I am shocked this article didn't discuss the experience of Corvallis Oregon which is one of the larger cities in the US to have a fareless transit system. They charge every household a monthly utility fee that replaced the fares that they were charging so there was no reason to reduce service. If you look at the number of households in the Trimet service area we could do the same thing for around 10 dollars per household per month. Any household who currently buys 2 all day passes per month would save money. For a bit larger a fee we could actually go fareless and expand service at the same time.
I use TriMet every day to go from NW to Hollywood to get to work. I have started going out of my way to take the bus instead of the MAX or the Street Car BECAUSE it requires a fare upon entry. As a young woman traveling alone, I continually find myself in situations on the MAX or street car that make me feel unsafe because both seem to be attracting more and more non paying riders who are clearly in need of mental health services or basic human services. This is lousy because a) it's sad and frustrating these people aren't getting the care they need and b) it's become a detriment to the over all safety and quality of TriMet services. In taking the bus, I know that I can get to and from work in a safe and timely manner. The required fare seems to limit the number of patrons behaving unpredictably or innappropriately to the excess of making others feel unsafe. I feel bad about this...like do I just need to toughen up and accept this is a part of living in a city with inequality? At the same time, I don't think that it's too much to expect public transit to be safe and attractive for ALL Portlanders- young, old, alone, poor, rich. Paying a fare creates a certain buy in to the system- we care more about the things we pay for. I do think that measures to make it more affordable for all people are welcome and necessary, but completely eliminating the fare also eliminates a sense of ownership in the efficacy of TriMet to provide safe and afforable transit everyone. Ugh- it's tricky!! Thanks for the thoughtful piece! I'll look forward to following this policy issue.
Failing to even offer lip service to preventing fareless transit from becoming rolling homeless shelters does the whole argument a disservice. I'm a daily Max commuter. I sacrifice 30 minutes a day (over driving into downtown) primarily due to not wanting to pay for parking. It's a cost/benefit analysis for me that would need to be recalculated if the ridership changed significantly like a fareless system would promise to do.
Pretty sure there are already programs providing the homeless with free or heavily reduced cost passes. The increase in regular people riding the bus (Corvallis saw a 50% jump when they went fareless) would probably swamp any increase in homeless ridership.
Corvallis isn't fairless, they just dumped the cost onto utility bills. So instead of whatever % of the public that was paying and riding, 100% of the public property owners now pay. Nothing is free when government says it's free.
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