Route 496

In the wake of voters rejecting a sales tax increase to preserve Pierce Transit service, outlying areas that voted heavily against the increase (and have lost most or all of their service) are trying to opt out of the Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA) entirely. Sumner is the latest casualty, joining DuPont, Bonney Lake, Buckley, and Orting. Background on the (complicated) PTBA exit process here. Routes 409,  496, and 497*, which connect various neighborhoods to Sounder, would be eliminated, potentially aggravating existing parking problems at stations.

Interestingly, this contraction may also affect vanpools. PT Spokesman Lars Erickson tells me that while vanpools that either originate or terminate within the shrunken boundary are fine, those that originate and terminate outside the PTBA may have to be eliminated under the law, pending a legal opinion the agency has requested.

The other interesting wrinkle is that all the cities above but Buckley lie in the Sound Transit district. Sumner is actually represented on the ST board by Mayor David Enslow. I have an email in to Mr. Enslow to see if he has any plans to try to mitigate the loss of PT service.

*The 497 serves the Pierce County portion of Auburn, connecting the Lakeland Hills subdivision to Sounder.  The loss of Sumner would isolate Auburn geographically, and by law PTBAs must be contiguous.

45 Replies to “Sumner May Leave Pierce Transit”

  1. Sumner is actually represented on the ST board by Mayor David Enslow.

    Actually Martin, Enslow (and each of the other ST boardmembers) represent ALL the people of the agency’s district. The reps on the board are not elected “by district”.

    1. It’s not unfair to say, however, that Enslow is more likely to carry Sumner’s own interests in his representation on the board.

      1. Guru: I’d like to believe the agency’s leaders act in the interests of what’s best for the region as a whole, and leave petty parochialisms at the door when they put on their Sound Transit hats. If Seattle’s representatives on that board looked out only for their citizens’ interests NOTHING would get done outside those city boundaries.

      2. They’re supposed to do both. Make sure their city doesn’t get neglected, but also don’t get parochial.

  2. It would probably be worth knowing total 496 and 497 ridership, as a combined percentage of total Sumner Sounder station usage, before deciding whether or not this constitutes a great tragedy.

  3. Correction: 496 ridership as a percentage of total Sumner Sounder station usage, and 497 ridership as a percentage of total Auburn Sounder station usage.

    1. I’ve seen the 496 get packed and often use ST buses whereas the 497 was often a 30 foot PT bus and not too crowded

      I always was on the first southbound Sounder from King Street

      1. it should be noted that a significant portion of pt routes use st buses because of the explosion last February at the pt base in lakewood, destroying its natural gas station. now pt buses have to go to seatac to refuel. therefore, its cheaper for them to use their St fleet.

    1. 28? That sounds like a lot, until you click on the schedule and realize it’s just one uni-directional trip for each of the 7 daily trains.

      Anyway, so it seems like we’re looking at about 105 riders on the 496 (700 x 15%), presuming that 700 is one-way ridership (it 700 is boardings + alightings separately, then we’re really only looking at 58 roung-trip 496 passengers).

      Perhaps the city of Sumner should just invest in running its own shuttle service for that, rather than requiring Pierce Transit to maintain an entire vehicle and pay a unionized driver for just a 7 round trips per day.

      My guess is that Auburn’s 248 riders to the train are mostly on other buses, since they have many options to choose from (especially if I am correct in interpreting the 497 as shuttle with no stops at all between the King County line and the train station).

  4. The loss of Sumner would isolate Auburn geographically, and by law PTBAs must be contiguous.

    Isn’t the vast majority of Auburn in King County?

    1. Yes. He’s referring specifically to Lakeland Hills, which looks to be the worst kind of pedestrian-hostile loop-de-loop subdivision.

      World’s tiniest violin and all that.

      1. Important to point out that PT, Metro, and the City of Auburn all put in money to provide a very popular Sounder commuter bus service. If Sumner indeed pulls out, Auburn will probably have to go due to the rule that there can be no islands. As a result Pierce Transit arguably would have to pull out their funding commitment to this shuttle. Also PT operates this sounder shuttle.

        I’d much rather have more shuttles connecting to sounder over more new parking garages… Perhaps Sound Transit can pick up some of these services in Sumner and Auburn using station access funds instead of building more garages, or by building smaller garages.

        Lastly, it should be noted that it was Enlow’s decision to pull Sumner out of the next map as he is the rep to the PTIC board. It will be interesting to see how Sumner residents and interests respond, which I’m sure will be both positive (less taxes) and negative (loss of local service forever).

      2. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t there multiple “islands” within the C-TRAN system? Or is that different, because the “water” has no incorporated municipalities? (*Battle Ground is surrounded by multiple CDP’s though.)

      3. Can Auburn and Metro (and perhaps Sound Transit) cover the funding gap on the 497 if Auburn has to pull out of PT? I’m sure it’s OK to contract with PT to provide the shuttle….

        So Sumner votes to pull out and loses its service. It gets what it voted for. But Auburn shouldn’t suffer for it….

      4. OK, here’s a question: can PTBAs overlap? Probably not, but if they could, Auburn could join in its entirety including the King County portion. Right?

        I don’t understand the complexity of these laws….

      5. I think pierce county auburn cannot join Kc metro because metro is a county operated agency, and not a ptba but I’m not sure.

        Islands do not refer to physical Islands, just the fact that if a is connected to b and b to c, but b not connected to a then c cannot be in the same ptba as a unless b is part of it. also if a city is part of a ptba then the entire city must join (exception for cities in multiple counties for which only the portion in the Target has to be included)

      6. I think pierce county auburn cannot join Kc metro because metro is a county operated agency, and not a ptba but I’m not sure.

        Correct. Metro is actually special. It is neither a PTBA (RCW 36.57A) nor a “county public transportation authority” (RCW 36.57) but rather the remains of a “metropolitan municipal corporation” (RCW 35.58) whose functions were assumed by the King County government under RCW 36.56.

        Metro’s service area, by law, is all of King County.

      7. @zigzagzac You can have islands connected by corridors, so long as they dont pass through a city i beilieve, in which case you have to take the whole city in.

        Metro could operate the 497 if they so chose to, while uncommon they do operate some service outside king county (to the north, and the 182 in the south)

        Finally, While I think it’s a bit foolish for sumner, and even bonney lake to pull out it will be intresting to see what happens when reality hits. Theres still a fair amount of well used service in Sumner and Bonney Lake with the 496 and 409, and once those are gone… The 409 could be replaced with a couple added stops on the 578, however the 496 is well used and some rather vocal riders seem to ride it.

      8. “Metro’s service area, by law, is all of King County.”

        The law could be changed. It’s silly for Auburn and Bothell to have two separate transit networks due to the county border. Let Metro adopt all of Auburn and Bothell since their commercial centers are in King County. Of course, Metro doesn’t have any money for more routes…

      9. Actually, Metro does operate in Snohomish County. The 347 goes to Mountlake Terrace TC, and previous versions of it went to Lynnwood TC. And Community Transit used to operate to Skykomish.

      10. It’s also silly that Metro’s service area includes the vast swaths of King County that are completely rural or completely isolated. The parts of King County which aren’t served by ST shouldn’t be served by Metro, either; the tax revenue we’ll lose will probably be made up for by the savings from not running routes to Black Diamond and North Bend.

    2. Looks to me like only the “foot” of Auburn down near Lake Tapps is in Pierce County. Virtually all of the retail which provides the lions share of transit funding is in King County. Is this tiny sliver of Auburn actually even served by PT? Presumably Metro, dependent on financing could serve this area as long as the trip originates or ends at the Sounder Station which is in King County.

  5. So when gas hits $5/gal in the coming months, we’ll play a symphony on those tiny violins for their selfish shortsightedness. But mo’ betta for communities closer into Tacoma and the transit corridors. Sumner can revert back to farmland…


    Go do some research on the way some of these communities vote. Auburn, when given the chance to support transit DIDNT, nor did Sumner, Buckley, DuPont, Buckley, and Orting!

    Metro is not a PTBA it is part of County Government

    and yes…ST could use their money to support this service. What good is keeping them in if PT cant pass a ballot and ends up cutting the service in the end.

    Think about the big picture people

    1. Assuming the aforementioned communities get nixed from the PTBA, they would effectively be the only areas within the Sound Transit District with no underlying local counterpart.

      1. This is actually kind of fascinating. Sounder serving one stop with just a parking lot – no local feeder routes. Long term, will they just build massive parking structures, or just write the station off as a lost cause?

    2. You’re all getting ahead of yourselves. ST has made no suggestion of closing the Sumner or Auburn stations. It can’t move the tracks to bypass these cities. Puyallup and Tacoma supported PT, and Tacoma alone is enough reason to keep Sounder South running. ST has always known that PT or Metro could change its service at any time, including discontinuing feeder buses. The decision to start Sounder didn’t depend on those bus routes. ST has no money for “new” parking garages that weren’t defined in ST2. So, no new big garages. Whether people will drive more to stations or stop taking Sounder, I don’t know. But if ridership does go down, it would give a reason to downscale Sounder in ST3 and divert the money to something else. Not that ST would necessarily do it, but it would be a greater arguing point for those who want to push it.

  7. ZigZag, There are no islands in CT’s district. That is illegal under WA PTBA law. If you look at their boundary (intercity’s as well) there are “fingers” reaching out to these cities that follow highways and arterial that have bus service going out to those cities. My understanding is that Pierce could do the same, but in order to do so they’d have to go through Sumner, which could provide a bit of a legal conundrum.

    And no, PTBAs can not overlap, this Part of Auburn is in Pierce County so it could not join King County Metro.

    If Metro (who is broke), Auburn, and Sound Transit picked up Pierce Transit’s portion of the operating contribution to the Sounder service (Sound Transit doesn’t pay for any of it now and presumably could use some of their ST2 station access funds to do this) I don’t think there is anything that prohibits Pierce from continuing to run those buses on a contract basis.

    I should also point out that while Sumner did vote against prop. 1, it wasn’t an overwhelming rejection of transit (like it was in the exurbs and Bonney Lake). I think from a transit service and planning perspective it would be ideal to keep Sumner in PT’s boundaries (it has a Sounder station for god’s sake not to mention a very walkable historic downtown). Also I’ll note, if all other parts of the new boundary stayed the same, I think we could win at the ballot with or without Sumner in.

    1. King County Metro isnt even a PTBA, they are some other form of countywide transportation district. They probally could serve the foot of Auburn in pierce county, theres nothing that says they shall not run a coach outside of king county. They have already set a president for that with the 182 that serves NE tacoma somewhat slightly, and i beilive a route or two in the 300 series that venture outside county lines. Infact i think a worthwhile project would be to explore extension of some or all of the “A” line trips to tacoma. HOV/BAT lanes extend all the way through federal way, the segment of 99 inbetween Federal Way and fife is high speed rural typically without a lot of traffic. The only bottleneck would be through fife, across the Ells street bridge. Although i think there is plans to replace that sometime soon (although mabye not the money) since it’s outlived its useful life.

      1. There is NO King County Metro Buses that dip into Pierce County. NE Tacoma is served be route 62! All PT’s Local service comes out of Pierce to the Federal Way Transit Center to connect.

      2. @Jackson
        That is incorrect. Check the map for 182:

        The Route from 21st Westward including Norpoint Way NE, 49th ave NE, 41st S,E 42 Ave NE and parts of Northshore Parkway all reside within Pierce County according to metro’s map, and judging by the fact the street names change i’d presume this to be fairly accurate that indeed the bus serves NE tacoma, Not to mention the fact that the headsign says “182 NE TACOMA”

  8. From the looks of it, the city of Sumner can easily take over operation of the 496/497 Sounder feeders. They’re each only 7 trips a day, timed for the train. They can come up with the money locally (remember, their residents will be getting a sales tax cut out of this). If they have to, they can form a Transportation Benefit District and impose car-tab fees to replace it.

    However I don’t see any way they can replace their all-day hourly service on the 409. But I don’t think that’s going to be a big deal. I have no data, but would speculate that the Sumner section of this route is an underperforming tail anyway.

  9. Question: Aren’t the 496 and 497 ST services? Granted they are provided by PT under contract, but realistically they are still Sound Transit. Therefore wouldn’t they be part of the RTA and not affected by the PTBA withdrawal of Sumner?

    I concede they would lose the 409. I am just not sure about the other two.

  10. No, even though the sole purpose is to connect to Sounder, these are Pierce Transit services…ANYTHING that is ST has a 500-level route number. ST contracts operation to PT for the 566, 574, 577/578, 586, and 590/592/593/594/595. PT operates the Sounder connectors (495 Puyallup-South Hill, 496 Sumner-Bonney Lake, and 497 Auburn-Lakeland Hills) under its own brand.

  11. Another wrinkle in this… Can a district be compelled by force to leave a PTBA? Can areas on the edge of a PTBA be forced out against their will if their neighbors’ exit leaves them isolated? If not, could Sumner be forced to stay in as long as Auburn wants to stay in?

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