The Portland Mercury reports that the Fareless Square in Portland is no longer going to cover buses. To get a free trip in Downtown Portland, you’ll have to ride on the Portland Streetcar or a MAX line. Fair inspections on these rail lines is more common, leading to less evasion.

“When Fareless Square was started some 34 years ago, it was a bus-only system. We now have four MAX lines that will serve this area once mall service begins,” says Mary Fetsch, TriMet’s spokesperson.

While eliminating free bus service from downtown saves only $800,000, TriMet expects to see improvements in bus efficiency and a reduction in bus fare-related evasion. TriMet is counting on this projected savings to help close its $3.5 million budget gap.

Yikes. Just a $3.5 million budget gap? Meanwhile, in our region we’re having our own talks about the Ride Free Area and whether Seattle pays its “fare” share.

You can get more information on TriMet’s change, which take effect next year, on the agency’s website.

104 Replies to “Fareless Square in Portland to be Rail-Only”

  1. I think the headline is very misleading. The square isn’t going to be rail-only, it’s the fareless zone. The zone will still have buses.

    It should saw “Buses no longer free in Portland downtown” or something

    1. In this case it’s a proper name, “Fareless Square”. It’s like “Ride Free Zone”.

    2. Want. Want want want.

      Oh, um, minus the streetcar, of course. In Seattle we all, um, hate streetcars. We still hate them, right? I hope so. I hated the train but then everyone else switched and liked it. I felt so alone.

    1. Eventually, when our rail system is as old as Portland’s, we’ll merge agencies and do the same thing.

  2. Here’s an idea: separate the tunnel from the ride-free area on the surface and have a Tunnel-only fare – cheaper than full bus fare (say, $1.00), it’s good only for the length of the tunnel, and covers Link as well. Purchase it before boarding, and show it as proof of payment when getting off a bus at a tunnel station. (IMHO, all tunnel routes should have pre-payment, with proof required at the exit. I’m not entirely against the tunnel stations having fare gates, either. With some technological help, this isn’t tough to accomplish at all.)

    Surface buses in the area should remain free.

    1. I agree, especially with the part about fare gates. Since probably the great majority of Link trips originate or end in downtown, putting fare gates in those stations could definitely force people to pay. But the ride free area is probably going away in general anyways.

      1. After U-Link opens, when the system is getting over 100,000 riders per day, it seems like even the large cost of turnstiles would be much less than the total of fares that weren’t paid plus the cost of the huge number of fare enforcement officers you would need for that many riders.

      2. What’s interesting is that according to that article’s calculations, Link with ST2 extensions (assuming ridership projections are met) would be more than qualified for turnstiles, at least according to their logic.

      3. We’ll see. I’m sure this is a question ST will keep coming back to. Though one potential problem is a majority of the stations aren’t really designed for fare gates.

        For at least the next 7-10 years the honor system is probably the way to go. It will be interesting to see once link reaches an average of 5000 riders or so per station if fare gates start making financial sense.

        It’s also interesting that two agencies that previously relied on fare inspectors rather than fare gates have decided to install fare gates, both as ridership exceeded what the article claimed the break-even point was.

      4. Obviously, fare gates are not, and can not be any part of the immediate future of the tunnel. There’s simply too many reasons not to have it this way. I agree with the “10 years on…” idea that perhaps the system has enough riders where fare gates will be practical. If there are sufficient ridership numbers to support the notion of fare gates when U-Link opens, then great. I would imagine them to be nothing short of necessary, however, once East Link opens.

      5. That really depends on how much of a problem fare evasion is and how much fare inspectors are costing Sound Transit.

        As I said above one huge issue with adding fare gates to Link is many of the stations aren’t really designed for them. For the surface stations the gates would be easy to bypass, and I don’t really see a good way to add fare gates to International District or Beacon Hill.

      6. Oh and because of the need to provide ADA access any station with fare gates will need to be manned to prevent people from just walking through the accessible gate en-mass.

      7. one huge issue with adding fare gates to Link is many of the stations aren’t really designed for them.

        I agree, there was a huge problem with the way the stations were designed. Eventually that’s going to have to get fixed.

        because of the need to provide ADA access any station with fare gates will need to be manned to prevent people from just walking through the accessible gate en-mass.

        CCTV and enforcement of a stiff penalty should take care of that. We don’t man every handicapped parking spot and for the most part people follow the rules. I think there’s a fairly strong public outrage against people that cheat with respect to ADA access.

      8. “one huge issue with adding fare gates to Link is many of the stations aren’t really designed for them.”

        “I agree, there was a huge problem with the way the stations were designed. Eventually that’s going to have to get fixed.”

        Maybe when they elevate or bury the MLK stretch someday?

      9. But Link will be at a 5000+ boardings per station per day average long before any rework of MLK is on the table. In fact I’m willing to bet won’t be either elevated or buried for at least 40 years.

      10. You wouldn’t necessarily need fare gates at every station. MUNI in San Francisco has a hybrid proof-of-payment system where the stations in the Market Street subway have fare gates and the street-level stations along the Embarcadero just have signs warning you that payment is required on the platform. I could see at some point putting fare gates in the DSTT, UW station, etc. and leaving the RV stations as-is.

      11. Sounds reasonable to me. It’s not like we don’t have fare evasion already. You might see a little more at these stations but it would be offset by the return trip. For the most part people are pretty good about paying what they owe. When they can figure it out that is :=

      12. And if the only stations that didn’t have turnstiles were the 3 along MLK, the only people that could evade them would be if your trip began *and* ended at one of those 3 stations. If you entered at Othello and hadn’t tapped in, and tried to exit at Westlake, the turnstile either wouldn’t open to allow you to exit when you tapped your orca card, or would open and just charge you the largest fare possible.

      13. New Jersey Transit (heavy rail) also has turnstyles at only a few stations. Manhattan, Newark Airport, and I think Secasus or Newark. The suburban town stations don’t have turnstyles.

        I don’t quite buy this argument of “ridership is high, now we must have turnstyles”. Isn’t it great that ridership is high and you’re gaining more revenue? Does the percentage of scofflaws really increase significantly when the total number of riders goes up?

      14. And if the only stations that didn’t have turnstiles were the 3 along MLK, the only people that could evade them would be if your trip began *and* ended at one of those 3 stations. If you entered at Othello and hadn’t tapped in, and tried to exit at Westlake, the turnstile either wouldn’t open to allow you to exit when you tapped your orca card, or would open and just charge you the largest fare possible.

        I doubt the fire marshal would allow fare gates on exit. There are other safety issues with that as well.

        Also there are two other ground level stations at Stadium and SODO. At least a couple on East Link will be ground-level as well.

        I don’t quite buy this argument of “ridership is high, now we must have turnstyles”. Isn’t it great that ridership is high and you’re gaining more revenue? Does the percentage of scofflaws really increase significantly when the total number of riders goes up?

        High ridership simply makes turnstiles more cost-effective. As ridership increases you have to increase the number of fare inspectors to keep the compliance level the same. At some point turnstiles are a cheaper way of getting the same compliance level.

        That said I think there are some fairly high-ridership systems that rely on fare inspection rather than turnstiles.

        Also as I pointed out earlier even the elevated and underground Link stations weren’t really designed for having turnstiles installed and there really isn’t a good place to put them. International District and Beacon Hill come to mind.

      15. BART has exit “turnstiles” to extract the fare from your fare card. I’ve never been in a fire in one of its stations, but I expect they’re connected to the fire-suppression system. When an alarm goes off, the barriers would open to allow people egress. Pretty basic.

      16. Frankfurt, Germany has a very busy system and no fare gates.

        Of course, the penalties for fare evasion are stiff — the equivalent of $1000 last I checked — and locals will happily turn you in if they catch you. I wonder if a similar cultural change would work….

    2. I like this idea, if they have enforced pre-payment of some sort. Because otherwise, the slowness of people paying on the tunnel buses — either when they get on, or get off — is going to cause problems with Link, making it less reliable because of tunnel delays. This is already a problem, and it would get worse.

      Payment gates in the tunnel would be ideal in this situation. You pay with ORCA or otherwise, for either a bus or a train trip, go through the gate, and once you are down on the platform it is no slower than it is today and no one is fumbling for change.

      If you stay on the bus outside the RFA, you still pay the extra fare when you leave. But even better, you just pay full-fare when you buy your ticket at the TVM in the tunnel or whatever.

      Ideally pay-as-you-leave would go away eventually, though.

      If a pre-payment system like this is not required in the tunnel, and the RFA goes away, then I think they have to get the buses out of there sooner rather than later, because they will slow Link down so badly.

  3. Portland’s situation is far different than here. With the new Green line, rail (on the surface streets) will cover all of the Fareless Square within a reasonable walking distance. During the day, the two main rail lines (MAX) will have trains with 5 – 10 minute headways,the third rail line (streetcar) with a slightly longer headway. Buses are almost an afterthought and most are cross town buses, it will be easy for Portlanders to understand – board a bus and pay — board a train and ride free in fareless square (go outside of the fare boundaries and you better have a valid ticket/pass as they DO check fares).

    Here our prime coverage (for now) is bus. We hide the trains in a tunnel with very poorly marked entrances like we are embarrassed about them.

    Upon further review, I agree with the idea to make the tunnel fully paid (fare gate control), it would be easy to understand and would probably help with revenue control. (Buses would all be pay as your board as well as Link — in the tunnel. Continue the RFA on the surface streets.

    1. I think our entrances are marked pretty well. They have big posts with logos and info outside, and there’s plenty of signage above the entrances themselves. Places like NYC and DC have about the same thing. What do you think should be changed?

      1. Update and (SERIOUSLY) untangle the downtown bus map. The stations themselves are there, but the map needs to differentiate tunnel routes from other routes, and needs to declutter the rainbow of bus lines on 2nd and 3rd avenues.

      2. I have to agree that some of the DSTT stations aren’t as easy to find as they might be. A sign on the corner outside the entrance would be nice. The Westlake station entrances are unmarked until you get just outside. I’d appreciate being able to tell from the other end of the block that there was a station right around the corner. The Paris Metro and the NYC Subway both seem to have better signage than we do right now.

        Then again, until recently the DSTT was only for dedicated commuters. It closed during evenings and weekends, so people who don’t spend every day downtown (like me) didn’t use it.

      3. The tunnel entry at 3rd and Seneca, at the SE corner of the 1201 3rd building has no street-visible signs at all; only under the overhang would anyone see signs that indicated that there was transit beneath their feet.

    2. Our signage is improving, and it just takes time for people to understand there’s a train.

    3. The signage downtown is improving, however it could always be better. It would be nice if the city would add “Light Rail” signage to their new wayfinding signs downtown. They do have signs saying things like “Westlake Station”, but there’s a symbol of a bus and no mention of light rail or train icon. I’ve also noticed that they’ve updated the pylons downtown to show buses/trains, but it would be nice if they’d install more of them and have more of a focus on light rail to the airport. Maybe they will once the airport link actually opens.

      1. how about *lighted* signage at night that is large and easily recognizable from a distance. i take for granted that i know where all the tunnel stops are but out of towners and new riders probably are less well-informed.

      2. Agree. I’ve been asked a couple of times where the light rail is. There isn’t enough signage.

        It doesn’t help that none of the bus drivers seem to call out “Link Light Rail” along with their usual litney of “King County Courthouse”, “Seattle Public Library”, etc… I get the feeling most Metro drivers resent this new fangled light rail thing. I can empathize, but still, they need to get over it.

      3. What does the T even mean? Transit? Does anyone know where it comes from? Germany is the only place I’ve seen letter signs for stations but there it actually means something (S-bahn, U-bahn, etc) and is a country-wide standard so much more common knowledge. I personally think the T sucks and in no way indicates to newbies that there’s a station there. An easily identifiable and standardized symbol, like the little circles with the picture a light rail car work but they are way too small and inconspicuous right now. The signboards have too much writing on them to be quickly recognizable from half a block away, especially for those that are less literate in English.

      4. It’s the extremely pointless ‘regional transfer’ symbol. It basically means you can go long distances from this point and most lines connect to it somehow. I doubt even 5% of transit riders know what it means let alone use it as a reference. Plus it’s dated looking and quite ugly, in my opinion. It should be scrapped.

      5. Well even better would be some lighted signs with the international “bus” and “train” symbols along with an ISO arrow at the same size pointing to the entrance.

      6. The “T for transfer” concept is good, but this T design is too obscure. The lines jetting into it on one side obscure its T-ness, and it needs sharper contrast between the foreground and background. Everybody understands P or i in a circle, and I think T has some international recognition as well, but it has to look more like a T.

      7. Why is it a good system exactly? T for transfer, okay, but it doesn’t tell you anything about what you can transfer to. Walking down the street, someone comes across a T sign. How will that influence their decision making any more than happening across a regular bus stop?

        Maybe I just don’t fully understand it, which is very likely. But shouldn’t that be proof that the system doesn’t make much sense? If people who read this blog are still unclear about the meaning of the T, then there’s a problem.

      8. I think the concept of the ‘T’ is to have a universal symbol for regional transit much like London Underground’s Roundel or variations of the big ‘M’ for Metro used all over the world. Those symbols actually represent the system or agency itself but our ‘T’ represents what?

      9. According to Sound Transit (

        “Riders can expect a wealth of services from stations with the Regional T including:

        * Regional emphasis – regional connections to a variety of destinations
        * Multiple system transfer opportunities – opportunities to transfer between different providers and modes of transportation
        * Peak hour and mid-day service options – service to and from locations during a normal day
        * Regional transportation information such as timetables and maps
        * Center for local service connections

        The Regional T was developed by Sound Transit and adopted by the transit partnership that includes Sound Transit, King County Metro, Pierce Transit, Everett Transit, Community Transit, Amtrak, Washington State Ferries, and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

        All Sound Transit facilities are identified with the Regional T.”

        Still pretty confusing. Maybe it would be more meaningful if not for that part about all Sound Transit facilities being included?

      10. The concept of the T sign is good. It’s the execution that is a problem. It is dated (looks very 1980s in design to me), poor contrast, and generally poor design. The Transport for London roundel is so much better — it’s a classic, and highly visible from a distance, as well. Of course, there’s no obvious indication that it means “transit”, either. It doesn’t have to — it’s simple and well-known. Our “T” is neither.

        The only issue with the London roundel is that tourists, while quite probably being familiar with the roundel before they get to London, may not know that the different colors have meaning. (My husband dragged me a couple of blocks last year, insisting there was a Tube station ahead, and I was confused because all I saw was the all-red roundel for a bus stop. He didn’t know that the the all-red roundels meant buses, not the Tube. Tube roundels are a red circle with a blue bar; bus roundels have a red bar.)

        Anyway, a simpler, more striking design would be helpful here.

      11. Further thoughts on the T — I just looked at Sound Transit’s page about the Regional T, and the weird thing is, the logo doesn’t look half bad there — on the computer. Blue/yellow are a classic high-contrast color combination, which, in theory, should be pretty readable.

        But when the signs are actually installed, they look worse, and I’m not actually sure why. Part of it is probably the messiness of having 6 or more colors all together on the actual signs. That is one of the reasons why the T logo doesn’t stand out enough visually, perhaps.

    4. I agree with Garrison’s understanding of Portland’s transit mall, but disagree with charging fares in Seattle’s DSTT. Charging a fare to ride high-capacity, easy-to-board Link there discourages its use and sends budget-conscious riders onto buses, slowing them down and causing ‘whole system’ delays to Link as well.

      What is Sound Transit and Metro thinking? To put it bluntly — a sense of security for tourists. These agencies are dividing the hoi paloi from the commoner. There is absolutely NO reason whatsoever to charge fares in the DSTT. Pay-as-you-leave will work fine on buses, and, fare inspectors on Link provide security and set limits on fare evasion.

      What Portland does, Seattle goes out of its way to do the opposite. Portland NEVER mimics Seattle. Seattlers ‘profess’ to learn things from Portland, but it doesn’t show. Portland is real. Seattle is all PR.

      1. “Portland NEVER mimics Seattle.”

        Yeah right! Portland got the idea for Fareless Square (opened 1975) from Seattle’s Magic Carpet Zone (opened 1973).

      2. Metro also had wheelchair accessible buses before TriMet, had a website before TriMet, had the first (and still most successful) vanpool program in the country, was the first to use articulated buses in the country, and Metro was the first to adopt hybrid buses and will soon have the largest hybrid fleet in the country. Yes, TriMet has light rail, but Metro’s bus system is far superior to TriMet’s and is one of the best in the country. And pretty soon we’ll have a better light rail system too.

      3. I was under the impress when Metro got the 213 New Flyer DE60LF they had the largest Hybrid fleet in the nation is that not the case any more?

        by the way TriMet no longer uses articulated buses.

      4. I’d say we still have the largest hybrid articulated fleet.

        NYC Transit has the largest hybrid fleet, however.

        Oh and we kept our trolley bus system while Portland scrapped theirs.

      5. That’s right, we do have the largest articulated fleet, and if Metro takes delivery of every hybrid they have on order from New Flyer and Daimler we will have the largest hybrid fleet overall, bigger than New York’s.

      6. Why are the Hybrids so great? The first ones I understand were a real disappointment. I know they are important in the tunnel. Will the new ones be capable of all electric or will it still be “hush mode”. Will they be able to use trolley wires when available? I thought the old Mann diesel electrics did that (although they weren’t called a hybrid). Are the Mercedes equipped with their ammonia injection system (BlueTEC) or some other clean/green diesel technology? There’s hybrids and there’s hybrids. The Prius is an example of one that works. The GM Malibu/Astra was a bone head implementation. There’s others that don’t run as clean as an all gas PZEV vehicle. Maybe the answer to these questions would explain the switch from New Flyer buses.

      7. As far as I know Metro has been very happy with them. They’re averaging around 30% better fuel mileage and have 60% lower CO2 emissions, they also perform much better on hills than a comparable diesel bus. Metro currently has 235 of the New Flyer articulated hybrids and has an order for up to 715 more, so they must be pretty happy with their performance. The order from Daimler is only for 90 40′ buses.

        I’m not sure what MAN bus you’re talking about. Metro had dual-mode Bredas for the tunnel, but they weren’t really a diesel-electric in the normal sense of the term. They had separate diesel and electric propulsion units.

        All of Metro’s hybrids can run on electric propulsion up to 15 mph when in hush mode. The diesel engine will sometimes still run to power the air compressor and other auxiliary systems, but the propulsion is purely electric.

      8. Yes, it must be Bredas I was remembering that had the separate diesel and electric propulsion. Those were considered dual mode rather than hybrid, right? I thought there was another model hybrid that preceded the latest New Flyer buses that failed to deliver enough operational benefit to justify the cost. At a 30% increase in mileage how many years does it take to pay back in fuel savings?

        I realize there are clean air benefits besides the fuel savings. I’m not sure how they equate 30% better milage to 60% less CO2; I thought the two went hand in hand. But the big issues as far as pollution from diesels are sulfer, NOx and particulates. Reducing green house gas is good but the reduction of acid rain and known carcinogens is much more urgent. That’s why the EPA has fought for years to limit the number of private automobiles using diesel even though it would result in far less CO2 emissions and a decrease in imported oil.

        FWIW, natural gas creates far less toxic emissions than gas or diesel but more methane which is a greater contributor to warming from green house gases than CO2.

      9. There’s a lot of info in that report that I linked to. I believe the reduction in emissions was directly measured at a test laboratory. There was also a significant reduction in CO and NOx compared to a standard diesel.

        I’m not sure how long it would take to recoup the extra cost of the hybrid based on fuel mileage alone, I think they’d have to save something like 40 cents per mile over 500,000 miles to break even. The price of diesel will have a huge effect on the break-even point. I think the real impetus for going with the hybrids is that they can be used in the tunnel and they have significantly lower emissions. The Breda dual-mode tunnel buses were a real disaster and I don’t think anyone wanted to mess with that technology again.

        “I thought there was another model hybrid that preceded the latest New Flyer buses that failed to deliver enough operational benefit to justify the cost”

        The first hybrids were touted in the media as a GM product, even though the bus itself was manufactured by New Flyer. That might be what you were remembering. There was an article in the PI or Times about the buses initially not living up to expectations, but things have changed since the fleet has matured and since they switched to the new Caterpillar engines.

        “But the big issues as far as pollution from diesels are sulfer, NOx and particulates.”

        Totally agree. Diesel engine emissions are also one of the leading causes of asthma. I wonder why they didn’t develop a gasoline powered hybrid instead of diesel. With the electric motors you don’t need the huge amount of torque that the diesel engine provides.

      10. Yes, that’s a very good report. I had thought it was only on the order numbers for New Flyer and Mercedes Benz. Interesting to note that both the diesel and hybrid buses are fitted with particulate filter systems. I’m a bit surprised that the hybrid requires the same size engine. It would seem there would be savings by downsizing and using the batteries in a torque boost capacity when required. My understanding is diesels perform best (even more so than a gas motor) over a narrow operating band. Perhaps there’s not enough battery capcity and batteries are heavy and expensive.

        Got to wonder why “hush mode” was removed for the two year stint while the tunnel was closed. What’s the downside of just leaving it installed? Seems like a great idea when stuck in traffic; not just in the tunnel.

        The hybrid buses at Atlantic Base had a 16% lower rate of miles between all road calls than that of the diesel buses at Ryerson Base.

        If I’m reading this right that’s a negative for the hybrids (a pretty substantial one if you figure the labor of towing in a broken buses and the cost of sending out a replacement). It’s hard to see how they come out overall cheaper to maintain. Since they’re essentially identical except for the addition of the hybrid system. The only “win” I can understand is less brake wear due to the regenerative braking system. I guess less hours and less stress on the diesel engine could decrease maintenance. Also wonder why they used biodiesel only on the non-hybrids? One of the knocks I’ve heard against biodiesel is it’s harder on the engine and that’s why they limit it to 10-15%. Not sure about systems re-engineered for biodiesel.

        It doesn’t look like the lab date breaks out CO2 emmisions. The hybrids have a big (~60%) reduction in CO which I can see coming from the hybrid assisting the diesel on start-up and acceleration which is where diesels spew the most pollution.

        I suspect the reason for using diesel instead of gas in the hybrids are two fold. A gas motor would be hard to find that would last as long with as little maintenance. Secondly they would have to install a large secondary fueling station which is likely one of the reasons they didn’t pursue CNG.

        It seems like the ability to pull power from overhead lines when available would be a plus. But I suspect the routes these buses operate on would make little use of this. And it seems Metro may be trying to phase out the tolley buses (which seems like a mistake). Maybe that’s because Metro has to pay to maintain wires but not the road surface? Got to wonder about the future of Metro hybrids when they’re no longer required for tunnel duty. Like the trolley buses it might be a win for the environment but a loss on the bottom line or an agency strapped for cash.

      11. They also called the one-ride downtown expresses “Blue Streak”. That was nice for Democrats (JOKE!)

      12. Hm I didn’t know it used to be called that. Magic Carpet Zone is so much cooler than “ride free area!”

      13. That was back when Metro had style. Now all they can come up with is “RapidRide”.

        Try riding the MEHVA buses and look at the ads. Seattle was a different place from what it is today and I miss part of that.

      14. It does seem Metro was much more innovative when it was it’s own agency rather than a creature of County government. Though to be fair the Metro web site and hybrid bus purchases happened after the merger.

        BTW I like the SWIFT name CT came up with for their version of RapidRide.

  4. OK, I’m going to say it: I hate the RFA. “Pay as you leave” is stupid and needs to die. Just today I was getting off the 545 at Overlake, and after I tapped my ORCA the driver slammed the door in my face because the guy behind me was trying to pay with an expired transfer. A dozen passengers and I got to stand there while the driver and this belligerent passenger got into a shouting match. In the end this guy ended up with a free ride and the rest of us ended up a little less enthusiastic about riding the bus.

    The way to speed loading in downtown is to move to modes with off-board fare collection, not “pay as you leave.”

    1. Well, let me know when we have a $500 million grant for off-board payment at all the downtown stops.

      1. I said we need alternate modes, not repeating Portland’s failed experiment with proof-of-payment on all of their buses. The fact that we have over 130 Metro and ST bus routes serving downtown is the problem. If we had buses feeding a high-capacity transit network to carry people into downtown instead of giving everyone a one-seat ride from wherever they are, we wouldn’t have nearly as many buses downtown and could move people much more efficiently. But I think I’m preaching to the choir here.

      2. Most of Portland’s radical experiments in transit succeed, Matt. Portland is the nation’s leader. Seattle is the worst-case example by which other cities learn from its bone-headed mistakes.

        I agree with you about ‘alternate modes’ with buses feeding high-capacity modes (LRT and BRT). The 1-seat ride really is an anachronism, a long outdated transit design that never worked well in the first place.

        Think about 2nd & 4th becoming a sort of BRT transit mall. It would space few bus stops further apart and strategically to create transfers between E/W bus lines that run at under 5-min intervals between Broadway and 1st Ave or the Waterfront.

        1st and 3rd could be a fareless trolleybus service between King St and Lower Queen Anne at under 5-min intervals.

        This is sort of a grid system that splits modes, like you’re saying. I’ve been working on this design for 10 years. It’s blacklisted by Seattle agency and mainstream media, even The Stranger and Weekly.

      3. The Times should have a copy of “The Seattle Circulator Plan”. It was submitted to their “Design your own Center” call a couple years ago for public interest in how Seattle Center might be redesigned. You could go to the department that handled that project and request copies. There have been earlier versions submitted to City and State DOTs, even Seattle’s FTA branch, but the most recent version has pertinent revisions. An early was first submitted to Sound Transit board meeting of May 2000. After the Nisqually earthquake, I increased the number of circulator trolleybus lines to address needed service frequency throughout downtown. Circulators are best able to match supply to demand using the least number of vehicles. It reduced significantly reduced overhead wire clutter.

      4. So why don’t you post it to the web and put a link here?
        Google Documents and Google Sites are free: and

        Heck why not email your plan to STB and ask them to post the document. Maybe even write a post explaining your plan. If it is as good as you say it is the plan should be good fodder for discussion.

        We shouldn’t have to go play “hunt the document” with the author right here.

      5. If you no longer have the original document then say so, otherwise, please submit it in a digital format via the blog e-mail address that’s listed at the top of every page. I can also arrange for fax or postal delivery. Requesting the document from a secondary source is unacceptable and as you accused them of blacklisting, who knows if they still have a copy of it.

      6. “Seattle is the worst-case example by which other cities learn from its bone-headed mistakes.”

        Seattle has one of the best transit systems in the country. It may be far behind NY/DC/Chicago/SF, but it’s better than most other cities. Metro got an award for the most comprehensive bus-only system in the 80s or 90s, and that was before ST Express, the 358/41/120 trunk lines, 10-minute headways to Ballard, the 8, the 30/75 extensions, etc.

        Seattle is lucky to have buses running till 1am, 7+ owl routes, trolley buses, 15-minute headways on many arterials (if not enough), transfers that can be used for round trips or given to others, lower fares than the big cities, etc. Plus Link has more grade-separated sections and further-spaced stations than most light rail systems, which will increase its usefuless as it’s built out.

        Portland shares some of Seattle’s advantages (low fares, permissive transfers, B- comprehensiveness). It may be a northwest thing. Portland is better in some ways (more light rail, color-coded districts with nifty symbols) and worse in others (bus frequency).

      7. Metro tried to do this with Route 39 by changing it to a frequent cross-town route between Rainier Valley and West Seattle. However, when you have a senator call to “encourage” this change to not happen even if it would have been better for the hospital that complained to the senator about this…

      8. Sigh, the amount of political interference in the SE Seattle service revisions was infuriating.

        I’m especially disappointed Sen. Murray got involved in the service revisions as she is normally a good friend to transit.

        Perhaps some time in the future we can do what Metro wanted to do in the first place and keep the VA and ACRS quiet by giving them a single-seat ride downtown with their own special bus service that stops in front of ACRS and on the VA loop.

      9. I think the VA should be a priority for public transit (which I understand Metro wanted to do). These folks have already paid their fair share of their fare. So I don’t think it’s a matter of “keeping them quiet”. Along the same vein, Harbor View should figure in prominently with the First Hill Streetcar. Public Transit has a responsibility to public institutions.

      10. It wasn’t a question of serving the VA or not it was about how many routes served the loop in front of the entrance rather than stopping on the surrounding streets. The other objection the VA had mirrored ACRS’ objections in loosing direct single-seat service to downtown from their front door. The VA could make it easier to get between the bus stops on Beacon Avenue S and the hospital but they don’t.

        And I very much consider demanding a single-seat ride to/from a particular destination to be “whining” unless you have a service subsidy to help pay for the service hours.

    2. If Pay Away From the CBD is dropped, Third Avenue will be a parking lot. Pay Away saves Metro millions in annual operating costs by shortening dwell times in the CBD and makes the one-ride expresses possible.

  5. Regarding the relative small-size of TriMet’s budget gap, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when your sole focus is providing tri-county mass transit. In Portland, one agency oversees planning, operation, and construction. Here, you have multi-agency turf wars (especially over fare revenue), inter-county politics, and transit (an essential public service) constantly being used as a political football. We could combine Metro, Pierce Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit, Sound Transit, and Seattle Streetcar right now and save money by consolidating administration, buying new vehicles in for volume discounts, reduce passenger confusion, and streamline planning. Also, we wouldn’t have county council members from 20, 30 miles away trying to cut the RFZ so they can run more empty buses to their cul-de-sacs in Federal Way or Redmond.

    1. well there is also C-tran in vancouver, wa and SMART in wilsonville

      i’m gonna say the no sales tax in OR helps since trimets funding has to come from more stable sources like payroll tax. they are both down, but retail consumption has much more fluctuation. metro, the regional government in portland, is also a major player in all regional transportation decisions and funding.

  6. Ryan

    Real comment, hit the send button way too soon.

    Could not agree with you more. How about a single transit agency charge with the efficient movement of people and goods along the entire Cascadia Corridor? No more warfare about fare sharing — one overhead runs it all. Combine all agencies (Meto, ST, Kitasap, Pierce, Snoomish, Everett, WSF, Ports of Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, etc. into a single transit agency. Spin off non transit/freight operations (e.g. marinas) and then concentrate on moving people and goods. People movement = rail, bus, ferry, air ports – goods = rail + some freight trucks. One set of overhead cost, one voice at all other government councils. Such an organization would mean one charge to ride form Portland to Vancouver and any intermediate points.

    Governance issue is simple — how does tranist sit at the table with the highway lobby and have the same level of power — answer one agency with a unified voice. While frankly I support directly elected officers the current model for most agencies (appointed from other elected ranks like mayors, county executives, etc.) might also work but the real issue is the Balkanization of transit compare to the highway lobby. We will never win until we have the real power.

    1. It is an interesting idea with many merits, but my concern would be that the agency would be too big and let the details slip through. How would an agency that covers all of western washington know about the best times for the 54? How would it have handled the split of the 7/49 (big mistake, IMHO)? It would be too big and would likely let these things slip.

      Otherwise, you are correct, such an agency would have real power. But at what price?

      1. If routing and scheduling decisions are made by professional transit planners free from intrusion and interference by venal and self aggrandizing politicians? Well, then, yes.

      2. Lloyd and CRK:

        Both your comments are well taken — but I agree with Lloyd that professional decisions made outside of the political maelstrom should lead to very improved service for all. Sure, some minor issues might get lost in the shuffle but there are those enough of us who care and who would cry “foul” that things should be far better.

        Why only Sounders to Tacoma (ok eventually Lakewood), why not some service as far as Olympia/Lacy (and why not service to downtown Olympia — whoops forgot DOT took out the tracks). Why not a core service with rail and feeder bus along the whole Cascadia front from Vancouver to Portland with frequent service and local tie in? And why not intense local service where population density (and concurrent sharp land use decisions) warrant it? And why can a mayor in Kent or Tuckwila force route changes in a regional light rail system?

        We can only look to Portland as an example of where we could go. Not perfect but a damn site better than this region. We could also look to Europe, France in particular, for how transit can be integrated (including with freight rail, BTW). But until transit sits with the same power as the single passenger internal combustion vehicle at the tables of government we will still have to drive our gas guzzlers when we need to get from point A to point G.

      3. Why only Sounders to Tacoma (ok eventually Lakewood), why not some service as far as Olympia/Lacy (and why not service to downtown Olympia

        Because there’s not enough ridership for starters. You need about 800 people that all want to come and go at the same time before you can even think about justifying heavy rail. Right now I don’t think you’d even fill an articulated bus. If the argument is put it in and ridership will build then you’re promoting transit as a way to spread growth to rural areas and increase commuting miles. And it’s not just train miles; that ridership is going to be largely driving to the stations.

      4. Sounder only goes so far because of money. If we had unlimited money we could get it to Downtown Olympia but we don’t.

      5. I think that if there where reorganization that it should only include Transit agencies from Pierce, King and Snohomish county. The other agency’s are really not part of the garbled transit mess (In my opinion) we have in our three counties. Plus its not vary often that people take trips on buses all the way to Olympia from Seattle. That kinda of trip needs to fall in the hands of Amtrak/wsdot (although wsdot somewhat needs to get there act back in order with intercity rail.) I think that Sounder should become part of Amtrak Cascades.

        I agree that reorganization needs to happen but the new agency needs get all the taxes that where previously being collected by all the agency’s for transit purposes ONLY and second nothing not even reorganization of all the transit agency’s should get in the way of the completion of Link Light rail, projects being done on the Sounder lines and all other projects being done by the different agency’s

        btw I think that small issues can be easily be handled by a lager agency looked at the likes of CTA (Chicago)

      6. Given the number of people doing either King County to Thurston County commutes or commuting from Thurston County to King County I’d like to see ST Express and possibly Sounder services extended to Thurston County. Though I do question if the tax base is large enough to support extending Sounder.

        Of course one issue with that is I’m not sure extending the ST district to Thurston County would be a good idea.

        I’d also like to see Thurston County participate in ORCA and the Puget Pass program.

      7. Still it would be better for them and better for riders if they were officially part of Puget Pass, ORCA too.

      8. Are you saying they’re nit picky about PugetPass since they require an RRFP for $1.25 and $1.50 passes?

      9. @Christopher: I agree
        @Rob: I’m referring to how they don’t accept all denominations of PugetPass (for example, the $2.50 pass is no good)

      10. Jessica,

        I emailed Intercity Transit and asked them about their policy and apparently the $2.50 pass is good on local routes, but not the $4.75 pass.

        Here’s the conversation:

        Good morning,

        I have some questions about using the Puget Pass on Intercity Transit. If I have a $2.50 PugetPass is it valid on local Intercity Transit routes? What about a $4.75 pass?

        Kind regards,
        – Robert

        Their reply:

        Both the $2.50 and the $4.75 are valid on Intercity Transit express routes to Tacoma. On our local service, only the $2.50 is valid.

        Intercity Transit

        Customer Service

      11. I’d guess that Intercity Transit only gets a cut of sales of particular pass values.

      12. My experience has been that the Puget Pass is valid no matter the value – but the Flex Pass is not.

  7. I was in Portland over the last weekend and rode both MAX red line (airport) and the bus out to one of the neighborhoods. Impressions:
    – it was Very, Very easy to decide my route as the TriMet website encompases all transit options. I could easily refer to the routes I wanted whether by bus or by train.
    – it was Very, Very easy to find the stops. Lots of signage, obvious signage, with tons of information. Arrival times, bus schedules, train schedules, payment info, good city street maps, and all kept in good order. I didn’t see damaged, grafitti’d or missing maps anywhere I went.
    – The buses had recorded messages announcing each stop (as did the train) and what was there. It was clearly recorded and audible.
    – The buses ran every 15-20 minutes on most routes I took. 30 minute waits were not common at all. Even on the weekend.
    – Paying for MAX was a breeze. Machine and instructions were easy (and in several languages) and it took less than 2 mintues total even though I had never used the machine before. And it was obvious it was good on the bus; it was marked as such with a clear “use by” time and what “zones” it was good in. BTW: the zone information was also clearly presented and easily understood.

    I don’t think this is rocket science. It’s not easy to find a particular bus or train in Seattle. I was asked by someone recently how to find a particular bus and had no idea what to tell him other than go to the tunnel with roundabout general directions. And being 11:00 pm the tunnel may well have been closed. And hard to find in the first place. It’s really easy to walk by an entry and not know it’s even there, let alone be provided with a plethora of transit information so you can plan your day using transit.

  8. Hi, I’m having trouble viewing posts past August 17 for some reason. I’ve tried clearing the temp. files and cookies as well as refreshing the page but it wont display posts past August 17. The RSS reader however does. Is something wrong with the site?

    1. I’m also unable to view posts after Aug 17, but hadn’t thought to check RSS for newer ones.Could this be related to several hrs mid-day Mon when I couldn’t log into the ST blog? Since it re-opened, I’ve noticed the comments totals for the 2 Aug 17 posts are much smaller than actual number of comments.

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