From ORCA cards to bus-driver behavior: questions and answers

This week’s column answers a question about using ORCA cards to transfer between bus, light rail and streetcar trips, and explains the process by which people can report poor conduct by Metro bus drivers.

As a Lyft and Uber driver, Terry Murphy of Ballard says he sometimes spots Metro Transit buses running red lights or illegally blocking intersections while he’s toting passengers around the Seattle area.

“It’s almost like they own the street,” said Murphy, 62. “They can be really over-the-top rude.”

In this week’s Traffic Lab Q&A, we lay out the process for which people, like Murphy, can report bus drivers they believe aren’t following the rules, and we answer a Bellevue reader’s question about fares for transferring between different types of public transit.

We’ll start there.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., Sabey Corp., Seattle Children’s hospital and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

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Q: Can you use ORCA cards to transfer between buses, light rail and street cars? Originally, I heard riders must purchase a whole new fare for light-rail trips, but I recently read something that suggested people can transfer from buses or streetcars to the light rail if they have paid the right amount.

— Craig Reese, Bellevue

A: You read right.

ORCA card holders can transfer between light-rail, Sounder trains, buses, Seattle streetcars and the Vashon Island or West Seattle water taxis within two hours after first using the card.

Note: Washington State Ferries and Seattle Center Monorail trips aren’t included.

For transfer trips costlier than the initial fare, riders must pay the difference with cash or their ORCA card, which works like a prepaid debit card. Its minimum value is $5 and maximum is $300.

Most fare differences for King County trips are less than a dollar, King County Metro Transit reports.

For passengers planning multiple transfers throughout the day, they may want to consider an $8 ORCA day pass ($4 for seniors and riders with disabilities), which allows unlimited travel if the full fare is $3.50 or less for each trip. For more expensive trips, such as Sounder commuter-rail trips longer than Seattle to Kent, the system charges users the fare difference.

A PugetPass, which can be loaded onto an ORCA card and is good for a month’s worth of trips, is similar. The cost of the pass depends on the value of the trips being purchased. For example, $90 buys a month of unlimited rides for fares that are $2.50 or less each.

People with ORCA LIFT cards —…

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