Kitsap Transit to Replace Paper Transfers with ORCA

Kitsap Transit “No More Paper Transfers” flyer
Kitsap Transit “No More Paper Transfers” flyer by Mike F

This Saturday, October 31, 2009, will be the last day Kitsap Transit issues paper transfers for cash paying customers. Beginning the next day, Sunday, November 1, cash paying customers must pay for each leg of their trip or use an ORCA card to receive a two-hour transfer. [Update: Commenter Mike F notes that there is no Sunday service in Kitsap Transit so the new policy will take effect on Monday.] ORCA cards can be obtained for free online or in person at various locations until the end of January 2010. The cards will cost $5 afterwards.

Kitsap Transit is not the first local transit agency to eliminate paper transfers. In 2006, Everett Transit stopped issuing paper transfers and reduced their fare by 25¢. With Everett Transit as part of the ORCA system, transfers are once again issued and honored. Community Transit and Sound Transit will follow Kitsap Transit in replacing paper transfers with ORCA cards beginning January 1, 2010. Also starting in the new year, ORCA will be the only way for cash paying customers to transfer between transit systems. So if your trip involves services from more than one agency and you pay your fare in cash, you’ll need to get an ORCA card and put money in your E-purse to get a two-hour transfer. While King County Metro and Pierce Transit will keep paper transfers for use within their systems, I recommend getting an ORCA card while they’re free.

ORCA Pt 2, or: Should we Keep the Ride Free Area?

2986982509_52bb3d1666Once again, ECB has called for Ride Free Area to be eliminated. As we’ve argued before, the Ride Free Area makes buses flow through the congested downtown area quicker. ECB is a smart and strong supporter of transit and it’s great to see her reference some of the comments made on this blog, but we do disagree when it comes to the Ride Free Area.

Yes, the Ride Free Area can be confusing. Some routes you pay when you enter, others you pay when you leave. Sometimes riders paying with cash have to get a transfer on one side of downtown, and show it to the driver when leaving the bus on the other side of downtown. Seattle transit-types will boast that it’s not hard to figure out — but it certainly isn’t easy for new-comers. When I used to bus around Redmond, the handful of times I encountered a pay-as-you-leave bus I was completely lost.

But, it lets riders board and depart through all sets of doors while in downtown, the most congested part of the bus network. It does not cause revenue to be lost for Metro (the city and downtown business owners pick up the tab). And it makes the entire system operate more efficiently.

Read past the jump to see why we should keep the Ride Free Area around for now, and how we can get rid of it in the future.

Continue reading “ORCA Pt 2, or: Should we Keep the Ride Free Area?”

ORCA is Coming

Buried in the Southeast Seattle Metro mailer was a throwaway reference to the ORCA card‘s imminent arrival, which surprised this close transit observer given the vendor’s problems earlier this year.

For those of you who don’t know, ORCA essentially works like a debit card, and is designed to replace the tangled web of passes, tickets, and transfers that currently confuse riders. Basically, you’ll have a cash balance, and the proper fare will be deducted when you board. If you just got off another bus, the system is smart enough to credit you with the transfer.

I sent a few questions to Metro about this:

  • What is the precise date for the rollout? The ORCA card will be phased in over a six-month period beginning next spring, but no specific date has been set yet.
  • What is the fate of existing ticket books, long-term Puget Passes, etc.? The participating agencies will honor any existing tickets held by customers (no expiration) and any paper Puget Passes for their effective period. For example, an annual pass purchased this fall could still be used on buses, trains and ferries through next fall, and ticket books with no expiration date would remain valid. Once ORCA is phased in, the goal is to cease sales of all pre-paid paper fare products. Customers will still be able to use cash to pay their fare.
  • Is it true that it will work like a debit card? If so, will there still be an unlimited-use option for a flat fee, as the PugetPasses are today? ORCA users will be able to purchase a monthly pass and/or maintain a stored amount of value in their electronic account (called an “e-purse”). The pass allows unlimited rides per month based on the dollar value selected, just like PugetPass. Passengers who take a more expensive trip, or transfer to a ride that costs more than their pass value, can pay the difference using their e-purse value, or pay the difference with cash. The card will automatically account for transfers between systems. Pre-paid transit fare in the e-purse can be used on any system for single trip fares and the amount loaded on the card is “debited” as it is used.

We’ll be watching this story closely.  I have a set of privacy-related follow-up questions (inspired by this), which I’ll post in a few days.

Photo from Flickr contributor Wade Rockett.