Posted by: silverstar98121 | April 23, 2009

Chasing the Elusive ORCA

Nothing’s ever easy when you are disabled. Case in point, the Seattle region is changing over to a smart card system for all its transit systems, buses, trains and ferries. Totally geeky! Of course, being the geek I am, I had to be an “early adopter.” So I went today to get an ORCA card. It’s an acronym for One Regional Card forAll. Of course, that harks back to the orca whales that are iconic to the Puget Sound region. I wonder what they paid some PR firm to come up with that?

I went down to the Transit Stop in the transit tunnel, where they sell passes, tickets, etc. But I couldn’t get one there because the disabled cards are different. I had to go down to the main Metro office to get one. This is down by Chinatown, or more properly, the International District. And I hadn’t been down there in a while, so I had to try to remember which buses ran down there. Fortunately, I found one shortly, and proceeded to the office.

There I found out why I couldn’t get one at the Transit Stop. Disabled ORCA cards are different in that they have our pictures on them. Seems a fair number of disabled folk decided to do the same thing, and there was a line. This was exacerbated by the fact that the system has only been online since Monday, and the employees are still in a steep learning curve. At least they had people to stand in line for you if you couldn’t. And I’m glad I did it now instead of closer to the end of the month. The lines will be really long then.

One of the neat things you can do with ORCA cards is load them online. Which, of course, I did as soon as I got home. You can either load a pass onto the card for unlimited rides during a month, or you can load an e-purse, if you are only an occasional rider. Or you can load both. The e-purse thingy would have been nice when I had the scooter, and didn’t ride the bus as often as I do now.

I chose to load both. That way, I can ride the bus whenever I want to, and if I decide to take the odd ferry ride, it will subtract the fare from the e-purse. Cool beans!

But before I could load the pass, I had to find the right pass. So I looked under Puget Pass, and the 50¢ pass was $18.00. Well, that’s the fare for disabled, but the pass has only been $9.00. So I call the ORCA folks to ask them “What’s up with that?” And they didn’t have the foggiest notion. So while I’m talking to them I’m flipping around the site, and find it under “Agency Passes.” OK, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who will make that mistake. So next month’s pass is paid for, and I have some extra on my card for bus systems that have a different fare structure than Metro, ferries, and light rail. But nothing is ever easy and straightforward.


  1. sounds very frustrating… but you’ve got more patience and tenacity than i do for getting to the bottom of such things!

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