Today is the end of an era.
The 40 year-old Downtown Seattle Ride-Free Zone is no moe.
I can hear it now: “Yay! It’s about time those free-loadin’ nigras, homeless people, and all around losers start payin’ ther fayer shayer! I ain’t no socialist! With the exception of public schools, public roads, public police, public fire protection, public jails, public libraries, public stadiums, public wars on some drugs, public military, public agencies that I agree with, medicare, and social security, I AIN’T NO DADGUM SOCIALIST!!!”
As astute as this position is, and trust me, it is — these folks may be missing one small thing.
Let me break you off a little somethin squared …
My household uses the ride-free zone all the time. Most often to the I.D. There are 5 of us.
When we go outside, walk down to the bus tunnel, do our shopping, and return … it costs us nothing in transit, but it helps out everyone else in the Seattle area. There is one, maybe two less cars on Downtown Seattle streets. There is one, maybe two more available parking spaces available for the rest of you. There is 20, maybe 40 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide in the air, less impact on the roads, every-so-slightly lower gas prices, and by proxy — ever so slightly lower costs for consumer goods.
Simply speaking, when we take the bus, and ten thousand other losers do the same, your life is improved on many fronts.
Unfortunately, with the end of the free-ride zone, we can no longer do this for you. Please don’t take it personally, we think you’re swell people, deserving of our every effort on your behalf, but it may no longer be economically feasible. The price of our free ride just skyrocketed. The same trip we’ve been taken nearly every weekend has just jumped from $0.00 to $22.50. $11.25 if we cut costs by walking one-way. That’s still $4 more than what a cab would cost. It truly is the end of an era. We’ve taken our last weekly bus trip to the I.D. as a complete group.
Oh well, at least it will free up the buses for tourists and suburban folks, right? I mean, now that the nasty city people will no longer be on them, surely the Downtown buses are about to get much cleaner and safer, right?
Well, probably not.
You see, low-income folks still won’t pay. They get free transit passes. The scary people you see in movies are still going to be on the bus. Sorry.
I won’t be, though. There will be no free ride for me. Instead, I’ll be the guy in front of you in gridlocked traffic. Burning off dinosaur juice while sitting at the stoplight. I’ll be the guy making sure you get home just a little later. I’ll be the guy who swoops in and grabs the last parking space seconds before you get to it. I’ll be the guy that makes your kid reach for her inhaler.
I’ll be the guy that makes your life just a little bit less pleasant. Pleased to meet you. I ain’t no freeloader.
In closing, I would like to leave you with one final thought.
Several months ago, I visited with a friend of mine. A cab driver. I sat in the passenger seat, interviewing him, as we rode around the city for 2 hours.
“What time is it?”, he asked me.
“11″, I replied.
“Want to see me make a quick $37?”, he asked.
“Sure”, I said.
With that, he made a beeline for a methadone clinic on First Hill.
When we got there, a woman, white, slightly plump, dressed like Blossom, got in the cab. She was going to Des Moines. She was also holding a sheet of paper. A voucher. A voucher for $37.
During the trip, the woman was happy to talk with me. She explained that she loved Seattle, because it was the only place that would pay her cab fare to the methadone clinic. A round-trip bus ride from Des Moines to First Hill would take up the entire day, and would preclude her from doing other things, such as looking for jobs. It’s a GREAT city, she gushed.
When we finally stopped, she handed the driver the voucher, no tip, and he signed it and gave her a receipt.
“See you tomorrow”, she said, and with that, she got out, and walked up the steps to her apartment.
“Let me get this straight”, I asked my friend, “I pay her $74 every day to take a cab to the methadone clinic?”
“Oh no … no no no”, he replied.
“You pay ME $74 every day to take her to the methadone clinic.”
Farewell Ride-Free Zone.
We can’t afford you any longer.