TriMet's board voted this morning to eliminate free buses rides within Fareless Square
beginning Jan. 3. The 5-1
6-1 vote followed months of public commentary
and was contingent on the expansion of two additional MAX lines
being routed through Fareless Square. MAX and Streetcar travel in the square will remain free.
Board members Rick Van Beveren and Robert Williams supported the ordinance, saying the free service is not a form of transit equity
. The citizens they represent in Washington and Clackamas counties must pay every time they use transit and, according to Van Beveren, pay a disproportionate amount of the payroll tax that keeps TriMet afloat.
Bernie Bottomly was there to represent the Portland Business Alliance
, whose 1400 members are subject to the payroll tax. PBA supported the modifications to improve "efficient management and operation."
Although board member George Richardson voted in favor of the bus elimination, he expressed concern about educating riders on the difference between free light rail and free bus rides come January. He anticipates some conflict.
George Passadore, Sue Ban Brocklin and Tiffany Sweitzer- via phone- were the three other board members who voted for the modifications.
The sole opponent on the board, Lynn Lehrbach, said TriMet had the opportunity to send a signal that downtown Portland isn't being built for the rich
. He suggested riders pay for the free downtown service with a "wink and a smile."
"I expected this outcome, we talked about it, but I feel it is important to keep Fareless Square intact," Lehrbach told WW after the vote. "We can afford to have a Fareless Square."
Lehrbach was cheered on by the three members of the Transit Riders Union and Mindy Stone- a woman who is living in her car and has relied heavily on bus transit since she moved from Florida nine months ago.
When the five ayes were cast, the same group booed and chanted "elect a board"
and "shame on you."
"Where is people's hearts?" Stone told reporters after the meeting, visibly upset. "This is criminal."