Riders will still have to pay a discounted fare for each trip, but the reloadable fare card itself is free when they join the regional e-payment network.

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Low-income transit riders, customers over age 65, and those with a disability and can now obtain their initial ORCA fare cards for free — saving them $3 when they join the regional e-payment network.

Riders will still have to pay a discounted fare for each ride, but the reloadable card itself is free.

Starting this week, the free cards are available to new members in the Regional Reduced Fare Permit program for disabled riders and people over age 65 regardless of income, who pay a flat $1 fare on King County Metro Transit. Free cards are also available for people in the ORCALift program, which provides low-income households a flat $1.50 fare per trip, regardless of age.

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About 30,000 cards a year are issued across the region for those two categories, said Sound Transit spokesman Scott Thompson. Riders will still have to pay $3 to replace a lost fare card.

Starting this fall, all students in Seattle public high schools become eligible for free fare, along with a free card, under a separate subsidy Mayor Jenny Durkan and the City Council approved last month, using $5 million per year in car-tab fees.

Other transit customers will continue to pay $5 to obtain an initial fare card, and any replacements or additional fare cards.

ORCA cards are usable on Community Transit, Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit, Kitsap Transit, Pierce Transit, Sound Transit, Washington State Ferries, as well as water taxis and streetcars.

For more information, see www.orcacard.com.