Correction: The post originally stated transit would be free after 7 pm on New Year’s Eve. Actually, only Metro buses and the Seattle Streetcars will be free during that period.
BTW, Link Light Rail will be operating later hours after midnight New Year’s Eve. The last southbound train departs UW Station at 1:56 am. The last northbound train departs Angle Lake Station at 1:20 am.
Starting January 14, downtown traffic will suck, far worse than it ever has before. Too many buses, all packed to the gills, will be (in many cases due to political cowardice) stuck in that traffic. Many of you will ignore the beseechments to bike or work at home for three weeks, and will share in that misery.
I was delighted to see Erica Barnett re-raise the idea of bringing back the Ride Free Zone. King County Service Development Manager Bill Bryant quickly dismissed the idea based on false premises, including that it would lead to restoration of the mess that was Pay-after-you-shove-to-the-front-to-exit. Ironically, Barnett was a vocal critic of the original Ride Free Zone. There is likely not enough time between now and January 14 for Metro to conduct a clear-headed analysis of RFZ 2.0, featuring fare enforcement on the outside fringe of the zone instead of making everyone’s ride home an uncomfortable pre-2012-style slog. But it is worth studying for future deployment, or testing before and/or during Carpocalypse.
In the meantime, we will get to experience the now annual tradition of free Metro bus and streetcar rides after 7 pm on New Year’s Eve.
Imagine if transit became free every day after 7 pm, or even 6 pm. That might be the enticement needed to get some to delay their transit trips to outside of crushload hours, compared to the now-eliminated ineffectual off-peak discount. During Carpocalypse, that might be a very useful form of congestion pricing. Wait until the daily period of minimum breathing room on transit is over, and ride free.
Hopefully, such a program would not result in fewer transit passes being sold, or companies withdrawing from the Business Passport program responsible for roughly half of all fare revenue.
If timed properly, the program would also enable very-low-income riders to get home or to shelter — a lifeline during winter months.
One possible side effect of such a program might be to create the ridership demand necessary to justify improved evening service.
And really, bars are open throughout the year, so this gets drunk people home without having to drive, every day.
This is in no way a substitute for more red bus lanes, but in a political environment where the powers that be won’t even look at granular options to paint 3rd Ave half-blocks red where there are no loading zones or parking lots to consider, we have to be open to more ideas.
So, throw your off-the-wall ideas out there. Maybe obstinate forces (like downtown business leaders who are sentencing their bus-riding employees to be stuck in Carpocalypse) will listen and something will stick, or get unstuck.
Finally, a word on messaging: I find Peter’s term “Carpocalypse” a more effective way to get people’s attention that a traffic typhoon is coming, than the gentle, snowflakey phrase “Seattle Squeeze”. When I first heard the phrase, I wasn’t sure if it referred to the housing crisis, a cross-culturally acceptable form of greeting, or a patented sportsball play. The messaging needs to be a little less Seattle passive progressive, and refer in some way to cars being the problem. The simple geometry of the problem is that there will need to be fewer cars on downtown roads after the toll tunnel opens than there are now.