On September 29, 2012, there will no longer be a Ride Free Area in downtown Seattle, for passengers of King County Metro. It’s primarily a cost-cutting change to help deal with Metro’s budget woes. Metro can’t afford to forego all those fare dollars from people who might otherwise pay.
Even if you are not downtown taking a bus on Saturday, you may notice the change, because the perplexing “Do I pay as I get on or as I get off?” question will have vanished as well. From the 29th on, you will pay as you enter the bus by the front door.
If you’re standing at a congested bus stop, that may add time to the boarding procedure; if you’re lucky, everyone will already have their ORCA card. In the future, Metro will likely add fare readers at high-traffic spots, similar to the ones at Link light rail stations.
Not everyone is delighted by the disappearance of the Ride Free Area, and they plan to march funereally down Third Avenue to let everyone know: “The Transit Riders Unionplans the march and rally on Friday, Sept. 28, the day before King County Metro Transit ends the downtown Ride Free Area,” reports Seattlepi.com.
The Ride Free Area’s service to low-income passengers will continue in the form of aSolid Ground downtown connector. This free bus service begins Monday, October 1, 2012, and travels around the downtown core every 30 minutes, with stops at food banks, shelters, and medical services. At the outset, the connector will make its first run at 7 a.m. and leave for its last loop at 4 p.m.
The Seattle Times has a link to a Solid Ground connector flyer, with more information.
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