In a letter sent to TriMet on Aug. 10 and obtained by WW, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners urged the regional transit agency to provide free rides to anyone who might need one—regardless of their destination—during this week’s projected heat wave and for all future heat waves.
Both the city and county declared states of emergency due to the expected heat wave this week, where temperatures are expected to reach 106 degrees.
County commissioners urged TriMet to let anyone ride for free to escape the heat. “This includes travel to Cooling Centers, library branches, pools and splash pads, or even a friend’s or relative’s house. We also encourage you to announce this to the public in a timely and unambiguous manner,” the letter read.
A TriMet spokesperson responded to WW’s request for comment by reiterating the current policy.
During the heat wave in late June that resulted in the deaths of 59 people in Multnomah County, TriMet offered free rides to people seeking reprieve at cooling centers.
Multnomah County Board Chair Deborah Kafoury told WW last month she thought TriMet should offer free rides to anyone seeking a ride, and not just those seeking transportation to a cooling center.
At the end of July, when weather forecasts suggested temperatures would rise to 106 degrees for a two-day stretch, TriMet announced free fares to cooling centers, but only when temperatures hit 100 degrees.
After WW reported on that policy, TriMet said it would offer free rides to anyone trying to go to a cooling center.
The commissioners’ letter sent to the TriMet board of directors today was clear in its assertion that providing free rides anywhere would help save lives.
“If TriMet provides clear, definitive assurance to community members that it will not enforce fares during the duration of the heatwave, we believe that many more people will be able to access these life-saving resources. Making this decision public as soon as possible will also allow residents to plan ahead,” the letter says. “TriMet is in position to help many people across our community access spaces that can mean the difference between life and death. While we understand that TriMet has begun to factor extreme heat into its planning, we urge you to declare and clearly communicate a temporary halt to fare enforcement ahead of this week’s heat event.”