by CHRIS KARNES and KATE WHITING
Today the Pierce County Auditor is slated to certify the failure of Pierce Transit Proposition 1 by a thin margin of 704 votes, out of more than 200,000 votes cast (49.83% Approved to 50.17% Rejected).
There is really no way to sugar coat the potential impacts of the failure of Prop 1. This will mean an uncertain future for many riders in Pierce County, restricting access to jobs for low-income individuals, health care for people with disabilities, and schools for college and high school students. With the failure of Proposition 1, Pierce County is on course for drastic service reductions in 2014 in the realm of a 50% cut of current service levels. That is on top of a 43% cut in service since Pierce Transit’s 2007 peak of roughly 625,000 fixed route service hours.
Weekend and weekly midday service are slated to disappear and no buses would run after 7pm on any day. Paratransit service for seniors, disabled veterans, and other people with disabilities will vanish along with the fixed route.
For comparison, bus service would be lower than when Pierce Transit first began operating back in 1980. If nothing is done, it would mean less service than cities smaller than Tacoma such as Olympia and Bellingham. It would render the local transit system incapable of providing even a minimal level of mobility.
By the Numbers
If Proposition 1 had been decided by Tacoma alone, the margin would have been more than +7,200 votes. In many parts of the City, especially areas constructed along historic streetcar lines with nearby mixed use districts, support for transit exceeded 60%. Pro-transit Tacoma neighborhoods like the Stadium District, Proctor District, Lower 6th Avenue, and Hilltop supported Prop 1 by margins that almost balanced out the marginal no votes from the rest of the entire county. As with Prop 1 in 2011 and with ST2 in 2008 Tacoma has demonstrated that it will vote for buses and trains as many times as is needed to preserve and expand access to jobs, education, and medical care.
The close rejection of Prop 1 is by no means a mandate against transit services in Pierce County. If anything there is a mandate for finding alternate revenue options going into legislative sessions in Olympia and Washington D.C., as well as exploring local options. Today, for instance, the Tacoma City Council is expected to exercise its councilmanic option for a $20 vehicle license fee to fund transportation projects with a city Transportation Benefit District.
We encourage the Tacoma City Council to investigate using potential TBD funding sources for a service overlay for local transit within Tacoma. We also encourage them to invest in creating a transit master plan as a policy framework for transit investments that can stand alongside the City’s Bike-Ped plan and Complete Streets policies.
Going forward, we hope those in the business community join us to advocate for more sustainable funding sources for Pierce Transit. We were disappointed not to have had their support in this close and critical election.
Chris Karnes writes for TacomaTomorrow and Kate Whiting served as campaign manager for the Restore Transit Now campaign.