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Free Tri Met Rides? It Could Happen

Tonight as I was getting on the 20 I handed the driver my transfer. The ticket stated I validated it at E 162nd and that it expired at 6:15. Woozy and a bit cranky from selling plasma, I thought I had made it.
But no. I handed my ticket to the driver (instead of slipping it into the ticket machine before he could examine it), such was my good faith. He peered at it over his glasses and said flatly

"This is expired."
"What time is it?" I asked, slightly dismayed.
"6:17" he said, deadpan.

Even though I was weak from trading my precious fluid for a mere 20 Federal Reserve Notes, I wasn't about to spend a buck thirty-five more so some goblin could drive me home. My ill-conceived plan was to walk home just to show the bus driver that his stinky-pants attitude was not going to coerce any more dough out of my already cash-strapped-ass. I said something ineffective and indignant like "Whatever" and spun to storm off the bus. I could not however, because a woman with curly grey hair insisted on paying my fare and was blocking me like a goalie from leaving. So I was forced to storm to the back of the bus, muttering "Two fucking minutes!" under my breath.

The woman came back to talk to me and I apologized for almost mowing her down and that I was just angry. Lo' and behold, like a Jehovah's Witness telling you that "God has a plan for you" when you are obviously having a bad day, the woman launched into a well rehearsed pitch about her website called  http://www.freetrimetrides.com She stated what I had always suspected was true, that fares consist only a fraction of Tri-Met's budget, 13%, in fact. She said that she had sent out press releases and tried to interest the local media, but to no avail. There's a petition on her website that they will approach the Tri-Met board with when they reach 25,000. I thought I would give her a shout out on PDX IMC since she did not seem to know what it was and see if we can get a buzz going.

It is publically owned, after all.

homepage: homepage: http://www.freetrimetrides.com

add a comment on this article

I'm all over that one! 26.Feb.2005 20:19

Thx for the heads up :)

Now, EVERYbody sign!

great story 26.Feb.2005 20:28

pdx reader and bus rider

thanks for the great story. i went to the  http://www.freetrimetrides.com site and signed their petition. sounds like a good idea, hope it takes off. i had never heard about it until you posted it here.

It would be an intersesting experiment 26.Feb.2005 21:07

James

It would be interesting to learn what effect an elimination in fares would have on ridership. If Tri-Met receives $50 million in annual revenus from fares, then a one-month fare holiday -- which would help you judge ridership changes -- would cost approximately $4 million. I think that would be money well spent, if you could find a two month period where ridership is relatively stable. (Or else adjust your findings based on historical ridership figures).

Of course, obtaining those ridership figures might be a daunting challenge if you're not collecting fares. I'm not sure what objective measurement methods you could use to count passengers. You could do statistical analyses based on spot sampling, but that seems somewhat unreliable.

I know Honolulu -- which has a very well managed bus system -- is in the process of installing a set of technologies in their buses that will get them this (priceless) type of data. They've geo-coded their entire route network, they've installed GPS devices in all of their buses which uploads the precise location of the buses every thirty seconds, and they're installing infrared cameras at the entrances and exits of all their buses which will count the number of passengers boarding and disembarking the bus at each stop. (By corellating that with the GPS data, they'll be able to determine how many passengers are on their buses at any given time -- the holy grail of bus route planning).

But that's a large project in and of itself. Not something you can just install on a whim.

There'd be no reason to cut fares if it doesn't effect a commensurate increase in ridership. So it'd be very important to learn whether it's actually working.

More useful than cutting fares may be cutting service to suburban areas. Public transportation is used significantly more in the downtown core, NE and SE areas of Portland. The cost per passenger mile of a bus in Beaverton is significantly more than the cost per passenger mile of a bus in NE. It doesn't make sense to continually increase service in those areas.

Besides, I find bus service in the suburbs annoying. It's too infrequent. I much prefer riding my bicycle to a transit center if I'm planning to go a long distance. If people don't want to walk or ride a bike to a transit center, they should move downtown.

Did you know? 26.Feb.2005 21:51

pellegrini

Did you know?

1. On days when metro air quality is below federal standards,
all C-Tran's rides are free. Tri-Met refuses to even offer
free rides on those days, let alone ALL days...Too greedy.

2. If Tri-Met would have invested the monies spent on the westside
light rail rather than building it, Tri-Met could have financed
itself for perpetuity (forever).

Worthly of Revue 26.Feb.2005 22:10

md

I had a friend who worked for Tri-Met's maintence and repair department tell me this information over ten years ago and I have always mentioned it any chance fare issues come up. I also tell everyone to just ride free if they don't have fare. The bus driver's job is to drive the bus. If someone does not have a fare the driver can push the fair-evasion button and if it's a constant problem in a certain area at a certain time, Tri-Met can dispatch Fare Inspectors to check out the opportunity. Bus driver's refusing to provide the bus services to an individual is dangerous and has gotten people hurt. Just ask Jose Mejia Poot, oh yeah, you can't he's dead, portland police officers beat him up and shot him. He was suppossedly 0.20 cents short of the full fare.

Good! 26.Feb.2005 23:55

also a bus rider ...

I have lived in eastern europe where mass transportation was low priced, always on time and could get you practically everywhere. It is time we have affordable mass transportation and more routes with more frequency. I have heard that bus fares are increasing yet again in the next month.


To do this we should have flyers about he website and hand them out on the buses.

Organize A Drive to Get the Word Out 27.Feb.2005 01:40

Tony revolutionxche@yahoo.com

I am willing to help organize something to promote this idea, such as distributing flyers at stops and on the bus and max, etc. Please email me at  revolutionxche@yahoo.com if you are interested in helping out. I have a flyer made. Email me if you just want me to send it to you or something. This is an awesome idea.

two more interesting things 27.Feb.2005 03:52

someone

O.K. two things:

1. I hear rumours the Green Party is looking into a proposal to get free transportation on trimet, and to fund it w/o fares.

2. There is a super-cheesy program out there, but one that's kinda cool. It's w/ Trimet and SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) and it's called Adopt A Stop. The rewards are meager (10 all-zone bus tickets every 3 months), but it doesn't take a lot of effort. Basically, you "adopt a stop" w/ a shelter or bench and keep it clean. They provide gloves, bags, etc. Like I said, it's cheesy as hell, but I've adopted my own stop and it's cool to keep it clean, plus I clean up other random litter on my block, so I feel good. Something to think about.

Not so Fast 27.Feb.2005 10:34

Michael

While the idea of a free ride may sound great to some, to others of us it just
another government rip off. Right now taxes based on my salary go to support Trimet. In effect I am taxed to support Trimet. Unfortunately for me Trimet's service to the area where I work can only be described as poor and I do not ever expect it to improve. The sad part of this is that even if I have a better idea on how to run a transportation business I am prohibited from doing so because the regulations created to protect, both Trimet and the taxi cartel in this town make it virtually impossible to do so. I'm not talking prostitution, or drug dealing here, just the transportation business. Studies by a number of groups including the Federal government based on data from the census suggests that the people most in need of transit are minorities, the elderly, and working mothers with part-time jobs. Needless to say Trimet has done nothing to improve the chances for these groups and instead focuses its efforts on the downtown core and its government pay masters as well as the corporate welfarist who derive support from the system for their development projects.
Portland and every other city across America needs to look at opening up the transit market to other alternatives. A great example of what can be done it is Curitiba, Brazil where the system is a quasi public/private operation and is rated as one of the best in the world if not the best. In our own country we need to look at the possibility of running more fuel efficient smaller vehicles with independent operators. One point to be made here is that Trimet gets 4.8 miles to the gallon while a smaller vehicle such as those driven by the hotels and motels to service their customers coming and going to the airport get about 12 miles to the gallon.
Michael

a driver responds 27.Feb.2005 10:58

one of the nice ones, i swear

just wanted to throw in a few comments, don't know if it will really help anyone.

"I know Honolulu -- which has a very well managed bus system -- is in the process of installing a set of technologies in their buses that will get them this (priceless) type of data. They've geo-coded their entire route network, they've installed GPS devices in all of their buses which uploads the precise location of the buses every thirty seconds, and they're installing infrared cameras at the entrances and exits of all their buses which will count the number of passengers boarding and disembarking the bus at each stop. (By corellating that with the GPS data, they'll be able to determine how many passengers are on their buses at any given time -- the holy grail of bus route planning)."

-tri-met already has gps installed on every bus, as well as the infrared "bars" which count the passengers exiting and entering the bus at any given moment. does anyone DO anything with that information? not really sure. but when we make a call to dispatch, such as when there is an emergency, they can locate the bus immediately with the gps system, and they do.

"More useful than cutting fares may be cutting service to suburban areas. Public transportation is used significantly more in the downtown core, NE and SE areas of Portland. The cost per passenger mile of a bus in Beaverton is significantly more than the cost per passenger mile of a bus in NE. It doesn't make sense to continually increase service in those areas."

-i don't know where you got the idea that tri-met has ever been increasing service in the beaverton area. i have people constantly complaining about it who live there because it is already so bad. and yeah, i'd be happy if more folks moved closer-in, but there happens to be some really cheap housing out there, plus, people have jobs they need to get to. and let us not also forget the many many people who physically cannot ride a bike. while they're waiting for their bus for an hour, you're probably only waiting 15 minutes during the day. i don't take my service lightly - i live on an every 15 minute line, and when it's pouring rain and i'm tired, i don't hesitate to throw my bike on that baby, and i certainly appreciate it.


"I had a friend who worked for Tri-Met's maintence and repair department tell me this information over ten years ago and I have always mentioned it any chance fare issues come up. I also tell everyone to just ride free if they don't have fare. The bus driver's job is to drive the bus. If someone does not have a fare the driver can push the fair-evasion button and if it's a constant problem in a certain area at a certain time, Tri-Met can dispatch Fare Inspectors to check out the opportunity"

-this still holds true. the bus driver is NOT a fare inspector and is not SUPPOSED to enforce the fare. as you've all experienced, some of them DO! i know, and they irritate me just as much as you. if you don't have fare and feel like you were denied and/or abused, please call tri-met customer service at (503)238-RIDE and lodge a complaint (you must have the driver's bus # , and exact time of day would help too). they have given complimentary tickets before in such a case, and, plus, the driver will be reported.


and finally, so yeah, fares are increasing again. and yes, they do only account for a small portion of revenues, but i have never heard a figure as low as 13%. (i've always been told 20-25%) they've told us the price jack is due to the increased diesel prices this year (when they made the budget out for this year, they figured in last year's prices). i'm inclined to believe that, yes, this is a big budgetary problem. it might also help you to consider that this is one of the best union jobs in the city. all driver's health benefits kick in only 1 month after employment, and we receive a living wage.

so, obviously, i'm not in administration, and don't really know what they're doing up there, but working toward a fare reduction/elimination would certainly be worth the effort.

review previous work 27.Feb.2005 16:05

portland native

Vera Katz proposed this in 1998. There was a task force that found it to be a solid idea and a more efficient use of tax funds. i think that there was only one problem: use would increase so much that there would need to be a overhaul of the whole tri-met system.

it would be wise to investigate why that didn't happen so we can make sure it does this time

Suburb service 28.Feb.2005 19:40

April

To the person who suggested cutting suburb service:

I live in Hillsboro and work in Beaverton, and will soon be living there as well. I haven't owned a car since 2001, because I'm not willing to spend the money only to pollute the air.

I can't afford to live in any area of Portland that is less than an hour's trip from my workplace. My workplace has an office in downtown, but the working environment is terrible--I'd basically be in a basement closet with half the shelves in the narrow hallway. Not happening.

The busses and max do get quite a bit of ridership--this despite the fact that some of them run very rarely, especially on weekends. If you stop trimet service, disabled people won't be able to get anywhere. Also, more people would own cars. That's completely counterproductive.

I'm of the opinion that trimet SHOULD increase their frequency of service/number of routes in Beaverton and Hillsboro. I know people who would ride the bus if it came near their house, or came more than once an hour and didn't stop running at 8 or 9pm.

yack yack 01.Mar.2005 00:01

yackity yack

if rides were absolutely free some people (you know, homeless people) (not that there's anything wrong with that, i was homeless for years) would spend time on busses just to get out of the cold. arguably this might not be a good use of transportation funds. maybe it would, who knows. anyway the bad guys are going to bring up this objection, it's come up in other towns that have actually tried this. LOWERING the fare to something more reasonable -- like 25 or 50 cents -- would help almost as much but discourage "riders" who don't really need a ride.

free market analysis says anytime the bus is mostly empty it's evidence that the fare is too high.

Kennedy Amendment ? Could it help ? 08.Mar.2005 20:48

H.R.3

280 billon dollars available to reduce tailpipe pollution!
hmmmmmmmm
Riding tri met free?
hmmmmmmmm


A setback, a proposed amendment to this bill threatens to block cities and states from experimenting with innovative market-based tools to reduce traffic jams and cut air pollution. Support innovative gridlock solutions in your state.

Send a message to your congressional representative opposing efforts to take away states flexibility to experiment with pricing incentives to reduce traffic, expand transportation choices and cut pollution

 http://actionnetwork.org/campaign/tea_21_pricing/w5desiraj8iktw
At Environmental Defense

freetrimetrides.com 11.Mar.2005 19:46

mary whitmore marywhitmore@hotmail.com

Thank you, supporter!

On Feb 21 I mailed to Trimet a long list of questions as I continue to research this important issue.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to Dale Chambers and Gregory Kern of the Green Party for doing a lot of outreach to Portland neighborhood associations.

When I started this in October of 2004, I had no idea it would be so controversial! Even the Green Party hesitates to endorse it, in spite of the fact that it serves two of their ten Key Goals: Environmental Action and Social Justice. People openly mock the idea: "You are just looking for a handout!" Some people challenge me: "Just show me where you are going to come up with the 10% Trimet makes from the farebox!"

It's sort of like the "half-empty or half-full glass": 90% of the budget is tax-payer money. WE ALREADY PAID FOR THE RIDE.

It costs $20 per month to pay for the website--I've paid for 6 months, can't pay anymore. I'm a part-time teacher/single mother who hasn't received child support in 6 years. If you could donate $1 thru PayPal on freetrimetrides.com, it would help me.

Dear supporter: Thanks from the bottom of my heart for thinking about putting this on portland.indymedia. Thanks to you, the number of signers of the petition jumped from 117 to 400+!! :) (P.S. I can tell you are a frustrated writer--and I LOVE your writing style--call me and let's talk!)

I am going to be reading out to PCC students soon. Their support could quadruple the number in days.

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