes have reached the end of their useful life. As Brent wrote some years ago, this milestone doesn’t mean they are unusable, but they are increasingly costly to maintain. Setting a definite end date for cash payments will mean the cash fareboxes will not need to be replaced.
The proposed budget for 2021-2022 includes a saving of $331,000 by cancelling a study that would have considered whether to replace the fareboxes on Metro buses.