[Update: Sounder Ridership statistics corrected below.]
Puyallup is the only city in the region, aside from Seattle and Tacoma, that has two designated urban growth centers. One is the downtown area near the Sounder station, and the other around South Hill Mall. The city is in the early stages of connecting those two areas with a Bus Rapid Transit line, modeled on the Eugene’s EmX service.
It’s called EZRA (“Easy Rider Area”), named for Ezra Meeker, the 19th century founder and first mayor of Puyallup. The only online resources I’ve identified are the City website and a blurb in the Tacoma News-Tribune. See especially the pdf slideshow in the first link. I briefly chatted with Puyallup City Manager Gary McLean about the project.
The line’s proposed features, and its legal and funding status, are after the jump.
The line’s northern terminus would be the the Puyallup Sounder Station, which has more boardings than any other Sounder station aside from King Street and Kent* (1100 940/day). The first four miles would take it to the South Hill Transit Center, which may serve as an initial terminus if that’s how the funding works out. Ultimately, the project could extend a total of 9 miles to approximately S. 176 St. near Graham, with a total capital cost of about $3m/mile. The full system is expected to draw about 3,000 boardings a day.
Like most BRT projects worthy of the name, EZRA would have Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technology: next bus signage, signal priority, signal timing, closed circuit cameras to identify problems, etc. There would also likely be off-board payment, assuming planners determine it’s cost-effective to collect fares at all.
Weekday service would run at least 14 hours a day at 15 minute headways, with 10 minute spacing in the peak hours. Weekends, frequency may drop to every 20 minutes or so.
As for right-of-way, as with RapidRide and Swift we can expect a mix of options implemented along the route. McLean suggested that in different segments, the City would eliminate parking, turn lanes, or medians to create bus-0nly lanes. In other places, the route might deviate from Meridian Ave. by a few blocks to avoid chokepoints and serve key destinations.
It isn’t yet clear how far apart the stations will be, and therefore whether conventional bus service will still be required in this corridor. This is a City of Puyallup project, but Pierce Transit is a “partner” that is contributing staff time, according to PT spokesman Lars Erickson. EZRA will almost certainly figure in to Pierce Transit’s “PT Tomorrow” planning project.
The City got the ball rolling by winning a “Local Infrastructure Financing Tool” (LIFT) grant from the State, paying out $1m a year for 25 years. EZRA was the cornerstone of their application, which also included TOD and trail links.
In the current federal budget process, Sen. Patty Murray has inserted a $1.5m earmark to pay for the alternatives analysis study, a requirement for FTA funding. Assuming the measure survives in Congress, the study would probably begin in 2010 and conclude in 2011, and would fill out most of the specifics we don’t yet have.
As many of you know, Congress will either extend the current, expiring comprehensive transportation bill (SAFETEA-LU), or replace it this year with a much more transit-friendly one. The transit-friendly version has an earmark from Rep. Adam Smith for $8m towards the construction of the line, assuming the study goes well. The remaining $19m for the whole project would come from LIFT funds as well as whatever other grants the City can scrounge up.
* Puyallup has more boardings than Kent if you count peak-direction boardings only.