The death of Portland's Fareless Square will have consequences

Mason Walker

Mason Walker, Sustainable Business Oregon

The Free Rail Zone was also a tool for attracting young transit-savvy talent to Portland as well. Cloudability cofounder J.R. Storment — whose software firm has been hiring rapidly since landing an $8.7 million Series A round of funding in July — shared this sentiment with Portland mayor Sam Adams on Twitter.

  • Emissions

Another contributing reason that Fareless Square was introduced in 1975 was to address emissions. At the time, Portland was consistently violating Clean Air Act standards for air quality. Fareless Square was largely justified as a cost-effective way to address this as it would reduce auto trips into and around downtown Portland. While Portland no longer violates clean air standards, the fact remains that Fareless Square reduced urban emissions and thus improved air quality.

  • Transit leadership

Portland is often touted nationally for leadership in urban livability. That reputation is comprised of a wide range of elements, one of which is a strong focus on alternative transportation infrastructure. The elimination of the Free Rail Zone is a symbolic degradation of that leadership.

An article published in Wired in 2009 concludes with a line that perhaps no longer holds true: "Portland’s transit system is held up nationally as a model network, as it should be."

If a year from now these cited consequences prove true, new fare revenue from the Zone falls short of the projected $2.7 million and the budget gap doesn't fully materialize, what are the chances that the Free Rail Zone will be reinstated?

I'll be keeping my transit tickets ready.

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