If you’re a regular public transit rider in Portland like me, you will have noticed signs and slogans on TriMet buses and Max trains that regularly suggest that the “Fare is fair” and “We all ride, We all pay” but this week something caught my eye. I was riding a bus down town when a Deputy Sheriff (Senior ranking even) got on the bus, but he didn’t pay any fare, he just flashed his badge.
I thought to myself isn’t it funny every year there is a fare increase and we get the buses and trains covered in these advertisements that talk about “fare equality.” In reality, if law enforcement get to ride absolutely free that doesn’t seem very fair at all. I mean, I’m sure law enforcement officers do a hard job protecting the city but they also get compensated for that job. Their base starting salary is $54,000 a year and that’s with no overtime and no vacation pay included.
Now let’s think about how many working class households in Portland who are pinching pennies to make ends meet or perhaps they have room mates because they cannot afford to go alone on rent. Are these same riders any less deserving of a free ride or discount? I don’t think so.
The funny thing about all this is on the TriMet site and in the TriMet Fare Policies (Chapter 19 of TriMet Code), it makes absolutely no mention that any one group should get free fare. In fact, it repeatedly tries to get across that everyone must pay.
I could go on and on to explain how it is unfair that one public servant gets this perk but doctors, teachers, nurses, and plenty of other people who do amazing things for the community do not get the perk but I’m not going to.
I am, however, going to see if someone from TriMet can explain in the comments below why reforming this free perk for one class of riders was not on the table when things like cutting service to low-income neighborhoods in Portland was. After all, the fare is fair right?