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21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Sound Transit ATCMTD Application Volume 1 - Technical Application


The seven ORCA agencies have signed an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement establishing roles and responsibilities; allocation of revenue from the ORCA system; funding commitments; and allocation of regionally-shared costs of operating maintaining and updating the ORCA system. Per Exhibit D-1 in the Interlocal Cooperation Agreement, the Joint Board adopted a cost-sharing formula is based on actual cost drivers such as numbers of transactions, numbers of boardings, numbers of customers, dollar volume of use or sales transactions, etc as measured by the ORCA system. The cost-sharing formula is updated annually. The ORCA system also calculates and distributes fare revenue among the partner agencies for all rides and transfers, providing efficiencies for every agency. The seven ORCA agencies have agreed upon the cost sharing percentages for each agency to continue the operations and maintenance of the Next Gen ORCA system.

As the lead agency managing this grant request and the assets procured with the funding, Sound Transit has a long-term financial plan that covers operating costs, debt service and capital replacement costs. Annually the Sound Transit financial plan is updated and extended so the maintenance and operation costs are fully financially feasible and budgeted. An Asset Management Plan covers the management and maintenance of agency assets. The Sound Transit Financial Plan assumes that all the project assets will be replaced at the end of their useful life. Sound Transit maintains a minimum $300 million reserve for unanticipated expenditures necessary to keep the system in good working condition. In addition, the agency maintains a forecast of the funds necessary to repair and replace existing assets to keep the regional transit system in a state of good repair, consistent with industry standards. These forecasts are included in the financial plan as a financial commitment.

Next Gen ORCA Consistency with National ITS Architecture. One of the highest priorities of the Puget Sound Region's Metropolitan Transportation Plan, Transportation 2040, is to improve system efficiency with transportation system management and operations strategies. The region has long been using ITS strategies and has a strong foundation of ITS deployments in place. To more fully deploy and integrate ITS, Transportation 2040 includes a strategy for "Information Exchange and Integration," where agencies can take advantage of the information available from newly implemented and existing ITS applications while working towards providing integrated multimodal information to internal operations, other agencies, transit users, and freight operators so that travel decisions can be made as efficiently as possible based on the developed Regional ITS Architecture. In 2015, the Puget Sound Regional ITS Architecture was updated to confirm with the current USDOT National ITS Architecture (version 7.1). Next Gen ORCA will conform with National ITS Architecture.

Evaluating the Effectiveness, Benefits and Value of Next Gen ORCA. Next Gen ORCA will be evaluated by customers and the seven ORCA transit agencies. Surveys will be used to get feedback from customers on ease of use and transit agencies will be surveyed to provide feedback on system functionality.

  • The Next Gen ORCA project scope includes Beta Testing. Beta testing is performed by a limited number of users (approximately 4,000). Users will test the Next Gen ORCA system and be surveyed on what works and what needs improvement. Improvements will be made prior to roll-out of the Next Gen ORCA system to the general public.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are reviewed monthly. The KPIs help evaluate the health of the ORCA and Next Gen ORCA system. Examples of KPIs include: number of equipment failures, website outages, system reporting, fare apportionment, etc.
  • ORCA Audits are conducted annually. These audits include financial audits, security audits and monthly system scans. These audits are completed to make sure the system is secure from internal and external intrusion.
  • Along with an annual rider survey by King County Metro, an ORCA Regional Rider Survey is completed approximately every 2-3 years, gathering customer input regarding the ORCA fare collection system.

Annual Rider-Surveys. King County Metro conducts long-term tracking studies that measure rider satisfaction to better understand where to focus service improvements and to increase rider satisfaction over time. Annual Rider-Surveys include:

  • Live telephone survey of residents age 16 and older in King County, Washington
  • The most recent survey was conducted December 1st – 30th, 2016
  • 800 total respondents; Margin of Error: + 3.5 percentage points
  • Consistent with the study's approach in previous years, EMC conducted a telephone survey using a Random Digit Dial and listed cell phone samples, supplemented with targeted less than $35K income, Hispanic and Asian customers.
  • Interviews were conducted using trained, professional interviewers;
  • For Fare Payment, riders were asked questions about the value of service, ease of paying fares while boarding and ORCA cards.

In the 2016 Riders Survey, about 75% of riders say they use an ORCA card (purchased themselves or by employers) as their primary method of bus fare payment. When including U-Pass/Husky Card usage, nearly four-in-five riders (79%) use some type of ORCA card. One fifth (21%) use cash or tickets as a primary fare payment method. Metro Operators and Fare Payment are currently the agency's highest rated service dimensions.

The following reports are also used to evaluate the Next Gen ORCA system

Reports Used to Evaluate Next Gen ORCA System
Reports Purpose Data Collected
Joint Board Program Management Report (quarterly)
  • Provides quarterly overview of the performance of key system activities.
  • Provides data to support business decisions such as the deployment of marketing or system enhancements.
  • System Operations (sales by fare product & sales/channel/location)
  • System Operations- Ridership Transactions/Boardings
  • System Operations–Retailer Report
  • System Operations–ORCA Cards in
    Circulation and in Use by Type
Fare Revenue Report (annual) Provides the data on farebox recovery, passenger fare revenue by mode and ORCA products Fare revenue from ORCA E-purse, ORCA Regional PugetPass, ORCA Business Account Program, Ticket Vending Machine tickets, Farebox cash and tickets, human services tickets and mobile ticketing
Data Access and Reporting (DARe) Provides reporting over time or in aggregate for trend analysis. Data includes historical ORCA reporting blended with Next Gen ORCA.
  • Secures all functional and long term data from the existing ORCA and Next Gen ORCA systems
  • Data is used to validate that the regional apportionment is correct and pricing is appropriately applied

Demonstrating Return on Investment. In alignment with USDOT's vision for the ATCMTD initiative, Sound Transit and ORCA partner agencies are committed to deploying a fare collection and payment system that will maximize efficiencies based on the intelligent management of assets and the sharing of information using integrated technology solutions. The advanced technology solutions and the lessons learned from the deployment of Next Gen ORCA can be used in other locations, scaled in scope and size, to increase successful deployments and provide widespread benefits to the public and other agencies.

Next Gen ORCA offers operational efficiencies including design and build system components with easy-to-use interfaces and intuitive tools, ability to roll out new functionality and upgrades faster and use technology and administration to enable the ORCA agencies to quickly assess and pilot new technology features and implement them efficiently. The system aims to increase the convenience for consumers, lowering the total cost of ownership for the region, and increasing the use of state-of-the-art technology to create efficiencies and an updatable, modern system.

Next Gen ORCA will offer increased efficiency by providing customers flexibility in how they pay for fares, enhanced unbanked/underbanked programs, business and institutional programs, improved accessibility for all customers, ease of purchase and loading of value. Customers will benefit from easier fare payment, providing immediate availability of purchased products (as opposed to 24-48 hr. delay), and by making ORCA available through as many channels as possible (such as an expanded retail network and new vending machines).

The long term benefits of the Next Gen ORCA system exceed the costs. Examples include:

  • Next Gen ORCA will allow transit agencies to continue fare collection, worth more than $240 million per year (and growing) of fare revenue.
  • Faster boarding times (due to reduced cash payment) are estimated to save 14,303-28,605 annual service hours, with a cost savings for transit agencies of $1.5 million to $2.9 million annually.
  • Faster fare collection reduces bus dwell time, saving $5.5 million of expected additional transit agency operating costs beginning in 2018.
  • The current proprietary fare collection system has a 33% mark-up for fare validators and other equipment. Next Gen ORCA will use modular equipment, available from numerous vendors.
  • The Next Gen ORCA mobile app can save capital costs by reducing the amount of equipment needed in the future, including "Smart fareboxes" (saving $17 million) and the number of ticket vending machines (TVMs) (approximately $58,000 per TVM, with O&M costs of $28,800 per device, per year.)
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