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Better have that bus fare today; Fareless Square ends

Bus riders now need tickets between downtown and Lloyd District
by: Tribune file photo, TriMet's Fareless Square changed this weekend into Free Rail Zone, with only MAX and the streetcar free for riders mostly in the downtown area. Buses will require fares in the former Fareless Square.

Fareless Square is dead. Long live Free Rail Zone.

Starting Sunday, trips on TriMet buses in Fareless Square are no longer free. But free rides are still available in roughly the same area on TriMet's MAX light-rail line and the Portland Streetcar line.

Riders without tickets on buses could face a $175 fine, although TriMet is planning a grace period to inform the public. The regional transit agency is also offering a $10-a-year pass for seniors and people with disabilities to ride bases within the new zone boundaries.

TriMet offers a $10, two-year pass for senior citizens and people with disabilities to use buses within the zone.

Fareless Square was created 34 years ago to help reduce air pollution from automobiles downtown. It was later expanded to provide free transit rides from downtown to the Lloyd District.

The TriMet board voted to drop the free bus rides in August. The decision coincided with the opening of the new MAX Green Line, which provides light-rail travel from Union Station to Portland State University on Fifth and Sixth avenues.

At the time, the board said the majority of the existing Fareless Square area would still be served by the MAX and streetcar lines.

Discussions about changing Fareless Square first began in earnest after the Nov. 3, 2007, beating of a 71-year-old man at the Gresham Transit Station MAX platform. The attack prompted TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen to promise to increase security throughout the entire mass transit system - including reducing the number of fare evaders. Downtown and Lloyd District business owners lobbied to keep rides free in Fareless Square, however, eventually leading to the compromise of free MAX and streetcar rides.