Next Generation ORCA Begins Next Year

Customer-facing launch phases for next generation ORCA
Current ORCA, today
New website and mobile app, early 2022, new app and website
More payment options, Late 2022, new card, tap to pay with phone, new vending machines, readers, and retailers
Retire current card, 2023 or later
Sound Transit Rider Experience & Operations Committee, 5/9/21

Sound Transit announced that the long awaited upgrade to ORCA, the Puget Sound’s regional fare collection system, will launch in phases beginning in early 2022.

The next generation system will introduce many new conveniences. Card reloads will be instantaneous. There will be more than double the retail locations to buy and reload cards, a much improved website with better account management, and a new mobile app that will allow tap-to-pay using a phone.

The first phase is the launch of a new website, myORCA.com, and a new myORCA mobile app for managing accounts in early 2022. Existing cards and equipment will continue to function as normal.

Accounts on the old site will not transfer over to the new site so registered cardholders will have to create a new account. The launch of the new website marks the switchover to the next generation backend system, which means new or replacement adult cards will drop in price from $5 to $3.

By late 2022, the next generation ORCA card will be available through the usual channel, including an expanded retail network, and mobile app users can skip the physical card and tap their smartphone to pay.

Next generation ORCA card being tapped on a reader with new logo
Dennis Budell/Sound Transit

Next generation ORCA also introduces a fresh new look for the brand, designed in house at Sound Transit by Dennis Budell. The colors selected “represent the natural colors of an orca as well as the vibe of Puget Sound”. The new card design is orca black with splashes of seafoam green, misty blue, yellow, and orange, replacing the blue with rainbow ribbons of the old card. The ORCA logo itself is streamlined with rounder text and a more stylized fin that looks like a curved arrow tracing the path of a leaping orca.

Installation of new card readers is underway, with mounts for the new readers appearing on buses, some even at the back door of RapidRide coaches. New ticket machines are also being delivered. Old cards and equipment will be retired after 2023 as they reach the end of their life.

Weekend open thread: Welcome Northgate, Roosevelt and U District

Sound Transit launched a colorful and playful new website introducing the Northgate Link extension in advance of its October 2 opening. Featured are “local gems” or unique activities that each of the three new stations offer.

No details of the festivities on Opening Day are available, yet, but there’s no doubt that transit fans from all around the region and maybe even the country will join in.

Link’s Series 2 Train Doors Light Up

Open door on new Series 2 Link train. Light strips beside the door windows are lit up green. The closed door on the opposite side is lit up blue

One of the distinctive features on the new Link “Series 2” trains are the light strips on the doors. Not only do they add a colorful flair to your ride, they serve the purpose of indicating the state of the doors. With one tweak they could be more informative for a speedy exit.

In their normal state, the Series 2’s door lights glow blue. They flash green when they open and stay a solid green while they are fully open. As the doors close, they flash red. The lights return to blue after the doors close.

My first impression of the door lights was they reminded me of a similar feature on Montreal’s Azur trains which got me excited. But something was missing. The Series 2’s lights do not tell you which doors will open at the next stop.

Lights beside the doors on the left are lit in green to indicate they will open at the next station. The doors on the right side of the train are lit in white.
Montreal Metro’s Azur trains highlight the doors that will open at the next stop.

So let’s use these lights to their full potential. When a train approaches a station, the doors opening at the next stop should change from blue to green. Then a voice announces “Now Entering [Some] Station. Exit to my [left/right]” and the new information screens display an Exit symbol with an arrow pointing toward the exit (more on the screens in a future post). All these done in sync reinforces the message.

This simple visual cue helps riders get ready to exit the train without using a single word, just in a glance.