Monday, December 19, 2011

ORCA Reaches Operational Milestone

The multi-party agreement that created the ORCA smart card project was signed in 2003. Community Transit was the first agency to sign on and has been a regional leader in transitioning riders to the ORCA card. Currently, more than 70 percent of all Community Transit bus riders use the ORCA card; the percentage is even higher on commuter service to UW and downtown Seattle.

Although the ORCA system went live more than two years ago, the project just received Full System Acceptance (FSA) last week. That milestone means that ORCA is no longer a “project” for the partner agencies, but is simply the basic fare system.

Nothing changes for the public or our employees with FSA, but it begins a new phase for ORCA. Vix, the company formerly known as ERG which manages the system, begins a contract to operate the system for the next 10 years. All new changes to the system will be charged (up until now changes that made the system work correctly were considered part of the project contract). Most importantly, additions to the system can be made, whether it be new agencies coming on board, new products offered or new functionality for the ORCA cards.

The Joint Board, which is made up of CEOs and general managers from the seven partner agencies, will take time in considering what changes to make to ORCA. The system still has some operational kinks, but the program is a big success. Of the nearly 500,000 people who ride transit daily in the Puget Sound Region, about 300,000 of them use ORCA cards to pay their fare. A big percentage of those are workers and students whose employer or school provides an ORCA card. The number of business institutions has gone up since ORCA replaced the PugetPass system.

Tell us what your experience with ORCA has been, good, bad or in between.

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