Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Trax light rail has a small "free fare" zone Downtown

I didn't know this either, and they don't market it so much, but in a certain area of the Downtown, trips within the zone, on bus or light rail, are free.

While there is a lot of writing out there about why transit should be free (see The Tyee series from 2007), most communities lack the budget to do this.  Tempe's Orbit bus system still doesn't charge, despite the huge drop in funding (sales taxes)--this service is akin to the intra-neighborhood service that I call "tertiary transit" and complements the regional bus and light rail service provided by Valley Metro.

A few cities offer a "Fareless Square" zone, usually downtown, designed to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips and congestion there.

With the negative impact on transit budgets post the 2008 real estate crash, Fareless districts have been dismantled in both Portland and Seattle.  They still exist in Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, and Calgary (called the "7th Avenue Free Fare Zone").

And separately, on the Northside light rail extension to the stadium district in Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Steelers football team and a casino agreed to cover the cost of service on the light rail, so that service is free, but technically, not part of the Downtown zone.  See "Trips on North Shore T will be free" from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  This is for a three-year period.

In Calgary the free zone only includes the light rail service, not bus.  This does touch on the equity concern about "fareless squares."  You can argue that such service focused on central business districts privileges people who can afford to pay.  Bus service is typically consumed by lower income users.  But the point of the service is congestion management, not access.

Although last year the transit system in SLC was looking to end the service, because of costs.  But they kept it, after public opposition. Apparently the city budget is pretty pressed, so it's unlikely the city provided more money to the transit authority (a state agency) for the service.

They don't market it.  Someone at the library mentioned it to me.  But bus stops in the Free Fare Zone do have a sign topper stating that the stop is in the Free Fare Zone. And you can find it on the companion website Let's Ride UTA, where they discuss issues, including a blog discussion back when they looked to end the service.

Images from the UTA website.

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At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

many years ago I recall an article in Futurist Magazine about how in the future more and more things- services, etc. will become free of charge.

At 1:15 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

That was when there was a feeling of semi-permanent economic abundance in the U.S.

Those days are gone.

We're a bit in a bubble in DC, on the coasts, because those submarkets are better placed to remain successful.

But even so, local governments will continue to be financially hard pressed for the next decade at least, and probably forever.

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this could change as the USA regains its once powerful manufacturing base. I am convinced that we cannot remain a first rate country w/o manufacturing. We can have all of the consultants and lawyers in the world but they simply do not invent or make anything and the rest of the world uses real things not just virtual stuff. There is a real limit to service economies. As wealth returns- more of this could happen.

At 8:58 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

nah. We'll get manufacturing, but it won't employ that many people. Very capital intensive. But the people who do the work will be well paid, but also well trained. They won't be low skilled jobs.

And if you look at the writing about capital-labor, the likelihood of labor capturing much of the wealth gains is low.

At 8:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yep- this is what many are saying about current trends but it could change again. I see cottage industries making a come back in the USA.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

by definition cottage industries are cottage in terms of employment. That doesn't mean that it's not profitable for the people involved.

I will be blogging about this when I get back.


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