EDITORIAL | ORCA integration with monorail long overdue

In recent years, the ORCA card has become a ubiquitous part of public transit in the Puget Sound.

It’s simple, really. You load the card, you tap the card on entry (and perhaps exit depending on your mode of transportation), and you’re set.

But one small link has been missing for the “One Regional Card for All.” Even now, those wishing to take the Seattle Center Monorail must have cash to do so. So, while you can tap and ride on Metro, Sound Transit, Washington State Ferries, Community Transit, Everett Transit, Kitsap Transit, and Pierce Transit, the “Card for All,” was really a “Card for Most.” ORCM doesn’t really have the same ring, though, and frankly we’re not sure how to pronounce it anyway.

But this week, there was some light on the horizon for making ORCA truly ORCA, with a proposal from mayor Ed Murray to integrate the monorail to the rest of transit system. 

It’s about time.

If you’ve ever been stuck on a bus anywhere between Westlake Center and Seattle Center during rush hour, you’ve certainly lamented the lack of public transit options to get between the two.

The monorail, and its separate $2.25 rate, has been an afterthought. Considering it’s a two-minute ride, with a guarantee of no traffic, and trains departing every 10 minutes, it really shouldn’t be. And when operating in two-train service, it has the ability to move 3,000 passengers per hour in one direction.

It’s not the end all be all, but as we all sit in an increasingly absurd amount of traffic on downtown streets, it’s become apparent that we need to make full use of every transportation option we can.

But it has to be easy for people to use those alternate methods. That much has been made clear by the early successes of companies participating in the free-floating bike share pilot program. Part of Pronto’s downfall was the fact that riders had to park their bikes at a predetermined station, and with so few stations, it simply wasn’t convenient. Now, with riders able to scan a QR code, ride, and park their bike outside their destination, it’s become a more accessible and easier option.

There’s no question that riding the monorail would be both easier and more accessible if you could ride with the tap of an ORCA card. And, like bike share, it works as an efficient “last mile” option for those trying to get between the two destinations.

Even if you’re skeptical about the Monorail’s role in the transportation puzzle for Uptown’s future — especially with the looming redevelopment of KeyArena to potentially house professional hockey or men’s basketball to the tune of 18,000+ spectators a night — it’s hard to argue that it should continue to operate in its own silo.