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New ORCA card, price hikes for Metro transit

Transit riders line up for the morning commute on a Route 550 bus to Seattle at the Mercer Island Park and Ride last summer. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Transit riders line up for the morning commute on a Route 550 bus to Seattle at the Mercer Island Park and Ride last summer.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

On New Year's Day 2010, the Metro paper ticket will start to become obsolete. With the introduction of Sound Transit's light rail leading the way, public transportation in the Seattle area is stepping forward into the future.

The ORCA (One Regional Card for All) card is set to unify and replace individual tickets for King, Pierce and Snohomish county trains, buses and Sound Transit's light rail. Paper transfers will be replaced with electronic transfers on ORCA cards for trips that involve transferring between agencies. The card can be used on buses, trains, ferries and streetcars.

Islanders who commute from the Metro Park & Ride may want to sign up for the ORCA card this month, while it is free. On Feb. 1, the card will cost $5.

The new, all-electronic transfer system is designed to promote efficiency. ORCA card holders have a choice of loading between $5 and $300 on the card’s “E-purse” for trip-by-trip deduction, or purchasing a monthly "unlimited ride pass." Travelers simply touch the card to the ORCA scanning system, and their fare is registered.

Although Metro bus riders will still have the option of purchasing paper tickets with cash, they will no longer be able to use a transfer between different agencies' systems.

The ORCA card is not the only change in public transportation. Ticket prices for King County Metro fares are also increasing by 25 cents on Jan. 1. New prices include $2.75 for an adult two-zone peak fare, $2.25 for a one-zone peak trip and $2 for one- or two-zone off-peak rides. Seattle is one zone, and the rest of the county is considered another zone. Youth fares remain the same.

For more information on ORCA and to purchase the card, visit: www.orcacard.com.

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