Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Sound Transit ATCMTD Application Volume 1 - Technical Application


As mentioned earlier, this project offers system efficiency benefits, reducing congestion and delay.

  • Next Gen ORCA reduces delay and improves on-time performance. If ORCA were used instead of cash payment (saving 5 seconds per boarding), approximately 57,211 hours of boarding delay could be avoided annually.
  • When Next Gen ORCA is used instead of cash payment (saving 5 seconds per boarding), approximately 14,303-28,605 annual service hours could be saved and used elsewhere to increase transit service.
  • Operating cost savings from increased ORCA usage range between about $1.5 million to $2.9 million a year.
  • Expanding off-board payment and reducing dwell time is expected to save $5.5 million of additional operating costs per year in downtown Seattle.

Safety Benefits Due to Increased Transit Ridership. Taking transit is much safer than driving a personal vehicle. According to an APTA report ("The Hidden Traffic Safety Solution: Public Transportation", the most effective life-saving traffic safety tool for a commuter and a community may be the daily metro transit pass. A person can reduce his or her chance of being in an accident by more than 90% simply by taking public transit instead of commuting by car. This means traveling by public transportation is ten times safer per mile than traveling by auto. Public transit cuts a community's crash risk in half, even for those who do not use public transit. Public transportation is a cost-effective traffic safety strategy.

Next Gen ORCA promotes increased transit ridership by making it easier and seamless to use. In the Puget Sound region there were nearly 212 million transit boardings in 2016 (NTD Data). By 2040 estimates show that there will be over 8 million additional annual boardings, which translates into a reduction of 95 million VMT in the region. Increased transit ridership and reduced VMT reduces the number of auto collisions, related fatalities, injuries and crashes.

  • The 8 million additional transit boardings are expected to reduce approximately one fatality, 43 injuries and 106 crashes by 2040. (Sources: PSRC, BTS Motor Vehicle Safety Data (Table 2-17). In addition:
  • Transit riders have less than a tenth of the per-mile crash rates as automobile occupants, and transit-oriented communities have less than a fifth of the total (pedestrian, cyclist, automobile and transit passenger) per capita traffic fatality rates as in automobile dependent communities.
  • Traffic casualty rates tend to decline in a community as transit ridership increases. Cities where residents average more than 50 annual transit trips have about half the average traffic fatality rates as cities where residents average fewer than 20 annual transit trips.
  • Transit-oriented cities have about half the average youth and total traffic fatality rates as more automobile-oriented cities.

Other studies indicate relatively small public transportation ridership gains are associated with proportionately larger reductions in per capita crash rates (Duduta, et al. 2012). For example, analyzing 29 years of traffic data for 100 U.S. cities, Stimpson, et al. (2014) found that a 10% increase in the portion of passenger-miles made by public transit is associated with 1.5% reduction in total traffic deaths. Since only about 2% of total person-miles are currently by public transportation, this means that a 1% increase in transit mode share is associated with a 2.75% decrease in fatalities per 100,000 residents, which translates into a 5% decrease in total traffic fatalities in the 100 cities included in their study. (Stimpson, et al. 2014, p. 6)

Safety Benefits Due to Reduced Fare Collection Conflicts and Less Cash Handling. According to national and regional transit unions and agencies, many transit operator and passenger conflicts and assaults stem from fare collection and enforcement. Next Gen ORCA will reduce handling of cash fare payment, reduce fare collection disputes and require less driver fare enforcement.

Security Benefits. In addition to the safety benefits, the Next Gen ORCA project will improve data security. Currently a confidential, secure database holds records of every ORCA card, its current value and usage history. The ORCA agencies have planned for multiple layers of system and data security, including data encryption or encoding, the use of passwords and secret questions for access to customer data and controlled access to data. Registration information is stored in the central database only. Next Gen ORCA will allow more methods of payment and will leverage its flexibility to continue to improve the customer experience while maintaining a secure system. To meet these increasing security needs, the ORCA team has specified system requirements with the help of technical industry experts and agency specialists.

Improved Financial Management and Controls. An integral part of the ORCA Next Generation Strategy includes improved financial management and controls and data management and reporting. Next Gen ORCA requirements include security requirements for protecting physical system components, personal information and credit card transactions and data. A high priority element outlined as part of the system design includes system security that incorporates different methods of authentication because not only do customers expect the system to be very secure, but anticipated regulations will make this feature essential. To meet high security standards, the Next Gen ORCA consultant team is required to have expertise with system security and compliance with all pertinent regulation, such as PCI, the Payment Card Security standards for securing physical components, personal information, and credit card transactions (PCI, EMV, NFC payment standards).

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston ("The Contactless Wave: A Case Study in Transit Payments", one transit authority estimated revenue loss due to fraud and fare evasion to be five percent of its annual fare revenue. Next Gen ORCA will benefit the financial security of participating agencies. According to the Transit Cooperative Research Program's "Project A-1 Fare Policies, Structures and Technologies", a primary advantage of electronic payment methods include improved revenue accountability and security, in terms of improved ability to track transactions and discourage employee theft or mishandling of fare revenue.

Environmental Benefits. Increasing transit ridership and reducing vehicle miles traveled and associated emissions is also a goal of the region. The transportation sector is the biggest contributor to greenhouse-gas emissions locally, and transit is a major tool for reducing emissions.

  • The more people utilize public transportation, the more emissions and fuel consumption are reduced. If 10,000 drive-alone commuters left their cars at home and took transit instead for a year, fuel consumption would be reduced by 2.7 million gallons annually (2016 Washington State Public Transportation Plan).
  • Reducing delay and providing more transit service reduces SOV trips and decreases VMT, improving the region's air quality. Next Gen ORCA will develop the capability to interface with other modes that improve air quality, such as secure on-demand bicycle lockers at transit stations/centers.
Office of Operations