End in Sight for Fareless Square?

Friday’s Tribune reported on a recommendation from a TriMet advisory committee suggesting that it might be time to terminate fareless square.

There seem to be a number of factors at play here:

  • TriMet is squeezed to pay for operating costs for the new Green Line, and could use the extra fare revenue.
  • The City of Portland is finding it difficult to pay its share of the subsidy for fareless square. With gas tax revenues declining, the other funding source for PDOT, parking meter revenues, it getting asked to pay for more things.
  • Some believe fareless square is linked to undesirable street behavior (drug dealing, panhandling, etc.) downtown and in the Lloyd District (as well as undesirable behavior on the transit vehicles).

I’m curious what readers think about that last point. In some ways it seems very classist. I’m also interested in thoughts on the theory that fareless square has served its purpose in changing the culture of how the region thinks about transit. Would that cultural change persist even if fareless square went away?

An alternate idea I have heard floated is to retain fareless square on rail, since after the mall alignment opens in 2009 there will be good north-south rail connections on 5th/6th and 10th/11th, while ending fareless service on buses, since only small parts of each bus line operate in fareless square. What do people think about that?

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