As a college student who came to Seattle many years ago, riding the bus downtown was both an exhilarating and anxiety-producing adventure. It was one thing to find the right bus, but where and when did you pay? And why did everyone else seem to know what they were doing?
The loss of the free ride zone in downtown Seattle probably won’t affect Islanders very much. Most who work downtown have ORCA cards or park in garages with rates often subsidized by employers. For those who have midday appointments, part-time jobs or shopping excursions in mind, it will be different. Daytime parking in downtown is cost-prohibitive even on the street. Busing it makes perfect sense.
One of the things that made downtown Seattle so attractive is that you could get from place to place so easily. One could take a bus to the International District to dash into Uwajimaya, get back on at Jackson Street to head north to Nordstrom, walk to the market for fish, then head to Belltown to meet friends. It was as easy as finding the next bus stop. But now, due to increasing pressure on Metro to make up millions of lost revenue, the free ride within the downtown core is gone.
Of course, the greatest impact will be on the poor and ill who live in downtown Seattle to be near services. It was never very pleasant to share a seat with a person who spent his days and most nights on the street. But the people who will be hurt includes those who are not homeless or mentally ill. They are the working poor or the disabled, both young and old.
There are programs in place to distribute tickets to programs that support the poor. And there are ways for everyone to contribute. An incentive program offers each King County household registering a vehicle to either receive eight Metro free ride tickets or donate the value of those tickets to the Human Services Reduced Fare Bus Ticket Program. What it takes is two extra minutes of reading the information that comes in the envelope with your car registration. There is a simple form to fill out.
It is a small but important way everyone can help.