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No more free ride area? Publicola says county has deal to pay for Metro

Publicola is reporting that this morning’s announcement of an agreement by the members of the King County Council to pass a temporary $20 “congestion” fee to pay for transit service for two years might hinge on the elimination of the downtown free ride area:

the rumor is that county council members have agreed to get rid of the downtown ride-free area in exchange for passing a temporary $20 vehicle license fee to preserve Metro service for two years.

The zone ends and begins in the middle of routes that travel from downtown to Capitol Hill and often means a mass exodus and/or entrance at the zone border stops.

Business groups like the Downtown Seattle Association have in the past protested the idea of eliminating the zone.


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Ben
Ben
9 years ago

It’s only 20 bucks ONCE. Per person, that’s not much. Collectively, that saves our buses! Our Metro is essential to Seattleites’ ways of life – and those who work or go to school in the area. Twenty dollars is hardly an expensive investment when you think about how many people would be driving without Metro. WE riders make transit much easier and less stressful for ALL drivers. Honestly, they should thank us for their sacrifice and not only be more than willing, but grateful to pay only twenty dollar, as we are saving them much more than that on their gas and time, freeing up what would otherwise be horrendous traffic jams. Imagine, thousands upon thousands more vehicles on the roads. I would think any driver in his or her right mind would find this to be an incredible bargain! It’s basically, “Thank you metro riders for your sacrifices that free up the roads for me. Now, give us more.”. :(
Drivers should thank us for our sacrifice that benefits THEM, rather than being so greedy and ungrateful and asking for more. It’s my ass on a bus, along with all my fellow passengers, who make it possible for drivers to save hundreds on their gas every year and hours of their time every week.

t
t
9 years ago

> freeing up what would otherwise be horrendous traffic jams.

Not according to “induced or latent demand”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand#Elasticity_of_tr

“Traffic congestion tends to maintain equilibrium.”

Putting people on buses doesn’t *necessarily* reduce congestion. It can, but it would require a pretty extensive study to make such a claim, and it would be more or less counter

Don’t kid yourself… you’re on the bus because it suits you better – not for anyone else’s benefit.

t
t
9 years ago

oops. stopped mid sentence: “and it would be more or less counter” to what a number of other studies show.

just 20 - really?
just 20 - really?
9 years ago

Ben, Ben, Ben….You seem to not be aware that the city just raised the fee by ‘just 20 bucks’ in May, and now with this added 20 we = 40…and the city is after 80 more this fall…which = if my math is correct, 120….So it’s not JUST 20 bucks, and it’s not once. I have a car or two AND I ride the bus daily to work, so you are telling me it’s ok for me to pay 120 minimum more than you to ride the bus???? Right? Thought so.

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

Yes, that is what I’m telling you, so forget the “Thought so”. You would save much more than that per year – much more.

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

As someone who used to own two cars and drove for many years, as well. I can tell you, and will admit that I was like this as well, drivers are largely just plain inconsiderate. Did you read more than the first sentence on my original post before replying to it? Imagine taking 3/4 of the bus and putting them in their own vehicle. Then, take half of what remains to put them two per car, and the rest still walk or ride the bus. That’s a lot of extra congestion, wear on the roads, and fuel in the air.

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

Extra construction of all the potholes, etc. would cause your taxes to sky-rocket, as well.

LE
LE
9 years ago

Sadly, Ben, you are probably incorrect. As a fellow and dedicated bus rider, I would assume (yeah, yeah, I know about assuming) that the majority of the people riding the bus either cannot drive or cannot afford to drive and therefore, it probably won’t make to much of a difference.

Our Metro system isn’t very good, especially for Seattle being such a progressive green city it thinks it is, and because it isn’t that good, people who can drive still will drive. It is a sad truth.

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

Well, I guess we’re stuck there, as I believe both of us would vehemently disagree with the other. So, draw? :p

LE
LE
9 years ago

I do agree that it is just $20. Owning and driving a car comes with added costs.

Fellow Bus Rider
Fellow Bus Rider
9 years ago

Ben, your little temper tantrum makes no sense at all. You’re mad at drivers and accuse them of being greedy and ungrateful? Bus riders pay approximately 20% of the actual cost of the service that they use. The other 80% is paid by someone else. And now bus riders are asking for even more. I think you’re a bit confused as to who is being greedy in this situation.

yup
yup
9 years ago

yes Ben, people take the bus because either they HAVE to or want to. This will not force more cars on to the road, but thanks for playing.

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

“Thanks for playing”? Seriously? Well, assuming there was a game and you won….you’re still a d*ck. ;)
Regardless, even if it’s my own selfishness, that is irrelevant. It serves a need. So what if I’m included in that? /I/ pay LOTS of taxes that pay for things I don’t use for YOU to drive and other things. Like, I didn’t want any wars, but did I still help pay for them? Yup. “I don’t use/want it” is not a valid reason. ….Thanks for playing (Hey, if you get to be arrogant, so do I).

songstorm
songstorm
9 years ago

cutting the Ride-Free area. I never saw much point in it anyway, and have seen plenty of people hop on free downtown, ride up to Capitol Hill and sneak off the bus without paying anything. I also hate getting on the bus and being confused as to whether it’s pay as you board or pay as you get off, not to mention the delays caused by people entering/exiting from the same set of doors. I’d much rather have the Italian model where everyone boards at the front, pays, then exit from the middle doors, with understandable exceptions for the disabled/elderly.

crazytrainmatt
crazytrainmatt
9 years ago

The Italian model is proof-of-payment, which is rather more efficient than what you describe. Get on at any door, leave through any door. Some cities sell tickets through an onboard machine, others only at stations or retail. Inspectors randomly board and fine anyone without a valid ticket. The driver focuses on getting you where you are going as fast as possible.

arcanepsyche
arcanepsyche
9 years ago

I think getting rid of the ride-free area is an awesome idea! If you’re gonna ride the bus, freaking pay for it! I don’t care where you are. It will also keep the tweakers and the alcoholics from taking shelter on the bus during the Winter, which is seriously an issue.

On the other point, about the $20 fee, I do sympathize with the drivers. I know there are a lot of fees that get tacked on to owning a car…. which is why I don’t drive. Having a car and driving is a privilege, not a right. Having a reliable public transit system may not be a right, but it’s pretty darn important to a successful city plan (unlike owning a car).

What a lot of people aren’t taking into account, though, is that as bus riders we are ALREADY paying a huge amount more than we were even two years ago to ride the bus. It seems as if all the angry drivers who are vocal about this issue have no idea that WE have been feeling the financial strain for months now. They seem to think that bus service is some sort of welfare program for poor people or something and that we don’t pay our fare share.

Some quick math:
Two years ago the fare was $1.25 for a non-peak trip. If I take the bus 10 times a week (to and from work, 5 days a week) that’s $12.50 per week I’m spending. That equals $50 a month and $600 a year.
Today, for the EXACT same service, we pay $2.25 per trip. That’s $22.50 per week, $90 per month, and $1080 per year! That’s a massive increase, especially for a low-income person/family. But, the Metro riders have taken it in stride and paid the increased fares because we understand the service is valuable and, often, have no other choice but to pony up the dough in order to get around.

So now, Metro is faced with three options: Cut transit by 17% (bad for everyone), raise the fares again (which would seriously be cruel to those of us already paying out the ass), or charge the $20 a year more to the car people (which would piss off the drivers). Those are some crappy options. Since they won’t raise the fare, since it’s already so high, they decided to make the cuts. BUT, the citizens of the city (NOT Metro, NOT the council) decided that a 17% cut in service was not acceptable and therefore the only option is the $20 fee.

I think it’s the best solution and I think the drivers need to look at the whole issue and not just their own pocket books. Like a said, driving is a privilege, if you can’t afford it (and the fees that go along with it) there are other options you can take advantage of.

arcanepsyche
arcanepsyche
9 years ago

Portland does the proof-of-payment thing with their MAX lines, which are hugely successful.

joanna
joanna
9 years ago

I thank the leadership of the County who just did the “right thing” for now. Let us make this work.

songstorm
songstorm
9 years ago

True. It’s more of an etiquette thing I believe, but my experience in Italy has always been board at the front door, get off at the back/middle. I wonder if there’s a way to set up a proof-of-payment system using the electronic ORCA cards? My understanding (haven’t tried this myself) is that the light rail/Sound Transit uses fare inspectors and a proof-of-payment model.

sparklingallison
sparklingallison
9 years ago

There really isn’t a “mass exodus and/or entrance” at the last/first stop within the free ride zone. (JSeattle, do you ride the bus?! ;)) This is sensational, and completely untrue. The only people I’ve seen do this appear to be homeless. It occurs with maybe one or two people. With a bus full of 50 people, this is hardly en masse.

Removing the downtown free zone is short sighted. The zone serves more to relieve the onboarding/offboarding delays that occur with so many people loading on buses downtown than to give people a free ride for riding within the downtown limits. I can’t see there being much additional revenue from this move.

arcanepsyche
arcanepsyche
9 years ago

It costs $2.2 million per year to keep the ride free area open. The county only subsidizes about $400,000 of that. I’d say that’s a big savings right there.

Resident
Resident
9 years ago

Way to go Seattle city council! You made the right move, at the right time. A city with subpar bus service is a subpar city. Now keep it up so we don’t have to go through all this bullshit again in two years.

Adam98122
Adam98122
9 years ago

Why do we need King County Metro AND Sound Transit? Consolidate everything in the Puget Sound under Sound Transit. There has to be a few million in paper pushers that could be eliminated, with no impact to service. Seems inefficient to have multiple government organizations operating transit services.

J
J
9 years ago

Ben, it would appear as though you got trolled. You can tell because a conversation is not just a conversation to those people, but instead a “game” which can be won or lost depending upon which point of view you start out with. I’m surprised they didn’t resort to personal attacks.

J
J
9 years ago

I am perfectly okay with any taxes we can pile onto drivers in order to get less of them on the roads. Taking the bus is not some major hardship. It is a minor inconvenience. Unlike owning a car, which requires multiple payments, maintenance, gas, internal and external cleaning, and only adds to that traffic jam that all Seattle drivers feel entitled to avoid getting caught in. If you’re already willing to do all that for the convenience of being able to tool yourself around, an extra $20-80 isn’t going to kill you.

calhoun
calhoun
9 years ago

I have always doubted the common belief that a bus system actually reduces traffic congestion for all other vehicles on the road. If there is a definitive study on this issue, I would be more than glad to see it. In the meantime, I think that the main purpose of a bus system is to enable transportation for those who can’t afford to own a car, or for those lucky few where using the bus is reasonably efficient.

Actually, my observation is that buses at times increase traffic congestion…such as when one is delayed at a bus stop and cars bunch up behind it..and a safety issue too, as some of those cars’ drivers get impatient and try to change lanes into busy traffic.

stephanie
stephanie
9 years ago

Even with the price of gas these days, it’s actually cheaper for me to drive to work than take the bus, and it’s much much faster. However, I do ride my bike about 90% of the time, which is still the cheapest way to get around, until you get hit by a silly car.

so wrong
so wrong
9 years ago

Just plain wrong. So you take the bus for EVERYTHING? You never ride in a cab, or a friends car or anything? This affect many more than just single drivers. What about the folks that repair and maintain the place where you live? Please don’t justify the cost of maintaining my vehicle with a poorly ran government.

dd
dd
9 years ago

But it’s government by the people so the poorly run government is a direct reflection on you. So it is easy to justify the problem has everything to do with you and your car.