Transit in Puget Sound – How to ride least expensively

Friday, April 5, 2013

By Brian Doennebrink

The least-expensive option for all of these transit agencies is usually ORCA (One Regional Card for All): Everett, Community, Sound, Pierce, and Kitsap Transit, King County Metro and Water Taxi, and – for some instances – Washington State Ferries. One exception is if you’re always – and only – using Metro or Pierce Transit, you have two equivalent options, since both issue transfer slips to their in-system, cash-paying customers.

Example: you’re an adult, age 19-65, wanting to travel to from Shoreline to Ballard during the morning “peak” times (6 a.m.-9 a.m.). That route is only served by Metro. Two options:

Pay cash. You board a #358 at Aurora Village Transit Center, pay the $3.00 cash fare, and ask the driver for a transfer (which many hold out to cash customers). You retain the transfer slip, typically showing an expiration time of at least 2 hours after you received it. You alight from the bus at N. 105th, cross to the north side of that street, then board a #40 bus to Ballard, surrendering your transfer slip to the driver when alighting that bus at your final destination. However, say you’re continuing to the Ballard Locks via Metro’s #44, you’d keep your transfer slip to surrender to that bus driver.


Use ORCA. You board the #358, tapping your ORCA card on the ORCA card reader at the front of the bus. A single electronic beep and green light indicates that your fare has been paid and a 2-hour transfer window was given. Upon boarding the #40, you tap your ORCA card on the card reader of that bus. A single beep and green light indicates success. Tap again on the ORCA card reader at the front of the #44.

Total cost: $3.00 if all trips were started before the time on the slip (cash) or 2 hours from first tap (ORCA). The cash customer needs exact fare, but typically gets more than 2 hours on their transfer slip. The ORCA customer needs to sufficient fare on their card and virtually if not always gets 2 hours transfer credit.

For other public transportation articles, go to Features on our main web page and click Public Transit Choices.


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