In the Seattle region seven transportation agencies use a common electronic fare payment system, called ORCA – One Regional Card for All. In 2009 when ORCA was adopted, one advantage of moving from a simple paper card to electronic media was that data produced by that card’s use would provide travel behavior information, which could be used to improve transportation planning and decision-making. To date this opportunity has not been routinely realized.

The Urbanalytics Studio together with Hallenbeck and the Washington State Transportation Center are doing work in the following areas:

  • Responsible data use and privacy: In the context of information, which can reflect a rider’s movement through the city, employment, and income affiliations.
  • Efficient data handling: As the seven transit agencies amass multi-gigabite d ata files there is a need for better ways to process, merge, store, and handle this information.
  • Facilitate transportation analysis: Once the data has been processed, better ways to visualize, summarize and query these data will allow transportation specialists to better understand transit use and transit system inefficiencies which can be used to develop more effecting service and operations plans.
  • Equity analysis: The availability of attribute data associated with ORCA (low-income subsidized passes, employer subsidized passes, passes for students and seniors) allows for a better understanding of these travelers’ different use patterns. With this information transit services can be tailored to specific needs, and the success of those plans can be directly observed. Ultimately this enables more efficient and more equitable transit planning.

This project emerged out of the Data Science for Social Good 2016 ORCA Data Project led by Mark Hallenbeck, of the Washington State Transportation Center and Anat Caspi director of the Taskar Center for Accessible Technology.

Map of average Seattle ORCA transfers per weekday
Map of average Seattle ORCA transfers per weekday