Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit)

The ORCA fare system was successfully developed and implemented through a collaborative effort led by a Regional Team consisting of seven stakeholder agencies: Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, Sound Transit, and Washington State Ferries. Local riders and visitors to the city of Seattle now enjoy a unified regional fare structure on fixed-route buses, light rail, commuter rail, streetcars, ferries, and water taxis.

Scope of the project


fare validators


driver terminals


ticket vending machines




modes of transport


back-office managment system

The task

The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) along with six regional transit partners needed a next generation electronic fare system to improve the customer experience. The goals were to improve the customer experience through real-time account management, customer data security, and the use of mobile devices to pay fares.

The solution

Sound Transit partnered with INIT to supply their next-generation ORCA fare system. The contactless, account-based solution enables riders to conveniently add value to their accounts and use various payment methods, including mobile app, website, customer service terminals, vending machines, and retail outlets. INIT fare validators are on-board local and regional buses and located at rail stations for easy tap and go boarding. The validators are PCI (Payment Card Industry) and EMV (Europay, MasterCard® and Visa®) certified for the acceptance of contactless cards as well as virtual cards stored in a mobile app. These features will be beneficial when virtual card- and contactless credit and debit card payments are implemented in the future.

In addition, INIT validators are certified “Visa Ready for Transit” and wear the ITxPT (Information Technology for Public Transport) label ensuring the hardware is built with an open architecture design and facilitates interoperability between IT systems. 

INIT’s state-of-the-art Ticket Vending Machines (TVM) are in place at stations throughout the region and were transitioned into service over time as the legacy TVMs were phased out. Customers were able to use their existing ORCA cards on the new system equipment during the transition helping make the changeover easier during the adoption period.

At the core of the ORCA system lies INIT's fare management and clearing system, MOBILEvario. This software manages and processes fares in real-time, handles revenue sharing, manages accounts, and automates reconciliation.

Our customers are very satisfied with the new and improved ORCA system, website, and mobile app that launched in 2022. The rollout was a success, and we look forward to adding more features supported by INIT’s flexible system.

Brittany Esdaile

Director of ORCA

The conclusion

The new ORCA fare system from INIT celebrated its one-year anniversary in 2023 with a milestone of 82 million taps. With its open architecture platform, the next-gen ORCA system can seamlessly integrate additional transportation solutions like bike share, car share, and Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) in future project phases.


  • Contactless, account-based fare system
  • Customer website for account management
  • Virtual cards, physical cards, and mobile app payments
  • Open API with third-party integrations
  • Web-based statistics software
  • Back-office revenue management system