TriMet’s September fare hike will spare disabled riders

By Jenny Westberg, Portland Mental Health Examiner

In the uproar over TriMet’s latest volley of fare hikes and service cuts, it was easy to miss a bright spot.  But there was one, and it benefits some of Portland’s most vulnerable people.

For the third time in four years, TriMet is raising fares and cutting back on service.

The transportation overhaul, approved by TriMet’s board June 13 and scheduled to take effect in September 2012, will make it even more difficult for bus and light rail riders to get around a city that still likes to think of itself as a “public transit Mecca.”

The changes will affect riders across the board. But what do they mean for Portlanders with psychiatric disabilities?

Honored Citizen fares stay the same

If you’re an Honored Citizen rider, your fare will not change. A two-hour fare will still be $1, and a monthly Honored Citizen pass will stay at $26. All-day passes will actually be cheaper, $2 instead of the current $5.

TIP: For many round trips, the smart money’s on an all-day pass. Suppose you take the bus to an appointment, and by the time it’s over, the two-hour limit has expired. You’ll have to pay another fare, for a total of $2. But for the same $2, you can get an all-day pass and use it for another ride — or two, or three — later in the day.

Not using Honored Citizen fares? With regular fares going up to $2.50 ($100 for a monthly pass), it’s a good time to find out if you qualify.

Applying for reduced fares

You don’t have to be considered “disabled” by the Social Security Administration to be eligible for Honored Citizen fares. Ask your mental health care provider to fill out the back of TriMet’s application form. A certified agency, such as the Senior and Disabled Services Division, can also provide verification of disability. TriMet has more information on how to qualify here: http://trimet.org/fares/disability.htm.

It may be crowded, noisy, or late, but for many people the bus provides essential mobility. (Photo: Flickr.com/Jason McHuff)

You must carry ID, and be ready to show it, when paying Honored Citizen fares. If you have Medicare, you do not need a TriMet ID, just your Medicare card and a photo ID. Those with disabilities who do not have Medicare, however, must have a TriMet ID, plus a photo ID.

Check your route

Service cuts will affect everyone differently, depending on which bus lines you ride. Several routes are being reconfigured, and your new bus stop may be further from your home. Other routes will have trips eliminated; they may start later in the morning or end earlier at night, or have longer wait times between buses. Be sure to check your bus lines for changes and possible alternate routes. Use the trip planner at http://trimet.org/index.htm or call 503-238-RIDE (7433).

The largest service cut is the elimination of the Free Rail Zone, which provides free trips on MAX in downtown Portland and the Lloyd District.  For people who live downtown, the loss of the free zone could be a real hardship. One option for Honored Citizen riders, according to TriMet’s Mary Fetsch, is a $10 pass for downtown-only travel, good for two years. Currently this pass only covers bus trips, but in September it will expand to MAX as well. The pass, in the form of a photo ID, is issued through the TriMet Ticket Office at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

The accessibility pages on TriMet’s website have more information about services available for people with disabilities, including training on how to ride public transit (available from RideWise) and the Medical Transportation Program for trips to and from medical appointments for low-income Oregon Health Plan members. See below for links and phone numbers.

More Information

Accessibilityhttp://trimet.org/access/index.htm
Phone: 503-962-2455
TTY: 503-962-5811
Fax: 503-962-2370
Email: accessible@trimet.org
Hours: 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. weekdays