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US-China trade war affecting ORCA card prices

(Nick Bowman, MyNorthwest)

The board that oversees the ORCA card system will need to tap a contingency fund to offset the rising costs of the cards, thanks to President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods.

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Local transit agencies order the cards from China, and budgeted $1.6 million this year to pay for them. Sound Transit, one of the board representatives, said that won’t be enough after Trump raised tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods, from 10 percent to 25 percent.

“The Joint Sound Transit Board will meet today to move about $400,000 out of a contingency fund over to our operating fund to cover that increase,” said Scott Thompson, Sound Transit Public Information officer.

Thompson said tariffs on Chinese goods caused the price of ORCA cards to jump by about 48 cents per card, up to $2.40 per unit, compared to $1.92 last year.

With the board’s approval, the contingency fund’s total would be reduced from approximately $1.1 million, to nearly $658,000. Current ORCA cardholders will not experience any price hikes.

“We have plenty of money in the contingency fund to fund this gap,” said Thompson. “The operating budget for 2020 has already taken this increase into account so we shouldn’t have to go through this next year as well.”

Customers typically pay $5 for ORCA cards up front, and can reload them with money.

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