ORCA bus cards - ride the wave of the future

Sunday, November 29, 2009

By Brian Doennebrink
Special to the ShorelineAreaNews
Brian Doennebrink lives in Shoreline, works for a major transit organization, and follows transportation issues closely.

One Regional Card for All, a.k.a. ORCA, is the wave of the future, and if you think you and/or your family will be riding a transit bus anytime in the next several years, you can save yourself money by getting one for each member of your family now, because as of February 1, 2010, a $5.00 fee will be charged to get an ORCA card. Each person should have an ORCA card because, once the card has been tapped at a reader, it won't be recognized again at that reader for 5 minutes.

As of December 14, 2009, Puget Passes will stop being sold. U-Passes, Ed Passes, and FlexPasses will follow suit depending on their contract renewal. Come January 1, 2010, no more transfer slips will be given or applicable except on King County Metro buses, to transfer to another King County Metro bus. ORCA will be the only way to get a 2 hour transfer window for transferring to another participant in the system: Community Transit, Everett Transit, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, or Kitsap Transit.

Still not convinced? Let's say that you take a trip from 175th and Aurora in Shoreline to Everett Community College. Come January 1, 2010, that round-trip will cost $9.00 per day, and you'd need exact change for each bus! This same trip with the ORCA card: $4.50 per day. If you took this routing 20 weekdays a month, you'd save $90/month by using ORCA! If you walked or biked to Aurora Village, you'd save another $30!

There are adult. youth, or Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP) ORCA types, and for each, there are 3 options: (1) E-purse, which you can think of like a Starbucks card. Value is loaded on the card from $5.00-$300.00, but there are no fees and the value doesn't expire. This is the best if you only ride occasionally. (2) Monthly pass, the equivalent of a Puget Pass. This is best for a person who rides the same/nearly the same bus routes/system for at least 18 days per month. (3) Hybrid, which has a monthly pass and e-purse. If you take trips with differing total fares each day, this might be for you. With this product, the monthly pass value is applied first, and any extra that's needed comes from the e-purse.

ORCA cards are available online, by phone at 1-888-988-ORCA (6722) or TTY: 711/888-889-6368, at ORCA customer service locations (RideStore at Lynnwood Transit Center, Everett Station, Metro Pass Sales Office - 201 S Jackson St/Seattle, Westlake Tunnel Station -West Mezzanine/Seattle). Youths and current Regional Reduced Fare Permit (RRFP) holders need to get their cards in person. ORCA cards are not valid on DART/paratransit systems, but those riders may find some benefit from having an ORCA card; they're advised to contact their transit agency.

It's best if you register your card - online, by phone, or at an ORCA customer service location - in case it's lost or stolen, as that's the only way for your e-purse balance or pass to be transferred to a replacement card; otherwise, all value is lost. None of your personal information is stored on the ORCA card.

Lastly, a big tip for in-Shoreline riders: if you're only riding a King County Metro bus within Shoreline (145th - 205th) without ever riding into Seattle, be sure to tell your driver that you're only traveling in a single zone, as their machines are typically set for two-zone fares applicable to travel to Seattle. Otherwise, you'll get dinged for the two-zone fare.

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