Photo by Atomic Taco

Following the failure of a sales tax increase last month, the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners authorized staff on Monday to begin work on 35% cut to take effect in October:

The Board directed staff to go forward in reducing the system by approximately 35% by October, 2011.  All service and staff reductions will occur by that date.  These actions will stabilize the agency’s finances and allow for short and long-term sustainability…

Dates and times for the public hearings will be announced in a later communication.  The Board will take formal action for the October service reduction at their May 9, 2011 meeting.

The PT Tomorrow website is a pretty good preview of what cuts would look like. Personally, I’d like to see PT shrink its service area and focus on maintaining good service in the core cities, also shrinking the electorate to districts much more likely to vote to improve service.

16 Replies to “Pierce Transit Sets Cuts in Motion”

  1. I completely agree, Martin. Give the electorate what they want – more private providers and more efficiency. Shrink the service area so that those in outlying low-density areas need to walk, bike, drive, or take a taxi to the nearest transit center or park & ride. Focus existing funds on either high density rail or medium-density Rapid Ride-like corridors. Along the way, do your best to provide a fertile environment for private providers to serve the lower density areas.

    Taxis, bumming rides from neighbors, dynamic carpooling, or maybe even shuttle express will have to fill in the gaps. It sucks, but those low density areas are the most expensive to serve and should be the first pitched over the side. (Keep in mind I live in just such an area)

    Additionally, I believe shrinking the service area has savings in terms of Paratransit service as well. I recall discussions about Metro being required to provide paratransit within a certain distance of traditional bus routes. Eliminating certain bus routes would eliminate those expenses as well.

    1. I’m not very familiar with the pattern of transit use in Pierce County. Although I grew up in Lakewood that city has completely changed. It’s not clear that any part of the PT service area is really analogous to Metro. On the top 50 list only Seattle (18%) and Bellevue (9%) make the grade in Washington State. Tacoma (3,923.8 people/sq mi) transit use is lower than Bellevue (3,947.1/sq mi) even though density is the same. I can’t find much in the way of numbers but what I did dig up says PT ridership was 15.6 million in 2007. That’s a number about 20X the population. For Metro there’s ~110 million boardings or 57X the population. It would be interesting to know how many people use ST to commute to jobs in King County vs PT to jobs in Pierce.

      1. Tacoma is in many ways a suburb, not a city. While I was born in Seattle and have spent half my life (including the last 15 years) in King County, I grew up in the Tacoma area and have family there. While progressive in the absolute sense, it’s a very car-dominated, relatively socially conservative place compared even to much of the Eastside. And that retrograde attitude goes hand-in-hand with the inferiority complex toward Seattle, so that changing things for the better is almost seen as a betrayal in some circles.

        Without a change in that attitude, support for and use of transit will remain low, but without decent transit it’s hard to change that attitude. There’s a definite chicken-and-age problem. Cutting back service to the core area, to the extent such an area exists, is a viable short term strategy. But in the long run it’s a self-defeating one.

    2. Understandable feeling, but one we don’t have the luxury of indulging. Judging by traffic, a lot of the electorate has already turned to private providers, namely their own cars. Which can’t be kept out of pro-transit areas, and sofurther degrade transit by their numbers.


      Mark Dublin

    3. “I recall discussions about Metro being required to provide paratransit within a certain distance of traditional bus routes.”

      3/4ths of a mile. That’s an ADA mandate.

    4. “those in outlying low-density areas need to walk, bike, drive, or take a taxi to the nearest transit center or park & ride”

      We’re talking about eliminating only the exurban areas with peak-only or weekday-only routes. People there “drive to the nearest park n ride”; very few of them would bike or taxi. And walking to the remaining buses would take an hour or two, it’s such a long distance. I do think PT/ST need to stick to Tacoma/Lakewood/Puyallup for now and give up on the exurbs, but it does mean that anybody who can drive will.

      Tacoma has only a small amount of employment downtown, and a large portion of south Tacoma/Lakewood commutes to Fort Lewis/McChord. Others work in Seattle, Kent, Nalley Valley, and around Tacoma Mall. Few people think about taking transit except the elderly/kids/disabled and Seattle commuters. But there is interest in taking small steps toward frequent transit downtown and on 6th Ave and Pacific Ave (not sure if density is also in the picture).

    5. While I think it sucks to remove paratransit service areas, doing so encourages those who need paratransit to move into the city, thus helping urban densification.

  2. PT ought to become T/L/PT(Tacoma, Lakewood, Puyallup) and stop serving the exurbs. Then they might be able to run more than 3 15-minute lines and people would be more willing to ride.

  3. Sounder service is extremely popular In Tacoma, but PT doesn’t seem to link up well with the train schedules. I’ve been stuck without a convenient transfer too many times. As a result, I end up driving to the park n ride to use ST service. Wish I could count on having a bus available once I arrive from Seattle, but it just hasn’t been the case.

    1. +1

      When even the people who like to use transit are continually frustrated by PT, you know there’s a problem.

  4. What are the chances of the City of Tacoma having a ballot item to subsidize intra-city bus routes?

    1. I’d guess there’s a good possibility someone in Tacoma gets a proposal something like Bellingham did on the ballot. The in city vote for the transit measure was positive. However I’m not convinced it’s a slam dunk to pass. B’ham is much wealthier and more liberal. Median home price is $307,400 (above the State average of $287,200). It’s only $177,878 in Tacoma. The liberal bent in B’ham is no surprise when you look at the major employers: St. Joseph Medical Center, Western Washington University, Bellingham School District, County of Whatcom, City of Bellingham. Pierce County is completely dominated by JBLM (800# gorilla), MAMC and the National Guard. Just the civilian employees put it at #2 only slightly behind the Tacoma School Distict and employment numbers don’t take into account the large retired military population. Chances of success depend on how painful the cuts are and how big the tax increase is. Where I believe B’ham had an advantage is the majority of the tax base is the City it’s self. I’m pretty sure that’s not true for Tacoma. It might be wise to pull Lakewood into a partnership. It’s wealthier and would assuage the fears of business owners in Tacoma that people would shop to the south to dodge a higher sales tax (makes a difference on big ticket purchases). On the other hand it is even more dominated by the military. Note that in the B’ham initiative only a portion of the tax went to transit. There was also a roads, bike and pedestrian component. Lakewood has no shortage of road projects (Bridgeport RR crossing mitigation??), makes good use of ST Express and Sounder is coming soon (Dupont Station??).

  5. Please delete above, apparently my HTML coding isn’t as good as I thought.

    Personally, this result (Courtesy KIRO-FM/ sounds terrible:
    Entire routes will not be cut, rather reductions will be made to service on each route.

    “If your bus currently comes every half hour, that might be reduced to every hour or every two hours,” Pierce Transit spokesperson Jessyn Farrell

  6. Some of the unintended side affects have to be considered as well, if service is severly reduced, especally on weekends there will probally be a demand on ST to provide some kind of backfill service atleast in the corridors they serve. How that demand is met who knows, but it wouldent surprise me in the least to see more “local-express” service in PC such is offered in King County. Again, same rule applies if the PTBA is shrunk, there could be areas than outside the PT PTBA, but inside the RTA service boundaries and the same pressures would than apply once people realized the follys of their ways. Which, will probally come a couple days after the october service change. The TNT’s plan “B” never happend, mabye it is time to look at eliminating service on the sabbath to save more of the rest of the system.

    1. All other agencies have keyed in on the magnitude of eliminating service for a full day. It’s really the best thing to do if forced to cut and I think has the biggest “pay back” in terms of perceived loss if there is a vote to create a local transit taxing authority. Sort of like cutting the pointyball team if you want sympathy for a property tax increase for schools.

Comments are closed.