Are Transfers Fair?

OPAL (Organizing People Activating Leaders) doesn’t think so.

They’d like TriMet transfers to be extended to 3 hours (and after 7pm, until the end of service). They’re holding a rally on Monday:

Kickoff your Campaign for a Fair Transfer
Monday, February 21st
6:00 PM
St Francis Parish 11th and SE Oak (Bus #70)
Dinner, childcare available (RSVP 971-340-4866)

TriMet riders who depend on the bus and MAX are facing greater hardships. Many transit riders, especially working-class families and people of color, rely on single-trip fares to meet basic needs and can’t afford to invest in transit passes. TriMet has cut bus service by over 170,000 hours leading to longer wait times between buses, overcrowded buses that pass us by, and missed transfers. Service cuts have decimated evening and weekend service. TriMet’s transfer policy is unequal and insufficient to give bus riders the time required to take care of our daily needs.

OPAL Bus Riders Unite! has a Solution:


I imagine TriMet might counter-argue that this will reduce farebox revenue (and risk further service cuts). What do you think?


42 responses to “Are Transfers Fair?”

  1. In general, I’m of the view that a single all-zone ticket should be good for any trip on the system. Whether the present two-hour limit is sufficient, I’m not sure–a crosstown rider on MAX takes nearly that long.

    The main concern from a revenue point of view isn’t that TriMet wants to charge two fares for long trips; it’s that more short round-trips might be covered by a single fare–some transit agencies impose a “one direction of travel” limit on their tickets, but TriMet tickets are good for any travel within 2 hours, subject only to zone limitations.

    Perhaps an alternate arrangement would be to get rid of the zone system, which is kinda arbitrary, and simply sell tickets based on time. All-day passes, 3-hour tickets, and 2 hour (or 90 minute, if the zonal restriction is removed) tickets, good anywhere on the system.

  2. I can understand why TriMet might argue that extending the transfers to 3 hours would reduce farebox revenue, but they do so little to enforce fares it’s hard to take them seriously when they try to make that case.

    I ride a longer route from Tigard into downtown Portland regularly and each trip there is at least one, and as many as four or five, passengers who try and board without valid fare. What do the bus drivers do? They just let them on and tell them to bring fare next time. But riding the same line you come to see that it’s some of the same people avoiding the fare over, and over.

    The MAX and street car are even worse. Considering how many people use one-trip tickets and how few people I see ever use a MAX ticketing or fare validation kiosk, I’ve got to believe that over half (and perhaps close to all) of the riders who get on the MAX outside of the free rail zone do so without actually paying.

    TriMet should extend their transfers to 3 hours and then get serious about fare enforcement in other ways: stricter bus drivers and either turnstiles or more fare checkers (who will actually write tickets instead of warnings) on rail lines.

    Until TriMet can enforce fares regularly, we’ll continue to have a very inequitable system where valid fares subsidize trips for scofflaws.

  3. We really should be able to move to a much more equitable and enforceable fare structure when TriMet gets on the electronic fare payment bandwagon. It is coming; it’s just a matter of when the agency thinks it’s time.

    There will no longer be any reasonable rationale to discriminate between “bus riders” and “rail riders” in any FRZ incarnation as the “R” would stand for ride instead of rail.

    Fares could easily be based on time, distance, time of day, etc, or any combination thereof. The last of these means that we could end up with a complex fare structure based on a few simple rules. Some possibilities:

    *FRZ status in selected suburban centers such as Beaverton and Gresham if local businesse or governments were willing to pay TriMet for the costs involved.

    *Surcharge on “Honored Citizen” fares during commute hours and on premium services such as WES to the extent allowed by federal and state laws, regulations, and operating agreements.

    *A base getting-on-the-first-transit-vehicle charge – say a quarter – that would not be repeated when transferring. Fares based on mileage and/or time would accumulate throughout the trip.

    *A “frequent rider” or customer loyalty program which would work like airline miles.

    *Itemized records via the net or smart phones.

    There’s nothing above that can’t be done with existing technology.

  4. In my *personal opinion*, this is a bad idea that simply invites TriMet to make further, much deeper, service cuts.

    Extend all TriMet Transfers to 3 hours for bus and MAX
    A better idea would be to increase system usefulness by bringing back timed “pulses” back to places like Downtown Portland and major transit centers like Beaverton and Gresham, instead of arriving at major stops and transfer points just after the next route you need leaves, resulting in a long wait. In downtown Portland especially, many know this long wait is accompanied by consistent harassment by panhandlers, people who choose to be homeless, and other nefarious types. If the next bus left one minute ago and another won’t show up for another hour and seven minutes, that’s the real problem that needs to be addressed.

    Support evening riders with unlimited transfer time after 7PM
    I could understand this one if TriMet served a sleepy town, offering a quaint system that tidily concluded operations at 10 PM. But, they don’t. Some of the major routes still run until early in the morning, like the 9-Powell, whose last service run to the Powell Garage is at something like 1:30 AM out of Downtown Portland. IMO, this is simply an invitation for TriMet to further axe service (especially bus service) after 7 PM in favor of “we have to do this” rail capital projects.

  5. Perhaps an alternate arrangement would be to get rid of the zone system, which is kinda arbitrary, and simply sell tickets based on time. All-day passes, 3-hour tickets, and 2 hour (or 90 minute, if the zonal restriction is removed) tickets, good anywhere on the system.

    I’ve been in favor of this for years. The zone system is an unnecessary complication and is frequently irrational. (It’s an “all-zone” ticket to ride from Sunset Transit Center to the zoo. ONE stop on MAX. And a one-zone ride from Oregon City to Forest Grove if you take 35, 36, 76 and 57 — you can do it on a two-hour ticket if you plan your transfers properly.)

    Ditch the zone system. Make it easier to ride. Just pay a flat fare based on the time you want your ticket to last, and board any Tri-Met vehicle until your ticket expires.

  6. I think that purely time-based fares would simplify a lot of things in positive way.

    But it doesn’t address the issue of fare equity like a true distance-based “as the crow flies” fare system would.

    Let’s look at this from the perspective of a transit user who doesn’t live near a confluence of routes. (I live near a MAX station and 3 bus lines, so not talking about my own situation.)

    Trying to get from Point A to Point B, this rider doesn’t have a choice as to transit mode (bus or MAX), number of transfers, etc.

    Because of what might be completely arbitrary or historic designations of route, or installation of mode (rather than, say, a choice of the transit rider to live in a geographically difficult-to-serve neighborhood), this rider may have to make a number of transfers or ride on a slow, infrequent route.

    That rider, who in a sense is already “suffering” by having to make longer journeys and wait for transfers, would now explicitly be paying more for a fare for an inferior service to someone who happens to live nearer to a frequent-service bus line or a MAX line.

    Some might argue that the inverse situation should be created: Charge more for the “premium” faster, better-connected services, and give the individual who has to deal with long waits and extra transfers a break.

    The compromise point between these two concepts would be a distance-based far done “as the crow flies” when the final distance is calculated. If you have to make two transfers in your journey, you shouldn’t be penalized because a bus didn’t go on a straight-line path to your destination.

    I’m in favor of switching to a simplified time-based fare system but only if it is coupled with a commitment to transition to an electronic, distance-based system. If we stick with time-based for years and years with no hope of improvement, it will just continue to create negative feelings among a large group of riders.

  7. In many ways, I think the zone system is about incentives. We want people to live closer in to the city’s core, rather than traveling from the suburbs in, encouraging denser development.

    Why should those that live in the center of the region, who already pay higher housing costs, pay more for their transportation when their use of the system is arguably less? I understand that the bus is running regardless, but I think this is an argument will be one that is heard if TriMet proposes cutting the zone system.

    What is more, it might be more cost effective, given that many people already do not pay for MAX, to make all MAX travel a flat rate regardless of zone. This will (arguably) take more wear and tear off of the roads from buses and allow people who have less income (and live where the housing is cheaper), take advantage of a more equitable fare system.

  8. I’d like to see something done with the fare system. I know that I often walk places that I could take the bus, but it only saves me fifteen minutes (assuming the bus shows up right that moment and I don’t have to wait at all.) The $2.05 isn’t worth it to avoid a short walk, but if there were a “short hop” type fare of fifty cents or a dollar I’d be a lot more likely to ride.

    The same thing drives me nuts with the streetcar. I usually just get off before leaving free rail zone and walk over to 23rd instead. It doesn’t save enough time to be worth paying a fare.

  9. Simplicity and fairness are so often opposites.

    A 44 cent first class stamp will get a letter from one side of town to another. It will also get one from a small village on Little Diomede (from where it really is possible to see Russia) to Guam or a barrier island off North Carolina.

    The IRS code is what happens when thousands of politicians in groups of 435 & 100 get together(?) over a period of many decades to forge a fair tax plan.

    Should we charge somebody who rides five miles on Blue the same as one on the 84 or WES? For that matter, should someone using the 96 & 76/78 between Wilsonville and Beaverton pay the same fare as a WES rider? The mileage is about the same but the WES rider is riding for a much shorter time at a much higher cost. (TriMet may well be itching to increase WES fares but doesn’t dare at current abysmal ridership levels.)

    I agree with OPAL’s concerns but not the solutions; especially the second one which is just asking for folks to occupy transit for hours on end to keep out of the weather.

    The first one makes some sense, especially in the evening when headway and therefore total trip time can get pretty long. It would have be modified to prevent abuse. We’re kind of spoiled here, not just in having transfers at all but also being able to use them on return trips.

    Restricting transfers to a single direction might be a fair trade-off for a reduction in TriMet’s equivalent of “range anxiety.” Personally, I’d rather keep the return trip option, but would be willing to lose it in the spirit of fairness.

    One concern is the inconsistency in time allotted by different drivers when they set and reset transfer time limits. Although we often get significant bonus time, fairness suggests that timestamped transfers would be more equitable.

    P.S. One possibility with electronic payments might be to enable any-door bus boarding which would significantly shorten dwell times.

  10. I think that electronic fare collection, whether using smartcards, smartphones, or whatever other gadgetry you can imagine, is something that pretty much everyone wants. It makes drivers’ lives easier, it permits all-door boarding, it minimizes the need to handle cash and provide ticket vending machines, it reduces litter, it doesn’t run out of paper or ink, it can have no moving parts and thus be more easily made weatherproof, and it even makes fare inspection easier (simply use a scanner which validates the fare media in an instant, and can do so in a contactless fashion).

    It might also permit TriMet and its neighboring transit agencies to better support transfers, should they choose to do so.

    The only downside is money.

    Even the design isn’t hard; given the large number of such systems in existence.

  11. Dave H is right on. The cost of intra-fare transportation is exorbitant, ultimately pushing people from using it for shorter trips. There’s no reason someone going from The Convention Center to, say, Hawthorne Blvd. on MLK should have to pay $2.05.

    The fairest model is a station to station system, though I do not know how it would be implemented for buses or for our current rail system.

    We can only do that with a system that has absolute fare enforcement (pssst, a subway or stations that have a blocked entrance — which wouldn’t work on the street level). You enter with a fare card and you exit with a fare card, all coded with whatever you paid for.

    I.E. Zoo to Pioneer Courthouse Square


    Beaverton TC to Pioneer Courthouse Square

    In a “fair” world, the longer trip would cost more obviously.

    Regarding the Rail Free Zone:

    It is no excuse to not pay for fare or ask the bus drive to let you on. Tri-Met loses sooooo much money on lack of fare payments. It is unfair to the paying riders and businesses that fund Tri-Met to have to suffer from year after year after year of degraded service on all the backs of the leeches who create havoc on transit or expect other people to pay their way.

    Do away with this “free rail zone” nonsense. Nothing in life is free. Somebody pays for it. If subsidy is needed for indigent riders then that’s okay. A lot of working people cannot afford transit.

    But the rail free zone is one giant vagrant vessel that pushes riders who pay Tri-Met’s bills into their cars. And then the downward spiral begins…and you can see it already on the streets of Portland, unfortunately.

    I think Tri-Met will find that its security costs will go down once it does away with rail free zones and better fare enforcement.

    Again, Washington DC Metro is an amazing example of what Portland could have. Clean and safe.

  12. I hope this isn’t considered too much of a derail, but can someone explain how free fares leads to crime? I get suspicious when I hear arguments like this because they are very frequently tied to perceptions of crime as being a “poor-person” thing. A few years back the Fareless Square was blamed for the attack on the old man that occurred in Gresham.

  13. Scotty, I’ll admit that I’ve gotten on the streetcar at SoWa to go to NW 23rd, and there were obviously homeless guys drinking a large bottle of Carl Rossi red wine on the train. They were already on it, and stayed on at NW 23rd when the train was turning around.

    It’s an exception to see something like that, but it was a cold night and a downpour outside.

  14. EngineerScotty:

    Yes, there is a problem.

    Public transportation is not meant for people’s use to go around where they want when they want free of payment.

    It’s a service that deserves a commensurate fare.

    I too have witnessed two homeless people partake in publically drinking wine on the MAX at night in a large crowd right at the Pioneer Courthouse Square stop. Nobody said anything. No security came. Next time I will say something, and I will inform security if at all possible. I hope you all do too, Portlanders are way too passive.

    It’s not wrong to be homeless, but it is wrong to be noticeably drunk and/or drinking on the MAX. Rules are rules, no?

    Again, if someone needs a subsidy to get to and from work or school or the doctor or any legitimate place — I am 100% for that.

    Free rail zone for some homeless person to panhandle at Pioneer Square? No thanks. We need a collective wake up call about such issues that push people away from the urbanism and away from transit. Sad no, that some of the greatest tools to deal with pressing environmental issues are not working as well as they should in Portland (transit and urbanism)? It’s depressing to see the amazing potential Portland has as a city and unwillingness among citizens and public leaders to nip them in the bud.


    I didn’t say anything specific about crime and the rail free zone as compared to other stops in Portland — although I did bring up the lack of apparent crime and nuisance behaviors on DC’s Metro due to is fare inspection.

    I am not making that case, but I am making the case that there are more nuisance issues along the rail free zone.

  15. ws: It’s not wrong to be homeless, but it is wrong to be noticeably drunk and/or drinking on the MAX.

    Then…why are you angry at homeless people? People with homes drink in public spaces. If your issue is with drinking, rail against drunkards.

    How did you know they were homeless, anyway?

  16. People with homes drink in public spaces.

    The kinds of people who bring wine with them onto a MAX train in the middle of the night tend not to have very stable housing situations. Anyways: ws said the problem is drinking on the train, not homelessness. Do you disagree or what?

  17. Because The guy rambled on how he goes “camping” 365 days a year ;-)

    My point is these issues on transit (and in the city) are becoming a great barrier to transit’s growth.

    We can accept it as always being there and see little results or take a stand and say we don’t want these nuisance problems sapping people’s ability to move about the city free of harassment and problems.

    We can’t keep pushing these issues aside and not addressing them. Simply ignoring them is not acceptable anymore, and we’ve done that for too long due to this politically correct climate in town.

    Yes, there are panhandlers and homeless people all around and yes it’s okay to say that it’s not good for “us” or “them” to be milling about aimlessly on MAX or in the city. They need help, but free rides on MAX is doing little for them.

    My apologies if I excluded homeless people — my comments are in regards to everyone if I could clarify, but that I’ve anecdotally experienced the street crowd as causing a decent amount of problems in RFZ.

    Now, don’t get me started on the rowdy, mostly fare-paying teenagers…

    Am I off topic or is this pertinent to the issue of fares for Tri-Met?

  18. Aaron: ws said the problem is drinking on the train, not homelessness.

    And then he used it as a reason to complain about homeless people.

    ws: My point is these issues on transit (and in the city) are becoming a great barrier to transit’s growth.

    That doesn’t make it discrimination against homeless people any more acceptable.

    ws: Am I off topic or is this pertinent to the issue of fares for Tri-Met?

    It’s certainly relevant to the issue of fares, since people are using the presence of homeless people as (partial) justification for fare increases. It’s perhaps not as relevant to the issue of transfers specifically.

  19. The issue of the homeless using transit is a tricky one. One one hand, some riders (particularly “choice riders”) regard their presence as a turn-off (and an impediment to using the service themselves), in many cases even if the homeless person is conducting himself in an an appropriate fashion.

    OTOH, the homeless (like anyone) have a right to use the system provided they don’t violate the rules. Drinking on board, or not bothering to pay fares, are certainly violations; the practice of using transit (especially free services) as shelter is also one which is questionable. (One thing transit service can do to discourage that behavior is avoid lines which continually loop–at the end of the line, passengers MUST get off).

    Some of the comments above, and that I’ve read elsewhere from the blogs of a few TriMet operators (not Al), are that some TriMet operators, perhaps in response to the current impasse in negotiations between the union and agency, aren’t bothering to enforce the rules on transit any more; leading to open rulebreaking as described above. Does anyone have any comment on that?

  20. Juke:

    Explain to me how I discriminated against homeless people?

    I pointed out a lot of vagrants use the it for transportation. So are drug dealers in Old Town. There, I pointed out another group.

    I am not discriminating against people who cannot afford fare. I even stated that if necessary, subsidies should be available.

    You’re being reactionary. I’m being realistic; substance abuse is a major cause of homelessness and many homeless people have problems and drink in public/public transit. It’s not right for homeless people or the “general public” to do so without approval.

    This is what I mean by Portland being too PC. People point out there’s a problem (i.e. free fares, homeless problem in transit areas, etc., etc.) and the result is this head-in-the-sand-laalalalalal-I-can’t-hear-you mentality. And then the person gets accused of being discriminatory.

    Hello, there is a problem. Clearly what we’ve done, or lack thereof, has not worked. Let’s do the opposite of what we’re doing now.

    Asking for fares and following state laws on transit is not discrimination.

  21. I once used the NYC subway system for a hotel. I was in NYC overnight and didn’t want to spring for lodgings. So I bought a single-ride subway fare and spent the entire night riding the entire New York subway system end-to-end. I rode every line on the entire system, just because I could. And I dozed on the longer rides. It cost me $1.50 or whatever subway fare was at the time to camp out on transit for the entire night.

    I have mixed feelings about the free rail zone. I think it’s a good way to support people visiting downtown for shopping and dining. But I’m all in favor of making fares as simple as possible to bring in new riders, which is why I don’t like distance-based fares. Zone systems and free zones add complexity, and even if it’s slight complexity, I want to avoid it.

    My own “ideal” free-zone situation would be dedicated streetcars and MAX cars that run ONLY in the free-rail zone, distinguished from the rest of the fleet by a distinctive paint job and a distinctive name (like “Dash” or “Breeze”). (For sake of example, paint them purple with a green logo on the side). Yes, I know it would be more expensive to set aside several vehicles dedicated to free use and ONLY free use. But I’m looking at my ideal of a simple, easy-to-use system.

    There would be three routes: A streetcar that runs on a loop from PSU (new turnaround at PSU urban plaza) to the Pearl District, a MAX car that runs the PSU to Union Station loop, and a MAX car that runs from SW 11th Avenue to Lloyd Center. Fund their operations with revenue that currently supports the FRZ. Run more limited hours (say, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) primarily to support downtown shopping and dining.

    From an “ease of use” standpoint it would be very simple for residents and visitors alike: purple rail vehicles are free. Everything else requires a standard, one-size-fits-all fare.

  22. I think some bus drivers may actually be providing the sort of structure that OPAL is proposing unilaterally.

    Of course what really needs to happen is total re-design of the entire zone/fare/transfer system itself .

    What they have now is disfunctional and discriminatory.

    Out on the westside some buses only run once an hour. How is a one hour tranfer equitable with someone who lives in downtown PDX?

  23. I forgot to mention i hav no idea what people are showing me,and that is not a joke!
    Passes look like tickets and tranfers….well….u gotta be kidding. The bus would never move if i actually tried to examine each transfer. Completely unreable!
    The system is a cruel hoax the way its set up now.
    Furthermore almost all operator attacks are fare disputes. I don’t do this job to fight with mostly poor folks who are already struggling. Operators make too many errors when handing out transfers. The Benefit of the doubt always goes to passengers ! I have never denied a ride due to expired transfer or short of fare!

  24. ws: Explain to me how I discriminated against homeless people?

    Trying to get rid of an undesirable behaviour by trying to remove a certain group of people associated with it instead of focusing on the behaviour itself is absolutely discriminatory.

    Like, OK, I’m gonna sound like every stereotype of a high-hoping fool of a liberal here, but if “substance abuse is a major cause of homelessness” (it is, I agree on that), then the solution is too increase support for social safety nets, rehabilitation services, etc., not to focus on making sure we don’t see the people.

    As Scotty said, “homeless (like anyone) have a right to use the system provided they don’t violate the rules.” That right overrides concerns about aesthetics.

    This is what I mean by Portland being too PC. People point out there’s a problem (i.e. free fares, homeless problem in transit areas, etc., etc.) and the result is this head-in-the-sand-laalalalalal-I-can’t-hear-you mentality.
    I hear you man, believe me. I object to your solutions.

    With regards to Portland being “too PC”, I fail to see what’s wrong with objecting to language and policies that marginalize people. I am proudly PC, because I care about not hurting others. This should not be considered a bad thing.

    And a minor point, since I understood what you were saying: “reactionary” refers to people who oppose social liberalization, which is exactly the opposite of what I am doing.

  25. Tim, I’m aware of the MAX mall loop. The Vintage Trolley also runs that route seasonally, and in the past it served the Lloyd Center to 11th segment of the Red/Blue track.

    But I’m talking about something different: 200/300 series MAX cars and streetcars with special livery that designates them a free, downtown-only service, with all “regular” MAX and Streetcar vehicles requiring fare for boarding. Basically a local version of Melbourne, Australia’s “City Circle Tram” only made up of several lines instead of one.

    A streetcar from PSU Plaza to NW 11th and Northrup would take about 20 minutes. Put two streetcars circulating on a loop from PSU Plaza to the turn-around at 11th and Northrup, and there would be free service every 10-12 minutes. That would probably require three dedicated streetcars for that segment, with one streetcar rotated off at any given time. In the alternative, a streetcar could alternate with a Vintage Trolley.

    MAX from Union Station to PSU is a ten minute ride. Two MAX vehicles could serve that loop providing free service every 10 -12 minutes. Lloyd Center to 10th Avenue/Galleria is roughly 15 minutes.

    All told, I think five MAX vehicles would be needed to create a dedicated “free” system, and there would need to be new track for a streetcar turn-around from 5th Avenue to PSU Urban Plaza. Operations could be funded at least in part by parking revenue in the affected area, and perhaps a special assessment on properties or businesses along the routes. Ideally, local downtown funding would cover the entire operation cost.

    Clearly, this is a more expensive set-up than simply letting people ride free on the light rail and streetcars that are already running there. It would also limit frequency of paid service if the free service were to run often enough to be a useful shuttle service. But it would create a free transit network in the core that is very easy to understand.

  26. WS,

    I’m not sure what having the special service would get you, other than longer wait times for fareless passengers. MAX and Streetcar are all proof of payment anyway, so it’s not like the busses where someone is otherwise checking the tickets of those who board. The reason Fareless was taken off of the bus system is that fare-cheaters could simply claim a fareless ride when they board and then not get off the bus before exiting the zone–once the driver lets you on, a valid fare instrument is not required to remain on board. With the trains, ordinary fare inspectors can enforce the FRZ. If you’re on a train outside FRZ without a valid fare, you’re in violation.

    The solution, if anything, is more rigorous fare inspection outside the zone.

  27. I was looking at “easiest system to understand” from the perspective of a transit user. For someone new to the system, a specially branded service (“red streetcars are free”) is the easiest to understand. Is the reduction in complexity worth the price? Possibly not, but it may be worth looking at to see if simplicity is worth it.

    Years ago, a Tri-Met planner told me one of the biggest obstacles to people trying out transit in the first place was uncertainty about how to pay a fare. If true, everything we can do to make the system easier for new riders should translate into long-term growth in ridership. For years now, I’ve advocated replacing our zone-based fare system with a simple “pay a flat fee and ride” system because it’s easy to understand.

    I also support keeping fares in increments of quarter dollars, for similar reasons. Paying $2.05 is ridiculous. (We’re making people fish for a nickel). Better to keep the fare at $2.00 for a few years, then jump to $2.25, and eventually to $2.50. (Of course, there should be a lower rate for youth and honored citizens, but that should be the same rate — say, $1.00.)

    Having free segments along regular service lines compounds the complexity of the zone system. (“This segment will cost this much, but if you only go to here it costs less, and if you start and end your trip along this part of the line it’s free.”)

    What OPAL is suggesting (longer transfers at certain times of day) runs counter to the “keep it simple” philosophy that I prefer.

  28. a valid fare instrument is not required to remain on board

    I don’t think that’s actually true: Though checks by operators or fare inspectors once the bus is beyond a zone are rare.

    Also, I think TriMet is trying to aim for gradual increases, and big ones would really affect passes.

    But why not just simply have transfers that are good for one additional ride anytime that day? Everyone would get the exact same benefit and there would be no confusion or arguments or disputes about time length or zones.

  29. some body: I don’t think that’s actually true: Though checks by operators or fare inspectors once the bus is beyond a zone are rare.

    I don’t see any mention of requiring fare to remain on board on your link. To quote: “Check the expiration time at the top of your ticket; you may board any bus or train until that time.”

    I don’t see any point to fare inspectors on board the bus in this case. The problem with the free rail zone is that to enforce it on the bus, the operator would have to remember which customers had paid valid fare which I imagine could get tricky on crowded trips.

  30. Years ago, a Tri-Met planner told me one of the biggest obstacles to people trying out transit in the first place was uncertainty about how to pay a fare.

    I definitely agree with this. It needs to be more explicit. It seems so silly now, but I was in the area for a while before I decided to try out a bus, and it was exactly this kind of uncertainty that made me wait as long as I did. But it mostly wasn’t questions about transfers or which service is free. My worries had everything to do with what happens once you’re actually on the bus. Will I need some sort of ticket I got elsewhere or will credit cards or cash work? How do I pay with cash? Will I hand the money to the driver, or what? And I hadn’t even imagined that they might not be able to make change for me.

    I just didn’t want to bother, with there being enough unknowns that’d there was a sufficient chance I’d look like an idiot and not be able to get where I want to go if I tried a bus. MAX presented none of those problems — when you get to the stop there are machines that take your money and enough information to figure out what is going on.

    I did figure it enough out after consulting the Internet and deciding I can handle looking stupid in front of a bus driver and riders once or twice. But I’m a young person, wanted to ride the bus, and have amazing Google skills. I’ve spoken with other potential “choice riders” with the exact same hangup, one of them was an old guy who’d been the area forever and was telling me about his days riding Rose City Transit as a kid.

    Why don’t the covered bus stops have some sort of basic “how to” guide on the walls?

  31. Juke: While I disagree with your assertions about me, if I discriminated against the homeless then so be it. I feel a fare system for MAX is best as it separates those who need to actually go somewhere vs those who are abusing their free ride.

    Sorry, the last time I rode fairless MAX some homeless guy combed his hair and God knows what on me.

    I’m done being nice. Where’s my right to an undisturbed ride?

  32. ws: Sorry, the last time I rode fairless MAX some homeless guy combed his hair and God knows what on me.

    You’ll live. Seriously. People without access to hygiene facilities absolutely have a right to use transit.

    Where’s my right to an undisturbed ride?

    You certainly never had a right to ride free of people you found undesirable.

    RE: some body: I think they tell you to keep that with you in case you need to transfer. I can’t really imagine that there would be any purpose in expecting fares on the bus, since everyone has to go through the driver’s door.

  33. Juke –

    I think you’re making a mistake here by taking each statement from WS about an activity or action or state of presentation and interpreting that as WS thinking of “people [he] finds undesirable”.

    In this latest comment, WS was describing an action. For reasons of personal security and privacy, and reasons of public health, NO, you do NOT want someone who unfortunately does not have access to hygiene facilities combing their hair onto you. That’s the sort of thing which isn’t merely annoying but can spread parasites. It’s the sort of thing which if it happened regularly among non-homeless people in a trendy hair salon it could cost the salon owner their license.

    There is a big step from people who are homeless to people who are behaving disruptively, people who are publicly drunk, publicly stinking of urine etc. (And of course, you can find this among the non-homeless after bar closing, after a Blazer game, etc.)

    Here’s the key: Those incidents with the homeless being actually disruptive are RARE. They also do indeed happen among the non-homeless. And they are over-stereotyped. But they DO HAPPEN. And if they happen often enough, it can put off people from riding for reasons which have nothing to do with class discrimination and everything to do with personal privacy/security/health.

    The big misstep in this conversation, in my opinion, was getting hung up on the word “homeless”. This should be about behavior and appropriateness for sharing a confined public space, regardless of housing situation.

    It is quite true that it is very difficult for many of the homeless to find access to hygiene facilities, laundry, restrooms, etc. when they are needed. But, unfortunately, the inside of a transit vehicle is a shared space and there must be minimum standards of hygiene for all riders.

    To understand where I’m coming from: I’m one of those who think our sit-lie ordinance was too strict and also that it was arbitrarily enforced. My old office downtown had homeless folk sleeping in the doorway almost every night, and receiving weekly charity feeds next door, with hundreds of people lining up sometimes. I’m reasonably familiar with the proportion of disruptive and non-disruptive homeless people.

  34. Aaron made the best point about getting people to ride the bus. It’s not explicit for the newbies. I was definitely in the same situation.

    I do not see any YouTube videos regarding “how to ride a bus”.

    TriMet may want to consider getting one up — people really do not know how. Very simple and easy and our changing media landscape needs to reflect that in public agencies.

  35. juke: I think they tell you to keep that with you in case you need to transfer. I can’t really imagine that there would be any purpose in expecting fares on the bus, since everyone has to go through the driver’s door.

    Don’t try that argument with a fare inspector.

    Technically, the transfer is your proof of payment. There very much is an expectation that you can provide something that proves you paid your fare.

  36. Bob R:

    I suppose my biggest regret is solely pointing out homeless people. I used it as an example to elucidate my point. You are right, as far as “disruptive”; I don’t find the homeless to fall in that category compared to some other groups, or even dangerous for that matter. I’ll reserve that for the twenty-something-popped-collar-redbull vodka-drinking-bar-hopping-tough-guy-A-hole.

    I am coming from the perspective that Portland has created a very transient/homeless friendly city, with few positive solutions to solve homelessness such as substance abuse treatment and mental health facilities. And at some point in the conversation, we have to admit that there’s a decent percentage of homeless who got where they are in life under their own volition. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help them get better, it just means we can’t let people get away with the same mistakes that got them there in the first place. We are enablers in effect. Accountability goes a long way in life, and an enforcement of simple simple simple rules is a step in the right direction for everyone.

    And I disagree with people sleeping in the doorways of buildings. That’s private property, no? That’s what I mean by not enforcing simple rules — businesses and citizens have a right to a nice environment. Why should someone have to crawl over a body just to get to their desk in the morning? Simply pointing that out brings out the indignation of people that you’re “discriminating” against the homeless. Good grief. At that point, I’d best assumed find a place to do business along the office park moonscape called Kruse Way. It’s sterile but it doesn’t get your blood pressure going every morning.

    We are chasing citizens and businesses away from one of the nicest cities around, which is sad given the unemployment rate in Portland and Oregon (our state has the highest homelessness per capita of ANY state). And we have a group of highly education young adults who simply cannot find decent work in town and will ultimately go elsewhere, and people who willingly put roots down in a city are great civic capital.

    A homeless person does not have a right to sleep wherever they want. If that makes me discriminatory, then I guess I am okay with that label.

    Sorry to be off topic, but this is a good discussion. Thanks.

  37. I can’t really imagine that there would be any purpose in expecting fares on the bus, since everyone has to go through the driver’s door.

    Zone violations. Check when the bus leaves Zone 2 to make sure everyone has a proper fare.

  38. Juke: I can’t really imagine that there would be any purpose in expecting fares on the bus, since everyone has to go through the driver’s door.

    Doug K: Zone violations. Check when the bus leaves Zone 2 to make sure everyone has a proper fare.

    Of course, a fareless square violation can be considered a “zone violation”, albeit one where the difference between the proper fare and the one actually collected is $2.05, not $0.25. But the same principle applies; a driver cannot be expected to remember which of his/her passengers paid what and are thus required to disembark where.

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