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SunBreak | Ride Free Area’s door closes, free downtown circulator door opens

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

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.

The SunBreak is an online magazine of news & culture. A conversation about the things on Seattle’s mind.

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10 years ago

I can see both good and bad outcomes from this (other than the obvious negative for people who have depended on the free service).

Since I have a UPass, I often use the tunnel to make a quick trip from Pioneer Square up to Westlake…by simply going into the tunnel and hopping on the first thing that comes along. I don’t know how many other people use it that way, but part of the reason that it is so fast is that no one takes up any time paying in the tunnel. That will change, and I imagine backups in the tunnel are going to be much more frequent (esp. during rush hours).

On the other hand, it seems that an awful lot of people get on in the Ride Free area on surface streets and just ride a stop or two (which, barring physical limitations, I really don’t understand at all). I imagine that will abate if it costs $2.50 to do so.

10 years ago

Seriously! I’m sure that money could be spent on treatment or housing. But, in Seattle we want to make life as comfortable as possible for the homeless rather than finding real solutions.

10 years ago

Not everyone who uses the RFZ is homeless or poor. More so, housing alone doesn’t provide medical services. 400k buys you what in terms of housing? In Pioneer square, or Belltown, it certainly doesn’t buy much if you’ve looked at real estate prices in the city, let alone housing for multiple people.

The whole debate around the ending of the RFZ has brought so much privledge and bullshit out in people.

I work, and used the RFZ everyday to get from Cap Hill to my job, I have to pay $100 a month now to use the same service I was getting for free. That’s $100 less I have to spend in coffee shops, or bars, or restaurants on the hill, or on clothes on broadway.

Stop the war on the working poor and lower class.

10 years ago

Amy, you live in the most expensive part of town.

10 years ago

The RFZ was never about the homeless or the poor. It was about helping business. It was to encourage people shopping downtown to visit more than one business. It was to encourage people who worked downtown to go out for lunch. It was nothing to do w/making the lives of the homeless “more comfortable.”

I’d love for you to spend 24 hours, just a single day, left on the street w/nowhere to sleep and no money for food. See how easy it is to make yourself “comfortable.”

Justin R.
10 years ago

It’s great to hear that the County is no longer on the hook for the Downtown Business Association’s empty promises. For those that don’t know the history of the RFZ, it was created and funded by the DBA to bring more foot traffic downtown. Then the DBA stopped funding it, leaving the operating cost to taxpayers.

As for transit for low-income riders, not only is there free service downtown from Solid Ground, but a lot of shelters also pass out free ride tickets.

Amy, by your logic, the fact that the city doesn’t give you free housing, because the money you spend on rent could be spent in bars and restaurants, would constitute a “war” on the working class. The fact is, mass transit is already subsidized; asking you to pay at least something for your own transportation is not war.

10 years ago

If you use the RFZ to get from Capitol Hill to your job I would presume it’s somewhere around downtown. It can’t be that far, you could surely walk.

10 years ago

“Amy, you live in the most expensive part of town.” -AsherCapHill

Actually, no. Home prices and rents are higher in other parts of the city.

$100/mo is a lot of money to working people.

Outraged in the West Edge

Have any of you LOOKED at the stops the “connector” will make and the places it supposedly serves??! It’s insane!

There are close to a THOUSAND frail elderly and disabled who live or visit (senior center) in the Pike Market area near the 1st & Pike stop. Those people are likely to need to go to Harborview or Swedish for services, but the “connector” goes THE WRONG WAY! They’ll have to ride through Belltown before they can eventually get anywhere near the hospitals.

It goes up 1st, duplicating the ALREADY FREE #99 bus, which also, inexplicably goes only ONE WAY.

Other stops are NOWHERE NEAR the places they supposedly serve. Since when does 1st & Marion serve the Central Library (FOUR BLOCKS UPHILL at 4th & Madison)?

The Lazarus Center for homeless seniors & Chief Seattle Club for homeless/ex-homeless Native Americans are at Yesler & 2nd, the Union Gospel Mission down the block at 2nd & Main, but the stop is at 4th, TWO to FOUR BLOCKS UPHILL from those places!?

It’s like Metro said, “How can we make this so unusable that nobody will care if we cancel it later, while still allowing us to claim we did something for po’ folks?”

SHAME on Metro AND Solid Ground! Do it RIGHT.