May 26, 2022

What’s up with the ORCA card readers?


Updates on checking your card balance and those quiet boops.

We have received many questions from customers regarding card readers in the new ORCA system.

What is the new ORCA transition process and how will it affect how I use transit? Why are both new and old card readers being used at the same time? Why is less information available on the card reader screens? The answer? All of this is a part of our equipment replacement plan.

Our goal is to ensure card readers are available at all stations and vehicles while we finish replacing the old card readers with new ones. Collecting fares on old and new readers and limited information available on the screens is temporary. All new equipment with full-screen information will be in place later this summer.

What You are Seeing Today

Here are some temporary changes to card readers that may affect how you travel around the Puget Sound:

  • There are riders that rely on card readers to know their ORCA card balance. Right now, card readers do not show this information when you tap. This feature will come back to the readers later this summer
  • Card readers are currently showing limited information during this transition phase. A tap on or off a new reader right now results in the following screen:

On an old reader you see this “Permit to Travel” screen:

During this ongoing transition you can check your ORCA card balance using one of these alternatives:

    • ORCA ticket vending machines
    • myORCA mobile app
    • ORCA Customer Service (in-person or over the phone)

To avoid running out of funds or having your card blocked for having a negative balance, please remember to check your balance using the alternatives listed above.

What to Expect Later This Summer

We expect to have all card readers replaced later this summer, at which point the new screens will provide more helpful information to customers, including your ORCA card balance. Here are some examples of what to expect when the new card readers are fully functional:

When the card reader transition is complete, they will show more information including customer E-purse balances, pass expiration dates, and when tapping off, transfer window times.

More Enhancements on the Way

Lastly, regarding the “boop” sound the new card readers make after a tap, we have received many reports that the new sound is too quiet, especially at busy locations. The ORCA team is analyzing the situation and will have an update on potential solutions soon.

We appreciate your patience as our teams install the new equipment across the region. As noted above, we will have all the new card readers installed later this summer.

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