Perspective and Pushback on Fareless Square Changes

TriMet has a PowerPoint presentation (PDF, 1.6M) that they are using with various groups, I expect that something similar will be on display at the public hearings this week.

But not everyone is going quietly. The Lloyd Transportation Management Association (TMA), which contributes funding to help pay for fareless service to Lloyd District, has sent a letter to TriMet objecting (PDF, 210K) to the rationale and timeline for the decision limiting fareless square hours. My understanding is that other business groups may have similar perspective.

Along those lines, I had hoped to submit a distillation of our conversation on the data that should go into the analysis, but am currently swamped. Does anyone have the time to go through our discussion and prepare a bullet list? Thx.

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29 responses to “Perspective and Pushback on Fareless Square Changes”

  1. The Board of the Downtown Neighborhood Association passed the following resolution on December 17, 2007:

    “RESOLVED, while the Portland Downtown Neighborhood Association supports TriMet’s recent initiatives to enhance security and reduce fare evasion on the city’s public transit system, we strongly urge retention of Fareless Square’s current boundaries and hours of operation.”

  2. But the Lloyd businesses are also paying for it, Al. If TriMet thinks Lloyd isn’t paying for all the needs of the Fareless Square extension, they should talk about a rate increase.

    I’d like to add another data request: What are the benefits of increased transit use? As basic as this question is, I think it is very much needed, because Fred Hansen seems to be stuck in 1975, when, at least to hear him tell it, the only reason to ride a bus was to support the Clean Air Act. That shouldn’t be the criterion for judging Fareless Square’s benefit, but that’s how Fred is trying to frame the debate: Do we comply with the Clean Air Act of 1970? If yes, to heck with Fareless Square.

  3. Casey, those are very good points.

    I would add that right now, the public receives a very tangible benefit: Free rides in Fareless Square. You can try to quantify it all you want, but it’s hard to argue that it’s not a public benefit.

    If this benefit were to be reduced or removed, what *equivalent public benefit* would take its place?

    Some possibilities:

    Higher transit headways (say, 7 minutes for streetcar, 5 minutes for MAX)?

    Expanded transit hours of operation (say, 24-hour MAX service)?

    Transit expansions sooner (say, Hawthorne Streetcar)?

    I think that “safety and security” alone don’t cut it. Yes, there have been recent issues — but as the Lloyd TMA point out, most of these issues actually haven’t been inside Fareless Square. And we’ve already lost so many freedoms and liberties in this country in the name of “safety and security”, it’s really hard to accept another one without a very good rationale, and some other public benefits offered in tandem.

  4. Very sound logic, Garlynn. We would need a *guaranteed* benefit equal or greater than the cost of losing fareless square and increasing private transportation. Can anything really be guaranteed, though? Fred’s not really proposing any benefits anyway. This just seems to be a revenue-enhancement strategy.

  5. Garlynn suggested

    Higher transit headways (say, 7 minutes for streetcar, 5 minutes for MAX)?

    Well, looking at the NextBus display for the streetcar, one can see that it takes 7 cars to maintain the current 10-12-minute headways. With a total of 10 cars on the property, I don’t know how much they can reduce that headway and still be able to keep a couple of cars off the line for maintenance and repair. Long-term, more cars could be acquired, of course.

    I’m not sure of the capacity of the single-track section between RiverPlace and SoWa. Anyone know the minimum headways that section can accommodate? I’ve wondered why that section couldn’t be double-tracked — there seems to be enough width there.

    RE: MAX headways: I think the limiting factor is the Steel Bridge. If you mean 5 minutes on each of the 3 Eastside lines, you’re talking about less than 2 minutes across the bridge and through downtown.

    Looking at the Blue Line (Hillsboro-Gresham) frequency at the height of rush hour at Pioneer Square, one sees that the headway is a bit uneven but there are a few trains that are already only 5 minutes or less apart.

    Once Green and Yellow are running down the mall, that will take some pressure off the Yamhill-Morrison couplet, which will see 2 lines instead of 3. Perhaps it’s possible to cut the headways, but OTOH Steel Bridge will see 4 lines instead of 3. And someone pointed out on this blog — on a different thread somewhere — that the Rose Quarter junction is also a bottleneck.

    MAX is a victim of its own success — downtown, it’s already running pretty close to capacity at rush hour. Going to 3-car trains isn’t an option because of the 200-foot downtown blocks. The new S70 cars are a tad longer, and also only have 1 cab taking up space, so 2 cars coupled back-to-back will hold more riders than the current SD600/660s.


  6. I’m not sure of the capacity of the single-track section between RiverPlace and SoWa. Anyone know the minimum headways that section can accommodate?

    Back in may, keeping a Portland Transport discussion that was going on in mind, I timed how long it took to get through that stretch.

    From the time the streetcar departs Gibbs until it has completely navigated out of the single-track section: 2min, 20sec. (And this is hitting the traffic lights correctly.)

    If we assume a bit of overhead for signals, dispatching, etc., it means a streetcar can enter or leave SoWa every 3 minutes.

    This means that 6 minute headways on that stretch are theoretically possible, but a single missed timing, even off by a minute, can cause a 3 minute delay and continue to ripple throughout the schedule.

    Perhaps 7 or 8 minute headways would give enough margin to regain schedule timings in the event of a delay, and having the existing terminus in South Waterfront allows for some predictability for northbound trains, but shorter headways than that would really be pushing it.

    Regarding MAX headways and the Steel Bridge, TriMet has claimed that 30 trains per hour per direction may navigate through the Rose Quarter/Steel Bridge, although important issues relating to this claim and throughput in the rest of downtown and Washington County have disputed by AORTA and others.

    See also this Tribune article:
    Span takes center stage in TriMet flap

  7. From what I can tell, Fred Hansen is two steps removed from accountability to the electorate. He was appointed by the board in 1998, the board is appointed by the governor, and the governor is elected by the people. So how would we, as voters, riders, stakeholders, express our opinion that 10 years is a long enough term? TriMet’s General Manager shouldn’t have a lifetime appointment, after all.

  8. since ya asked, I’ve met Fred, and He is a very nice gentleman.

    He’s very likable.

    But he has systematically gotten rid of all the key players who really understood what Trimet was all about and who knew Portland well.

    Clyde Earl, for example, was the director of transportation for years. That man really knew how Trimet functioned and understood the region. An excellent administrator.

    Fred got rid of him, since they didn’t get along.

    And its been downhill since.

    Fred, you blew it man!

    We had good people with lots of talent, and you got rid of them for people with no experience in Portland or transit.

    Now you see the results.

    Sorry Fred, I like you personally, but thats not enough.

  9. Don’t you guys know ANYTHING about bossing? It’s like this: you work 30 years on one machine, then ask to transfer to the one next to it, they tell you no b/c you got no experience. OTOH once you’re a boss, you don’t have to know anything about anything, you can transfer freely from bossing any sort of operation to bossing any other sort of operation. Silly naive children, you didn’t really think they’d make the boss actually know anything about what the working people do, did you?

  10. “”

    yea, well,

    good luck enforcing this nightmare!

    What a quagmire this is gonna be!

  11. “you can transfer freely from bossing any sort of operation to bossing any other sort of operation.”

    You hit the nail on the head elee! You get to be in the little “boss club”.Class distinction sort of thing, like ‘aristocrats’ or ‘phi beta capa’ etc.

    I think the goings on at TRIMET may be attributable to this theory:

    ***Peter Principle

    Theory that people rise in their career in every hierarchy to the level of their own incompetence; based on the book The Peter Principle and Why Things Always Go Wrong by Lawrence J. Peter. Work in organizations is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.****


    “TriMet has just posted a press release from Fred Hansen regarding the square and security:”

    +The perfect bureaucrat everywhere is the man who manages to make no decisions and escape all responsibility.+

  12. It is possible to disagree with someone without disrespecting them. I think the rampant disrespect shown to public figures by those who disagree is indicative of the unfortunate self-righteousness this generation of Americans has developed. A more constructive approach is to address the ideas, not the individuals.

    While I respect Fred Hansen and the many positives he has contributed to TriMet, I disagree on this issue. The LTMA letter does an excellent job of articulating the benefits that come with Fareless Square, quite notably the economic and social strengthening of the city center, which has ancillary benefits for the whole region in supporting an attractive and competitive metro area. Fareless is a system iconic of Portland, so much so that it is mentioned early in any travel guidebook for the city. It contributes to Portland metro’s green image, an image that has and will attract green industry, a market sector poised for rapid future growth.

    I think we need to be very deliberate in this decision, identify whether there is any real safety impact to limiting Fareless, and whether there are better ways to achieve this. The evidence presented thus far really does not connect Fareless with crime.

    On the fairness issues, I would rather see Fareless zones created for other centers, i.e. the stop clusters in central Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Gresham, than to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The revenue generated within each center is nominal, rather it is a personal mobility, and hence a quality-of-life issue.

  13. “A more constructive approach is to address the ideas, not the individuals.”

    Well sir,

    since the ideas come from individuals;

    it is ludicrous to assume that we can address the ideas but not the individuals.

    That’s like saying, “lets not talk about George Bush, lets just talk about the war”.

    With all due respect;


    (apologizing for caps in advance)

  14. Al, you and others have made your personal views about Fred Hansen’s credibility on this matter quite clear, so I think it’s safe to move back to a discussion of ideas about the square.

    apologizing for caps in advance

    Best to stop doing it in the first place, Al, you know better.

  15. I suppose it just depends whether you want to be part of the solution. Al, you have good ideas and a unique perspective, but from my perspective, your ideas get buried in the emotion that sends your posts on all sorts of tangents.

  16. oh bob,

    you can be such a stickler for details…

    and unit;

    your right, my ideas get buried in emotion,

    thats called being a human being…

    nobody listens to me, I already know that!

  17. Actually Al, I think people do listen to you….when you curb the excess. Many people here, including me, appreciate a lot of what you have to contribute here. Even we humans can limit the emotion and use our better judgment, it’s key to keeping it constructive. I know that I often type something, and then delete it before posting. But you do what you think you need to do…

  18. unit;

    well thanks,

    I’ll try to keep my emotion in check, not easy sometimes!

    I’m used to blogging without limits,

    its 1/2 the fun,

    I keep forgetting this blog is dead serious!


  19. Important Update about Funding

    Hi –

    I’d like to give an update about the issue of Fareless Square funding/transit-equality, and this should be especially of interest to Erik, Al and others who have made equity arguments here in the past.

    (This is somewhat of a retraction of things I’ve said before, because the information originally given to me didn’t include important caveats which I learned today.)

    According to Carolyn Young from TriMet, who gave a presentation on Fareless Square to the Portland Streetcar CAC this afternoon, all of the money that the city, county, and Lloyd District contribute to the operation of Fareless Square is specifically to cover the costs of the Lloyd Center extension of Fareless Square. None of that money covers the costs of the main downtown portion of the square. I asked a follow-up to clarify that the only subsidy for downtown fareless operations came directly from TriMet, and was told yes.

    So, for those who have been asking “why not Hillsboro” or “why not Tualatin”, etc. for fareless service, the answer goes beyond just having your local governments kick in to cover the operating costs, because downtown Portland, apparently, is being subsidized by TriMet while other areas are not.

    If anyone has facts which show that this is incorrect and that some funds are directed toward downtown operations, please let me know, but it appears that the transit equity argument just got a boost.

  20. The hours of Fareless Square should not just be restricted; Fareless Square needs to be totally eliminated – if not for safety reasons, for fairness and economic equality reasons. Fareless Square is a special privilege afforded to only a small portion of the TriMet service area in a part of town that already receives a horrendous amount of other taxpayer subsidies. For all practical purposes, Fareless Square violates the intent the framers had in mind when they wrote the special privileges and immunities clause into the Oregon Constitution. What Fareless Square amounts to is the immunity from of paying a fare to ride that is charged to other passengers in other areas served by TriMet. The free ride has also become a free pass for some people to demonstrate aggressive behavior towards other passengers. People have far more respect for a product or service when they have to pay for it, instead of having it handed to them on a silver platter as is the case with Fareless Square.

    For the most part those who want to protect the free ride system want to continue the status quo of having taxpayers fund their transport rather than paying for it themselves. As an example: one person testifying at the public hearing spoke of living downtown, using the transit system all the time while having no transportation costs to get around. Just who does this guy think is paying the tab for his transport costs. Eliminating Fareless Square would make this individual financially responsible for his own mobility rather than expecting taxpayers to pay his way.

    Eliminating Fareless Square would also cut down on fare evasion, including the extreme amount of fare evasion that is allowed to continue unchecked on Portland’s snail rail streetcar. Additionally, TriMet ought to be establishing fares system wide that better reflect the true costs of providing the service, covering far more than just the current 21 percent of operating expenses, and including an extra fare for transporting bicycles. Since one TriMet bus equals as much wear and tear damage to streets as 22, 000 cars, a portion of transit fares also ought to be put into a public road fund to help finance the repair of that damage. Non-transit user taxpayers should not be subsidizing the costs of the damage that TriMet’s busses do to the roads.

  21. (Submitted to Trimet Board)
    At the regularly scheduled Board Meeting held on January 8, 2008 the Sullivan’s Gulch Neighborhood Association approved the following resolution with a unanimous vote:
    Resolved: Fareless Square is an asset to the livability and mobility of close-in neighborhoods and businesses.
    Trimet has provided little evidence to the public why disruptive and criminal activity will be reduced by changing Fareless Square hours.
    We request that before considering any changes to Fareless Square that other security measures be implemented for at least six months to see their effectiveness.

  22. TriMet ought to be establishing fares system wide that better reflect the true costs of providing the service, covering far more than just the current 21 percent of operating expenses, and including an extra fare for transporting bicycles

    Of course, such a plan would make transit so unattractive that ridership would decline, fares would be further increased, ridership would decline again, cyclically until transit was eliminated entirely, putting all those cars back on the street, and leaving those unable to afford a car in a pickle. But, isn’t eliminating transit and other modes, which you are so clearly and personally opposed to the real point of your rants anyway? If living in a place like this is so attractive to you, there are a number of cities you might like better. Until then, the broken record goes on.

  23. Today’s Oregonian article:
    TriMet hears thud on fare plan
    Transit – Fareless Square has many benefits, say residents, who offer other suggestions for enhancing security


    The crowd at a midday hearing at a Lloyd Center office building vehemently disagreed with Hansen’s proposal. Of about 85 people who attended, 38 signed up to speak, according to TriMet’s tally. Those who opposed restricting Fareless Square dominated by at least 4-to-1.

    At an evening hearing at the Portland Building downtown, 103 attended and 53 signed up to speak, TriMet said. Again, the opposition was in the majority.

    Did any of the folks who comment here go to either of the meetings? What were your impressions?

    On the same day, I attended the Portland Streetcar CAC meeting where fareless square was on the agenda, from a Streetcar perspective. See my comment above about what TriMet had to say about funding sources.

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