Tag Archives: fares

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy weekend

The sweeping service cuts & fare increases go into effect this weekend. Even though TriMet hasn’t officially told riders to expect delays, I think it’s reasonable to say that riders probably should expect delays as everyone gets used to the new changes.

Saturday, September 1st

The fancy way mandatory all-zone passes
& a fare increase have been repackaged

Fare increases and zone changes are in effect as of Saturday. To board a TriMet vehicle, an adult pass is $2.50 for a 2-hr ticket, or $5 for an all-day pass with unlimited boarding. So if you need a round trip, you’re essentially encouraged to buy the all-day up front. Other fares for youth passes and honored citizens, as well as 7-, 14-, and 30-day passes  are as follows (as per TriMet’s website):

THERE WILL NO LONGER BE A FREE RAIL ZONE. That means no more free transferring from Pioneer Square to Portland State, or parking at the Lloyd Center to catch a train to Blazer games at the Rose Quarter, etc. However, the Honored Citizen downtown bus pass will now include rail. If you qualify for an HC card and live in the area that was formerly covered by Fareless Square/Free Rail Zone, you can pay $10 for a pass that is good on all transit in that area for 2 years.

And even though it’s not technically TriMet, Portland Streetcar fare changes will also be in effect on Saturday. Not sure this was a widely-known fact, but previously (and currently through end-of-day tomorrow August 31) all TriMet passes and transfers were valid all-day passes on Streetcar – in other words, even if your 2-hr transfer expired and you couldn’t use it to board MAX or a bus, you could still use it to ride anywhere on streetcar for the remainder of the day. HOWEVER, effective on Saturday, TriMet passes that have expired will no longer be valid on Streetcar. Additionally, tickets purchased on board Streetcar will no longer be valid on TriMet MAX or buses. Streetcar will cost $1 to ride and that fare will only be valid on Streetcar for 2 hours; you can’t use it to transfer to a TriMet vehicle. You will still be able to use a valid TriMet pass purchased from a TVM or on a bus to transfer to Streetcar.

Sunday, September 2nd

The new signup begins on Sunday, September 2nd, and that’s when the service cuts and reroutes go into effect. Word(s) of advice: PLAN AHEAD. The first week or so of a new signup (operators sign up for their work every 3 months) is often marked by buses running late or people complaining that they had a driver who had no idea where the route went and a passenger had to give them directions. That’s not uncommon under normal conditions, but I would anticipate that it’s going to be a lot more prominent on a lot of bus routes this time around because of the large number of routes that have been drastically changed.

Donated pic from someone who noticed that the system map on the backs of the MAX ticket machines dates back to September 2009, so these are going to be woefully out of date. Granted, so is the rail map on the front

This is going to be one of those instances where it’ll be a really good idea to try to give yourself a lot of time to get where you need to go. I know that’s not always possible, especially when scheduled connections have poor timing by design, but do what you can.

And this hasn’t really been discussed anywhere, but there are a lot of brand new operators out there right now. TriMet’s been having a huge hiring push for bus drivers, in part because that’s normal for the Orange Line ramp-up, but a lot of it is because there had been a hiring freeze on operators for so long that due to attrition over the last few years, it’s gotten to the point where there just aren’t enough operators – this is why so many runs get cancelled. There are a lot of new faces at bus (and at rail) nowadays, and let’s be honest, no one is an expert at their job when they’re new. Couple that inexperience with major route changes like these, and that’s why I think it’s fair to say that it’s not out of the question to be prepared for confusion and delays with these new service changes.

That said, do NOT take out your frustrations on the reroutes, service cuts or increased costs on your bus driver (or rail operator, or fare inspector, but let’s be honest, bus operators are the ones always in the line of fire). They did not vote in the cuts, they did not vote in the fare increases. These fine folks did. Take it up with them if you feel the need to express your anger or frustration, not the operators. The operators don’t deserve your ire. None of the front line TriMet workers operating your vehicles or checking your fares have the power to change any of this.

Monday, September 3rd

Labor Day! TriMet observes this federal holiday by running everything on Sunday schedules – and that means the new Sunday schedules, so service on this day will be the same as it was on September 2nd. Routes that don’t have Sunday service will not be running on Labor Day.

Tuesday, September 4th

The first “workday” with the new fares, no zones, and service cuts. Everything said above still applies –  no more free rides anywhere downtown (MAX or Streetcar), allow plenty of time to get to your destination in case of delays, and don’t be a jerk to your drivers.

I think the “BEST OFFER EVER” tag was a nice touch…

Old tickets?

As of May, old TriMet tickets without a foil strip were no longer accepted as valid fare. Starting on Saturday, 2-zone tickets with a foil strip are not valid fare on their own (in other words, if you put that in a validator at a MAX platform and show it during a fare inspection, you may be given a citation), but they can be used to purchase an upgrade on a bus along with 40 cents. Alternatively, you can exchange your old 2-zone passes or any passes that you still have that don’t have a foil strip at the TriMet Ticket Office downtown in Pioneer Square through the end of this year.

Ticket machines

Question: What is the deal with those $@%#ing ticket machines?

Short Answer: I don’t know, I hate them too.

Rendition of one thing I would like to see happen to the ticket machinesDescent

Another possibility I am open toTicket monster

No, seriously.  I joke only to keep from screaming.  Okay.

I have two main problems with the ticket machines.


(actually who needs a second reason?  That one right there really should be enough)

Exact fare required, No coins acceptedA typical broken fare machine, Hawthorn Farm

Like that error message?  Sorry for the low quality – I was on a train riding through that station when I saw it out the window & got a picture. Exact fare required, no coins accepted.  Considering that an adult fare is $2.30, a Youth ticket is $1.50, and an Honored Citizens ticket is 95 cents, how, specifically, are you supposed to make that work without using coins?

TriMet’s official response is, in my opinion, lacking:

Try another method of payment.

BUT: What if you don’t have another method of payment…?  (see next section of this entry for a continued rant on this)

Get off at the next platform, buy a ticket, and board the next train.

BUT:  This puts you at least one train behind (which can be a wait as long as 30 minutes depending on where you are, where you need to go, and what time of day it is) because the train that you were on can’t wait for you to buy a ticket at the next platform

Bonus: This is also assuming the ticket machine at the new platform works (one night I saw the cash machines out of order at Beaverton Creek, Merlo SW/158th, and Elmonica SW/170th – which are three consecutive stations.) In those situations, the correct thing to do is apparently to get off, not be able to buy a ticket, get on the next train, get off at the next platform, not be able to buy a ticket, get on the train after that, get off at the next platform…  Yeah, that’s a reasonable response.

– and this is also assuming that you can find the machines on the new platform – for example, if you got on at Goose Hollow heading west and the machines didn’t work, there are no ticket machines at platform level at Washington Park or Sunset TC.

Then buy a book of tickets beforehand, and validate one of those tickets when you arrive on the platform

WELL: This is a nice idea, but not always practical (if you live by a platform but not by any place that sells tickets.  Or if you’re a tourist, like when the machines at PDX are broken). And seriously, if there is a machine at every platform, it is not unreasonable to expect to be able to pay for your fare at every platform. Some of this burden needs to rest on TriMet, not just the passengers.

Bonus: This is also working under the assumption that the ticket validators at the platform will stamp your ticket with the correct date and time.  Which is not a safe assumption to make:

Ticket validator out of orderRed light = validator is out of service

Bob and Matt of PortlandTransport.com did an excellent video on this a few years ago.  Sadly, doesn’t seem like a whole lot has changed since then.

And even when the machines take your money, they don’t always give you a valid ticket:

No expiration dateSaw this one from a passenger – she said it confused a fare inspector because it came out of the machine with no date stamped on it. No fines were issued – instead the inspector settled for writing the date along with his name and badge number on it as a way to validate it. But really, if a passenger puts in money for a ticket, I think it’s fair to expect they will get a valid ticket from the machine, not from a fare inspector hand-writing a validation on it.


If you look close, you'll see this one has an error message too

This bothers me more than the machines being broken, to be honest.


In the TriMet tv video about the broken ticket machines, the cheery voiceover promises that half of the old ticket machines will be replaced (though by this point, it’s “have been replaced”) by Spring of 2009. What they didn’t say is that those machines were replaced with ones that only accept credit/debit cards.

Now what is the possible advantage of that?  Hey I have an idea – let’s take away a method of payment for passengers!  Awesome!  That’s a great way to ensure that people pay their fare before getting on a train when they have one fewer way to do it!

TriMet likes to pride itself by talking about how much of the ridership are “choice riders” – that is, they have a car but choose to use public transit.  But not everyone is a choice rider – a lot of transit users are unemployed, on food stamps, on welfare, or homeless (and there is nothing wrong with that!). So not every rider has or uses a credit card – are they somehow less deserving to use public transportation if they have the cash in their hand to do so but not a credit card?  Apparently the answer is “Yes.”  Which seems to be missing the point of public transit.

WES ticket vending machineAll of the fare machines for the WES train are credit card only.  I guess if you don’t have a credit card, TriMet doesn’t want you on that train.  A bit classist, there, no?  I’ve heard some people say that it’s so that TriMet doesn’t have to send out money collectors to those platforms, but I don’t know, if we’re celebrating WES as part of the service area, then shouldn’t it be, well, serviced?

If I go to a train platform with a $5 bill in my hand expecting to buy an all-day pass, I should be able to do that. “Use another machine” is the official response. But if I only have cash and the cash machine is broken, what then? I actually ran into that situation before I worked for TriMet – I gave my $5 bill to a very nice lady who used her credit card to buy me a ticket from the machine because both of the cash machines at the platform were broken. People shouldn’t have to depend on the kindness of strangers to pay for their fare, they should be depending on the reliability of the ticket machines. Which they can’t do.

I’ve also noticed that on many platforms, the more conveniently located machine is credit card only. For example, at Beaverton Creek where you can only access the platform from the east, the cash machine is all the way at the west end of the platform (and I check it every time I go westbound through there since you can see the screen from that side, and it’s very frequently out of service). At the Rose Quarter platforms, the credit-card only machines are located closer to the arena than the cash machines.

10 tickets onlySometimes, a “working” machine means something like this partially working machine – you can by a 10 pack of 2-hr tickets, but nothing else

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but given the exquisite failure rate of the fare machines, do you really trust giving it your credit card information?

Picture courtesy of reader Matt. Why is it that when a machine only lets you buy one option, it’s usually this one which is overkill for what people need?

So… I can’t tell you why the machines suck, I just know that they do.  Here is my advice if you encounter a broken fare machine:

1. Take pictures if you can!  Most cell phones nowadays have cameras, so if you have a cell phone and it has a camera, get a picture of the machine in case you get fare inspected and need to defend yourself. The inspector can call in to verify if that machine had been having issues so it’s important that you get the correct machine. Make sure you get a picture of the machine number, located on the top right of the front of the machine.

2. Again, if you have a cell phone, call it in. 503-238-RIDE is a good number to have in your phone contact list.  If the customer service desk is open when you call, tell them the platform and machine number.  Their answer will be that you have to get off at the next platform, buy a ticket, and wait for the next train. This may or may not be feasible for you, but at least get it on record that you reported it.  If you have the time to kill and can get off the train to buy a ticket at another platform, that’s going to be your best option to avoid getting a citation since that’s TriMet’s answer to the problem, even though it’s a poor response on their part.

3. Tell the train operator when you get on, and ask (nicely) if they can call it in.  DO NOT yell at them – it’s not their fault that the machine is broken or their responsibility to keep the machines working.

4. Don’t throw out your old tickets – Laura Dudley used her stack of old tickets as part of her defense that she was not a fare evader when she fought her citation – and it helped her win her case. If you don’t have a valid fare but have several expired fares on you when a supervisor or fare inspector asks to see your ticket, it could make them more sympathetic if you can show that you habitually DO pay.

5. If none of the machines at a platform work but that platform is also serviced by buses (e.g. Willow Creek, Gresham Central), get a transfer from a bus operator.  Obviously this isn’t always an option, but I’ve seen it done before when all of the machines at Beaverton Transit Center were broken (Bus operator and blogger Al M recorded a video on another night that this happened.)

6. Don’t mouth off to the fare inspectors if you get stopped.  Be polite while you explain why you don’t have a fare, informing them which machine(s) were broken and what you did to report it. If you act like a jerk, they probably will issue a citation.

Good luck.

(and please don’t vandalize a machine that is broken. I am in favor of a giant red angry monster coming to eat the ticket machines, but I am not in favor of someone deliberately vandalizing a machine. Don’t be a jerk.)