Eliminating Downtown Seattle’s Ride-Free Transit Zone is a Mistake

Mike Lindblom of The Seattle Times has a good article on how eliminating the ride-free zone in downtown Seattle hurts the poor.

Believe it or not, I actually like the concept of a ride-free zone in downtown Seattle and I think it’s a mistake to get rid of it. Just like with demand-response service, and all intra-city transit, while inefficient and expensive, it is the one area that should be subsidized by the public. These programs serve poor and disabled populations and provide mobility to those who would not otherwise have it. This is exactly what socialized public transit is meant for.

Where transit should not be subsidized is inter-city routes that target commuters and other passengers who are fully capable of affording their own travel behavior. Light rail, commuter rail and express systems that connect cities like Tacoma, Everett and Seattle are important, but they are expensive and siphon money away from the services transit is supposed to provide.

Why should taxpayers have to pay $14 per trip for a guy in Kent to ride the Sounder to his job in Seattle every day? He should be in a vanpool and paying his own way.

This does not mean that we should get rid of all intercity transit. Instead, we should focus on modes that are efficient (like vanpools) and programs that serve the poor and disabled populations.

It is also absurd that transit drivers continue to receive massive pay increases at the same time that officials do things like eliminate the ride-free zone. Transit is not a jobs program but a social service for poor and disabled populations.

In Washington State, transit agencies make over $2 billion per year in total revenue but officials expand service in ways that hurt the very populations they were meant to serve in the first place. Transit agencies make plenty of money but officials need to focus on what they were meant to do and stop building expensive fixed route programs that soak up all of their money to serve passengers who are not poor and who can afford to pay their own travel costs.

Taxpayers and the poor deserve better.


[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; featured photo credit: Oran Viriyincy]


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1 Comment

  1. John

    As a retired King County Metro driver I can defend the pay raises that drivers receive which are not massive. Driving a bus is a hostile work environment. With heavy traffic especially on the freeway and idiot drivers taking chances just to get to work or home a few minutes earlier. With hostile passengers intent on making their connections when schedules are not realistic. Then there is the occasional impaired passenger that could injure themselves or the driver is so motivated. The driver is always under the gun never knowing when hostilities will erupt between passengers or to the driver.

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