'Funeral march' Friday for end of Seattle ride-free zone


by KING 5 News


Posted on September 28, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 9:40 AM

End of Seattle's ride-free zone: Good or bad?

King County Metro will no longer allow passengers to ride free in the downtown Seattle area starting Saturday. Marchers hit the streets Friday to protest that decision.

All buses are shifting to a pay-on-entry system in the downtown corridor for the first time since 1973.  Metro expects to save $2 million annually by eliminating the ride-free zone.

That irks frequent riders and low income passengers who depend on the free short routes to get around downtown. A single bus ride is $2.25.

There will be a limited shuttle service provide free transportation to certain service centers that cater to low income riders, but many say it's not enough.

“What if we want to get to the library or hospital?” said Robert Henderson, a frequent rider. “It’s not fair.”

About 100 people from the Transit Riders Union homeless advocacy group and others marched down Third Avenue in what was billed as a funeral march for the ride free area. Marchers holding signs, some that read "RIP RFA," "RIP No More Transit Cuts" and "More Transit Not Less," marched on Third Avenue sidewalks from Westlake Park to the King County Courthouse.

One protester said none of the changes makes sense to her.

“It is an assault on poor people. It’s an outrage,” said Sue Hodes, protester. “It's an inconvenience to me and to working people. It's an inconvenience to tourists, which is not good either for Seattle. But it's really an assault on poor people. We need to be expanding buses, not cutting bus service."

Metro warns that riders will likely see delays as they get used to the new system. Entry will no longer be allowed through the rear doors. Riders can speed up the process by purchasing Orca cards, said Kevin Desmond, Metro Transit General Manager.

More information about the end of the ride-free zone and other route changes

KING 5's Jake Whittenberg and Jim Forman contributed to this report.