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Seattle Transit Measure | We are giving free, unlimited ORCA Recovery cards to people working in food service and grocery industries in Rainier Beach and Othello 

A person walks near a bus stop in Rainier Beach. Photo: SDOT

It’s not too late to get your ORCA Recovery Card! Check out the eligibility requirements below and if you qualify, register using a link below. 

Last June, we provided over 1,600 free, unlimited ORCA cards for people working in food service and grocery industries in Chinatown, Japantown, Little Saigon, and Pioneer Square. These are called ORCA Recovery Cards. 

Now, we are distributing additional ORCA Recovery Cards to up to 900 people working in these same industries in the Rainier Beach and Othello neighborhoods. 

These ORCA Recovery Cards help Seattle employees get to work affordably and efficiently.  

Right now, we are focused specifically on sharing these benefits with people who were disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Read more about how we identified communities most significantly impacted by COVID-19, with the understanding that the impacts of COVID-19 will change over time. 

We are expanding this program because the ORCA Recovery Cards are working so well. Last year, we learned that the ORCA Recovery Card helped people save money on transportation and helped them take transit more.   

SDOT staff hand out ORCA Recovery Cards at a community event in Seattle.
SDOT staff hand out ORCA Recovery Cards at a community event in Seattle. Photo: SDOT

ORCA Recovery Card program highlights:

  • 91% of people reported using transit more frequently than they did before receiving their ORCA card.  
  • 9 out of every 10 people used their ORCA Recovery Card to go to work in the two weeks prior to talking with us. 
  • 95% of participants feel that they save money with the ORCA Recovery Card.  
  • Riders reported that paying for transit is more efficient with an ORCA card. 
  • The ORCA Recovery Card is helping people go other places, too – like home, to the grocery store, and to see friends and family. 
  • It is easier through the ORCA Recovery Card for people to avoid driving, which helps us all meet climate change goals, too. 

All ORCA Recovery cards – including those we distributed last year – will expire on December 31, 2022. 

To receive an ORCA Recovery Card, a person must work at a business that: 

  • Is classified as a food service or grocery business 
  • Is located within Othello & Rainier Beach geographic boundaries.  
  • Does not have more than 5 locations in the City of Seattle. 
  • Does not already provide a comparable transportation benefit.  

We have shared this information with eligible businesses and employees over the last couple weeks. This week, we were out in communities helping people apply for the ORCA Recovery cards. We will mail the ORCA Recovery cards directly to businesses in mid-June for the employees who were not able to pick them up at our recent tabling events.  

Thanks to the Seattle Transit Measure (STM), we were able to expand the Recovery Card program to provide free ORCA cards to restaurant and grocery store workers in Chinatown, Japantown, Little Saigon, Pioneer Square, Rainier Beach, and Othello.  

Thank you, Seattle! The ORCA Recovery Card program is possible thanks to 80 percent of Seattle voters who passed the Seattle Transit Measure in 2020, which provides better transit service and access in Seattle.  

Through a 0.15% sales tax (the equivalent of 15 cents on a $100 purchase) you are directly supporting transit access and COVID recovery in your community. 

On June 1, we published the Seattle Transit Measure (STM) annual report. The ORCA Recovery Card program has been STM’s highest ridership fare subsidy program, with the average participant taking 200 trips in just the first 6 months of the program. These access programs saved participants more than $4 million collectively in 2021.  


“Making transit free to Seattle employees empowers them to get to work affordably and efficiently, especially those who may struggle with travel costs. Expanding the ORCA Recovery Card Program to other neighborhoods exemplifies that we are continuing to work toward a just and equitable transportation network by providing reliable travel options. It also helps with small business recovery by assisting employees traveling or returning to work in some of our most vibrant neighborhoods.”

– Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell 

“We’ve seen good success with the ORCA Recovery Card program, as it helps people to use transit more and save money as they ride. We’re excited to expand the program to serve more people and spotlight transit as an efficient and affordable option, and we’re also making it easier through the ORCA Recovery Card for people to avoid driving, which helps meet climate change goals.”

– Kristen Simpson, Seattle Department of Transportation Interim Director 

“Traveling to my destination is easy. The program helps us save money and space, as our parking is very limited. I appreciate the support. Overall, it’s a great program for my employees.”

– Owner, Sharif Grocery & Halal