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Here's why transit rides are free this weekend

This weekend, riders will have free transit rides beginning at 3 a.m. Saturday until 3 a.m. Monday.

SEATTLE — The new ORCA ticket system, which encompasses the Puget Sound region's seven transit agencies, is being rolled out Monday, meaning the system it previously used will be offline.

While Sound Transit continues working on the Eastside light rail extension set to begin opening next year, it’s also launching new ticket vending machines and even a mobile payment option.

This weekend, riders will have free transit rides beginning at 3 a.m. Saturday until 3 a.m. Monday. This includes King County Metro, Sound, Pierce, Everett and Kitsap Transits.

New ticket vending machines are being installed at light rail stations but won't come online until the new ticketing system is fully activated later this year.

However, the new ORCA website and app that give riders more access to their accounts, buy passes and the ability to load money on their cards are becoming available.

According to Sound Transit, the key improvements on the new website include giving cardholders the ability to manage multiple cards, move balances between cards and buy e-purse value or monthly passes with multiple payment methods.

The app will allow cardholders to order new or replacement ORCA cards, lock or unlock cards, add fare money or passes to their cards or even unlink or deactivate cards.

“We’re beginning to deliver the first features of the new ORCA system and appreciate the patience of riders as we pivot between vendors and launch improvements over the next few years,” said Christina O’Claire, ORCA joint board chair and King County Metro mobility director.

These changes ultimately lead to the new ORCA card rollout, which will begin by the end of the year. In 2023 or later, Sound Transit plans to retire the old ORCA cards.

Eventually, Sound Transit plans to give riders the ability to use their phones to tap and pay.