Local transit’s ORCA card gets big upgrades

Two ORCA cards stacked on top of each other — one black the other blue

The new ORCA card designs should roll out this summer. | Photo via Sound Transit

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Calling all ORCA watchers. Wait, no — not those. We’re talking about the cards that get you on Sound Transit Light Rail trains + Metro buses, because there are some whale-sized changes coming soon.

On Mon., May 16, transit riders across the Puget Sound will find a new ORCA website + mobile app, which is intended to help streamline the payment system. The entire effort, which cost $80 million, spans more than 6,000 pieces of equipment and involves transferring 5 million customers over. Whew.

Eventually, there will be more upgraded machines around town, a slick new card design (matches our outfit), and an improved process for getting on public transportation directly with your phone. But the process for moving over to the new system will be a bit drawn out, so here’s the timeline for when you can expect to see the lane changes.

When the new system goes live

  • You’ll want to register your current ORCA card at MyORCA.com — no need to get a new one, since the old ORCA cards will still work (the design change should arrive by summer, FYI).
  • You’ll be able to add money to your card directly via the new website + My ORCA app in real time (eliminating the previous 24-48 hour waiting period)
  • You’ll also be able to manage multiple cards from one account.
  • Businesses enrolled in the benefits program will have more options.
  • Fares will not be collected between 3 a.m. Sat., May 14- Mon, May 16 at 2:29 a.m.
  • New adult card cost lowered from $5 to $3.

Features down the line

  • More stores added to the retail network (late 2022-23), with a searchable map of locations + easier barcode scanning for gift cards.
  • ORCA’s smartphone tap-to-pay option (2023).

And just on the side

Have a few questions? Drop into one of the virtual open houses today at 12 p.m. + 7 p.m.

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