Last Chance to Weigh in on Streetcar Fare Policy

Last week, PBOT and Portland Streetcar Inc held two open houses regarding fare policy when the Streetcar Loop opens next year. Taking Streetcar out of Free Rail Zone is under serious consideration.

You still have one more opportunity to add your voice via a “virtual open house” (PDF).

26 responses to “Last Chance to Weigh in on Streetcar Fare Policy”

  1. Streetcar should be free in any district with paid on-street parking with meter revenues making up any revenue gap. Lloyd, NE Broadway/Wiedler, Central Eastside, South Waterfront…all should have free Streetcar service; when and if NW goes with meters and managed parking, drop the fares to NW 23rd.
    The whole point of the Central City “circulator” idea was to make it as easy as possible to get around in the Central City. Adding another complex layer of fares runs counter to that purpose.

  2. Streetcar should be free in any district

    As long as Forest Grove, Troutdale, and Sherwood residents are forced to pay for the Streetcar, there should be NO FREE RIDE, period.

    If Portland wants free streetcars, it can relinquish the operating subsidy TriMet hands over that could be used to restore regional TriMet bus service.

    There is no “complex layer of fares” involved – you use transit, you pay. There’s no such thing as a “free gas tax zone” when I drive – if I get caught using untaxed gasoline, I get to change my address to one of Oregon’s fine penal institutions for a couple years.

  3. There’s free parking all over the place when you drive. You could even make the exact same argument about outside communities and the Park and Rides. How big is the operating subsidy that TriMet pays?

  4. Thinking of parking, is there anything the city could do to try to get downtown merchants to “validate” streetcar/TriMet fare somehow?

  5. Does Sherwood have paid parking? I think not. Forest Grove? Tualatin? Any district or jurisdiction that wants to encourage use of transit by buying down the cost with parking revenue is free to do so.
    This is a simple transfer of funds from City of Portland parking meters and garages to the City of Portland Streetcar that operates to improve circulation in the Central City. Many riders will have paid for their parking, so deserve a free Streetcar ride. TriMet’s piece of operations is comparable to what bus service in the same corridor would cost. While Eastside Streetcar will operate in the 9 and 6 routes, it will provide a transfer trip and greater frequency.

  6. I’ve defended the “honor system” Portland employs to provide fareless transit downtown. Ending fareless transit loses potential to act honorably. As for the eastside streetcar line, FRZ there improves access and fosters economic activity that leads to growth and development. There are justifications for the eastside streetcar outside FRZ, but as development occurs and the eastside matures, the streetcar should be fareless to serve demand.

    There’s too much thru-traffic on Emile Cager and Grand. Milwaukie MAX will reduce the traffic and its patrons can transfer from MAX onto the eastside streetcar. However, if Portland’s ambition is to unite rather than divide east & west, the eastside streetcar would operate ideally within FRZ sooner or later.

  7. One consideration for free or reduced fare transit could be where paid on-street parking is, what the allowable density of buildings is and what the development restrictions are for off-street parking. So, that could suggest lower or free fares on the west side east of 405 and in the Lloyd area, but not south of 84. I do not think that OMSI charges for parking, like the Zoo does.

  8. One consideration for free or reduced fare transit could be where paid on-street parking is, what the allowable density of buildings is and what the development restrictions are for off-street parking. So, that could suggest lower or free fares on the west side east of 405 and in the Lloyd area, but not south of 84. I do not think that OMSI charges for parking, like the Zoo does.

  9. Chris, as someone who’s been publicly grumpy about what I see as a shortage of public discussion on this, I thought I should say that I appreciate your devoting a post to this.

    I’d also like to say that my grumpiness isn’t rooted in a strong convinction that Streetcar *should* be free in any area, just a conviction that the public expects and deserves lots of advance notice of this decision.

  10. I really don’t dig their “Fare Policy Evaluation” criteria/evaluation table in that virtual open house PDF. Most of the good bolded stuff could still happen with fares only required on certain segments. They make some kind of ridership argument when on the page right before they show that the new way is going to decrease ridership by ~600K annually.

  11. If Portland Streetcar, Inc., were to operate under the aegis of, or at least in the spirit of, the public records and public meetings laws matters like this would be clarified greatly.

    I have discussed this with the Attorney General’s staff and checked their manual that governs public benefit non-profit private entities. Chris Smith is right so far as, “Private bodies are not covered by the Public Meetings law.”

    But further, “Whether a private body becomes subject to the meetings law by virtue of assuming public functions is an unsettled area of the law.”

    Public records law is treated somewhat differently, and the Oregon Supreme Court has developed a six-fold test for determining whether an entity is the “functional equivalent” of a public body.

    I think a strong legal case brought under both public records law and public meetings law would terminate the funding song and dance routine that Portland Streetcar, Inc., regularly inflicts upon transportation users in our city.

  12. I beg to differ…Portland Streetcar CAC is one of the best run, most open and inclusive committees of its kind in the territory. A mix of residents, business owners and public agency folks working together to solve problems and make Streetcar one of the most successful ventures ever undertaken in Portland. I just disagree with the direction they are going on fares. Portland City Council makes the final decision.
    I wonder what Charlie Hales thinks.

  13. In a fair marketplace, streetcar riders should indeed have to pay. But we do not have a fair marketplace. Instead, we ask people going to/within the central city to bear burdens that they have to bear virtually nowhere else: having to pay for parking and deal with arguably higher amounts of traffic congestion. Overall, it seems that free transit rides can be a “carrot” that offsets the “stick” of paid parking.

    The Downtown Neighborhood Association’s rationale seems to be pretty good. Though I’d think that someone who’s already taking transit to downtown would have a pass/transfer to use on the streetcar.

    Also, trying to get so many to pay in such a short amount of time seems like a logistical problem.

  14. I was referring to the Streetcar CAC which the owner of this site chaired for some years, not the Portland Streetcar Inc. board. I have never attended the latter.
    re my earlier comments on Streetcar fares, with PBOT putting a hold on meters in CEI, we will be stuck with fares. Or Streetcar could be free in Lloyd and SoWa, but require fares in NW and CEI until they bit the parking meter bullet.

  15. As long as that streetcar uses TRIMET funds riders need to pay, just like every other rider on transit in this area.

    Now if the City of Portland funded this whole shebang, then they can do what they want with the fares.

    Street car riders don’t want to pay a buck?

    Then walk…….

    You can get most places faster by walking anyway and walking is better for you.

  16. What is the problem for TriMet if the City makes up the gap from meter money instead of fares? TriMet fares only cover 20% of operation costs for buses. Most of its payroll taxes, and regardless its all US currency.
    What is the cost per ride for buses out in the burbs? $5 plus. TriMet should be talking about that giveaway, not Streetcar.

  17. PBOT could stop staffing its roadway capacity advocacy group, aka Portland Freight Committee, and use that money for Streetcar fares, shifting trips to transit and freeing up Central City streets for freight.

  18. “What is the cost per ride for buses out in the burbs? $5 plus. TriMet should be talking about that giveaway, not Streetcar.”

    ~~~> I see, just abandon the ‘burbs’. What a wonderful idea.

    How many buses go up and down 5th and 6th?

    How many light rails go up and down 5th and 6th?

    Street cars up 10th and llth?

    The streetcar duplicates already existing services and I don’t want to start the debate over whether or not street cars are actually a form of transit or developer bonuses.

    The problem is that PORTLAND is getting TOO MUCH of the taxes hauled in from the entire service area.

    Portland should have its own transit district and the two other counties should form their own so they can keep their tax money for the citizens in those counties.

  19. People need to get this straight;

    The shift from bus to rail in this area has not improved transit!

    Sure you can get to downtown a little faster on the green line, big deal.

    Every single place that the rail (including the stupid streetcar) has been built already had bus service! (exception: the wildly cost ineffective Willsonville)

    The only rail line that makes any sense at all is the BLUE LINE which itself converts magically into a streetcar when it hits Portland proper thereby defeating the entire purpose of light rail, which is supposed to be fast efficient transportation.

    In case you haven’t been paying attention, this week alone there have been 5-6 major service disruptions on the rail service, all bailed out by buses which have left bus riders stranded since many of the buses are hijacked right off in service routes!

    There are less places you can get to, at much more restrictive times, than 10 years ago.

    As usual, its the little guy that has to pay for the sins of the people in charge of this transit system.

    The rich get richer, Portland hogs all the service, and all the little people in the ‘burbs’, well, I guess they better move to Portland or one of those bunkers along the MAX line.

    It should be obvious why the car is king and will be king of transportation for a long long time in the greater Portland area.

  20. The reality is the fare zone system is completely jacked.

    It costs more than $2.00 to cross the river on a bus! That’s ridiculous and nobody is going to ride it. Considering the streetcar is an inner-city people mover — there needs to be a fare that is not too much, but also something that actually pays for the service at hand.

    A $1.25 all-day “inner-city zone” transit pass is “fare” to me

    We need to rethink the zoning system, and transfer policy, system wide (i.e. Downtown and inner Portland needs to have its own zone — as well as hub areas in the metro area that get lots of intra-zone trips).

    Then, and only then, can we get a clearer picture of where we need to go in terms of equity, fare costs, and most importantly of all: transportation needs.

  21. Note that the Streetcar fare options include the possibility of a ‘circulator fare’ that would be somewhere between $1.00 and $1.50 to reflect the short-trip nature of the Streetcar.

    That’s not assured, but it’s definitely in the mix for discussion.

  22. Good, but why have it just for the streetcar?

    A transit system needs to be streamlined and integrated.

    We can’t just have one mode doing one thing, then another doing its own thing.

    This is confusing.

    Isn’t the MAX doing away with FRZ too? If not, people are going to be confused on which one to pay for considering they don’t understand the difference between MAX and Streetcar.

  23. Ah… now you’re in the domain of the delicate dance between the City and TriMet. I agree that it would make far more sense to have a central city fare zone shared across all transit modes (or at least all rail). But I’m not holding my breath…

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