A Free Pass: The Best of the Northwest

SpaceNeedle.jpgTo limit congestion and to speed up circulation in their respective downtown districts, both Seattle and Portland have established Ride Free zones (Portland calls it the ‘Fareless Square’). Any ride completely within these zones is free during the day.

In fact, if one boards a bus in the downtown Seattle, the fare box directs riders to pay as they leave and only if they disembark outside the free zone.

This might be a wise idea to import for the College Park section of the Purple Line. By allowing anyone to ride free anywhere between the west side of campus and the College Park Metro station (inclusive), it’s possible to reduce the burden on Shuttle UM and speed-up the ride commuters must endure between campus and the Metro (the current bus ride from the Union to the Green Line can take as long as 20 minutes in rush hour!). Each train can carry many more passengers than a single bus.

Though it’s doubtful that perenially cash-strapped WMATA, the organization that runs Metro, would be amenable to giving free rides, the university could help pay for the service with money it saves from Shuttle UM.

4 thoughts on “A Free Pass: The Best of the Northwest”

  1. Salt Lake City’s light rail system, built in the late 1990’s, allows free rides for those entering and exiting the system in the downtown area. It is a very nice feature.

  2. That is an excellent idea, even though it is unlikely it would come to fruition. However I could see the metro service being very cheap between any inter-campus area stops. Maybe the metro service could implement some kind of plan, like their smart card, specifically for students, through the University, that would be paid on a per-semester or year basis, that could be a forseeable alternative.

  3. These are good ideas.

    Perhaps the university could devote some of its Shuttle-UM funds to set up a contract for free intra-campus rides. Perhaps there would be a way to indicate U-Maryland student status when registering smartrip cards?

  4. A fare free zone is essential if the Purple Line is to really work for the University and City, since the Purple Line will be function as an upgrade to existing Shuttle UM service between Campus and the Green Line metrorail stop. The fare free zone is feasible although it will require coming to financial terms and an agreement between the University and WMATA (assuming WMATA is the Purple Line operator).

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