Tri-Met blowing smoke on Fareless Square
A reader who wrote an e-mail message to Tri-Met protesting the elimination of buses from the Fareless Square free ride program received a bit of a brush-off response from "Linda" (no last name given) of "TriMet Customer Satisfaction." Among her seemingly rote responses were these:
We still want to preserve the environment and increase transit use, but downtown Portland has changed dramatically since Fareless Square was established 34 years ago. We now have a comprehensive light rail system and the Portland Streetcar, which provide high quality transit service downtown. When the Green Line opens this September on 5th and 6th avenues between Union Station and Portland State University, both Green and Yellow Line trains will run north - south through downtown. As a result, we will have virtually the same service on the Transit Mall as is currently available. Nearly every destination in Fareless Square will be served by rail within 3-4 blocks, and we will continue to provide a service that promotes mobility between downtown and the Lloyd District.Wow, one after another assertion so shallow. Charging money on buses where none is charged now "would simplify the system for riders"? For $2, we'll take complication. "Maintaining frequent, free transit in the current fareless area"? Certainly far less frequent than exists currently, when every bus in the square is free.
Changing the fare-free zone to rail only would simplify the system for riders and improve the efficiency of bus service, while maintaining frequent, free transit in the current fareless area. Operational efficiencies include improved travel times for buses traveling through the Mall; reduced potential for conflicts with Operators that currently need to remember which passengers are staying in Fareless Square; an overall simplification of the Operators' responsibilities; and a reduction in bus related fare evasion, where bus passengers previously willing to take the chance of extending their free trip outside of Fareless Square will no longer be able to do so. In addition, customers should find travel in Fareless Square less confusing, as it is currently difficult to know which bus routes travel the length of the Mall, and which turn to cross the Willamette River or to the west.
"Reduced potential for conflicts with Operators that currently need to remember which passengers are staying in Fareless Square"? Really? Do the Tri-Met drivers really bother with this? From our vantage point, they let everybody board on Fareless Square, with or without fare, and never ask any questions beyond that unless they're in a nasty mood. "An overall simplification of the Operators' responsibilities"? Ditto.
"A reduction in bus related fare evasion, where bus passengers previously willing to take the chance of extending their free trip outside of Fareless Square will no longer be able to do so"? Yes, but an offsetting increase in train-related fare evasion -- what's the difference? "Customers should find travel in Fareless Square less confusing"? Again, for $2, we'll cope with the heavy weight of complexity.