I love the deal to end the free ride zone (Is it a zone or an area? I’ve always called it a zone, but John Jensen at calls it an area at the link. Then again I still call it the Bus Tunnel, so let’s concede that a transit expert may know more than me about transit terminology.) and adopt the $20 car tab/saving bus service. In addition to the points Jensen made, the economic rule about free things (that people don’t value them) certainly applies to the free ride zone.
The jokes about the rolling homeless shelters have been around since I’ve been in Seattle. You find yourself sitting next to a drunk or a junkie sometimes. Of course we all try to ignore them, but sometimes you can’t if they smell like piss or are yelling. I imagine it’s worse if you’re a woman, and there’s harassment, etc. Those riders will still be on the bus, but in fewer numbers and more distributed throughout the system. Buses aren’t equipped to handle social services anyway.
The other problem is that all the people who can’t afford to pay get off the bus at the same time. I’ve always suspected that at least part of the reason that the open air drug market on Bell Street is so persistent is that all the junkies who ride back and forth in the free ride area get off there (there are other factors, of course, the Recovery Cafe was nearby for a long time, there were businesses that catered to that clientele, a general neglect of downtown).
I guess what I’m saying is that while the $20 tabs and saving bus service is clearly the best part of the deal, ending the free ride zone is a nice bonus. Here’s hoping they implement the changes well.