Fare Follies

Once again my obsession with reading the “web only” murmurs in Willamette Week turns up a transportation article, this time about my favorite system, Portland Streetcar.

The fare collection activity is in part a response to the coverage in the Trib a few weeks back.

So here’s the challenge: most of the Streetcar line is in fareless square, and even in the areas that are not, many riders have a TriMet transfer, monthly pass or Streetcar annual pass. Actual farebox collections are only on the order of $100K per year or so. Making an effort to inspect fares will almost certainly cost more than the incremental revenue it will generate.

But the public perception that other people are getting away with something free is a problem, and so is the perception that the public purse is being ripped off.

So, how about a little advice – what should Streetcar do?

  • Hang an ‘honor system’ sign next to the ticket machines
  • Put a permanent ‘out of order sign’ on the ticket machines
  • Hire a squad of knee-breaking fare inspectors to monitor every trip
  • Do spot checks to communicate that someone is in fact paying attention, but not so often that it breaks the budget

Better ideas?

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