Beginning in May 2022, the new myORCA mobile app and website will make paying for transit rides in the Puget Sound region faster and easier.

Later in 2022, we’re adding more retail locations where you can buy and reload ORCA cards and launching a new card design.

MyORCA replaces the aging and sites, which was never really usable on mobile phones (and barely usable on desktops). It will include exciting new features like instant fare uploading. There will be a virtual open house on May 4 to learn more.

It’s the first milestone for the next-generation ORCA system. Previous coverage of next-generation ORCA here and here.

19 Replies to “New ORCA app and website coming next month”

  1. I’m very excited to have instant reload and a card for the digital wallet. This is one of those small operational things that’s like chewing gum while walking (although it seems ST has a somewhat hard time with walking, at times).

    Per previous discussion, it is not clear if value loaded onto ORCA 1.0 cards will be transferrable to ORCA 2.0 cards – it’s implied that you will not be able to transfer value. It makes me wonder if the ORCA consortium is going to figure out how to disburse leftover value on old cards to cardholders, or if they’re going to simply consume leftover value as revenue once ORCA 1.0 is fully deactivated.

    1. Further reading shows that you’ll be able to link your old ORCA card to a new ORCA 2.0 account, and you’ll be able to access your value from there.

      Nothing to see here, folks.

    2. I was PO’d to find that several ORCA regional day passes that I bought pre-pandemic but had not used were simply expired when I wanted to use them more recently. ORCA customer service told me to go pound sand. Apparently when you buy a day pass it’s only good for one year before it expires. That was not known to me nor could I have predicted the pandemic and social isolation and shutdowns. Shitty customer service by the people running ORCA so it would not have been out of character for them to expire existing funds, would it? They had better warn people a good twelve months in advance if they don’t have a working solution to transfer those funds.

      1. So should those who regularly use transit but also want to see to guests and visitors traveling with us to museums etc just buy extra Orca cards. Having non-expiring 1 day passes seems a lot simpler. Like ‘forever stamps’ the transit system gets to use our money in the meantime.

  2. I hope that includes a better way to access day passes, but the instant fare loading is a huge step in the right direction.

  3. Does anyone know if ORCA 2 readers will work with generic contactless payment methods (e.g. Credit / Debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc…)? The original post from 2015 said that it would but I don’t see any mention of this in the recent communications.

    E.g. I know you can get the OCRA card installed on your phone in an app and then use it, but that’s very different from just using regular contactless payment methods that you already have. Presumably regular riders will want the ORCA app because you can get monthly passes, but for visitors just being able to use an existing payment method would be a big win.

    1. My understanding is that the technology is there to accept payment via a tap-to-pay credit card or phone, but won’t be active initially. I wonder how they’d do fare enforcement for people using credit cards to board. Would they print a ticket?

      1. How does Trimet do fare enforcement? They’ve been supporting NFC debit/credit cards for a few years now.

      2. Thanks, I guess it makes sense that handheld NFC readers exist (my phone can certainly read the NFC chip in my ORCA card). The pass structure for Trimet is awesome and I wish we could have that here. Not only do you get an automatic day pass if you spend more than $5, you also get automatic week and monthly passes as you hit those spending levels. Everything is simple and without surprises, or at least that was my experience last time I was in Portland, in 2019.

      3. San Jose also has economical day passes. The reluctance of ORCA agencies is over losing revenue or being on the short end of transfer apportionments. ORCA is unusual in including long-distance Sounder, Link, and express-bus trips in its shared pass and transfers. Comparable systems like BART, Metra, PATH, and suburban express buses have separate fare structures and no free transfers. (Although BART has trip-by-trip transfer vouchers at some its exit gates.) So when ORCA finally did start offering a day pass, it cost somewhere between $7 and $12, far higher than a typical $2.75 X 2 round trip. And you couldn’t get them at every TVM, you had to know where to get it and make a special trip there. So for those reasons it was never popular among locals or most visitors.

      4. I’m curious how tap to pay would work on tap-on, tap-off systems like Link. One option is they charge a minimum amount when you tap on, and the rest when you tap off, but then a lot of people would just skip the tap off. Can they charge the maximum amount then reverse some of the charge when you tap off? Or put a “hold” for the higher amount, but actually charge the lower amount at the end of the business day?

  4. A waste of money and wasted opportunity. We should have pushed for fare free systems and eliminated orca all together. Free systems for anyone. With a growing homeless population, free metro and light rail would allow the homeless to easily move from location to location when sweeps occur. Also, it gives them a place to rest during the day. Not being sarcastic. If we can’t provide permanent housing, transit can help the homeless.

    1. Free Transit requires either a reduction of service (on the order of ~20% of operating funding), or a similar increase in funding. Fare-Free transit only helps the captive rider, and the captive rider is usually rider on a bad network. There are better ways to help the captive/impoverished rider than system-wide free fares (ORCA Lift, for example).

      If there’s an initiative to progressively increase taxes to replace fares, I think the better use of a ~20% boost to operations funding is to increase service. This will engender more riders than free transit will.

      “But what about free transit during the pandemic?” To pay for the free pandemic transit, metro and other systems simply cut service. I don’t know about others, but I wouldn’t want to go back to pandemic-level of service.

      Most places in the US that have gone fare-free (Thurston County is an example, iirc) have done it because their fare box recoveries barely covered fare collection and enforcement itself, and their systems are so sparse that they’re mainly serving captive riders.

    2. Free fares come at the expense of frequency, unless you raise taxes to replace the 20% funded by fares. Metro’s frequency is already substandard compared to most industrialized countries and the sweet spot for maximizing ridership. Free fares would be ideal but frequency is a far bigger issue for Metro’s — and the other agencies’ — tens of thousands of riders, poor people’s mobility, and transit’s benefit to the economy, the community, and the environment. The agencies have expanded discount fares for lower-income people: ORCA Lift, Seattle’s free passes for public-school students, transit vouchers distributed by social-service agencies, etc. Metro also doesn’t turn away somebody who asks for a free ride (to avoid assaults on drivers) — unless they’re known for misbehavior on buses. So the problem of fare unaffordability is gradually shrinking. Homeless people traveling is only a small number of people — not enough to justify changing fare policy across the board — and the number of people migrating from a just-swept camp to another location on any week is vanishingly small. The city only sweeps one camp at a time, each one has only a few dozen people at the most, and only a fraction of them will take transit to another location.

  5. I got an ORCA changes brochure at the Safeway in downtown Bellevue last weekend. It says starting this month retailers will no longer offer passes but only E-purse loading. And you’ll need a new ORCA card to load it at a retailer. But “old ORCA cards will still work everywhere else”.

    If you want a pass and have too much e-purse, you can spend it on a pass at, the myORCA phone app, a vending machine (TVM), or customer service. Customer service offices include Metro’s King Street Center near the station, Lynnwood TC, Everett Station, Tacoma Dome Station, and KT’s Bremerton office.

    I saw two new ORCA TVMs yesterday at SODO’s northbound entrance and Capitol Hill’s Denny entrance. Neither was online yet. The SODO one was the only TVM at that entrance, so there was no way to load a card or buy tickets there. I didn’t check the southbound entrance. There are signs saying the TVMs and retail outlets will have periodic outages as the new system is installed.

  6. As someone who works at a local transit agency, I’m hearing ORCA 2.0 is a cluster-F. Essentially, none of the agencies are fully prepared and staffing is nowhere nearly trained. I have a feeling that either 1) the debut will be pushed out or 2) the on-time debut will be a debacle. It’s amazing how there’s little collaboration and cooperation among agencies.

  7. I called Kitsap Transit today to ask about changing over. The person answering the phone thought it might be July before they go the new cards.

  8. why are we so far behind in offering credit card tap to pay? chicago/new york/moscow/portland/paris have had it for some time now.

Comments are closed.