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Paying a High Price for "Fareless" Rides

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

TriMet has always taken credit for promoting economic development along light rail lines, yet it has been reluctant to take responsibility for the growing levels of unlawful behavior on MAX.

Repeated complaints of crimes on MAX from Gresham to Hillsboro fell on deaf ears until the recent incident of a 71-year-old man being beaten with a baseball bat at the Gresham Central Transit Center. This incident triggered a wave of public resentment, which pushed TriMet to belatedly acknowledge a crisis of public safety on MAX. TriMet’s call for a regional safety summit wouldn’t have been necessary had the agency responded to the problem sooner.

No safety summit is needed to point out that TriMet’s understaffed police force is too small to effectively patrol a system serving 44 miles and 64 stops. Nor is it necessary to figure out that the culture of non-payment of fares championed by TriMet’s fareless square policy is attracting anti-social elements and making passengers actually pay a very high price for “free transit.”

TriMet should repeal the fareless square policy (originally enacted to address air pollution problems that no longer exist), which will immediately improve safety and also generate more revenue to help pay for increased police presence.

Sreya Sarkar is an anaylst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

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