Mayor Dave Enslow

Now that a large of chunk of Pierce County is no longer in the Pierce Transit district, where they paid taxes, received service, and voted down a ballot measure to maintain PT’s service level, a large area in Eastern Pierce County is solely served by Sound Transit.

Yesterday, the Sound Transit Board followed the proposal of Board Member and Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow and created Route 596, a replacement for PT 496 and connecting parts of Bonney Lake, Buckley, and Enumclaw to the Sumner Sounder station.

ST Express Route 596 will function as a fast, limited-stop service for passengers making long-distance regional trips, with direct connections to commuter rail and other transit modes. The route serves 290 boardings each day and will be timed to meet morning and afternoon Sounder trains…

[The 596] resurrects a previously-operated connector bus route that voters approved in the 1996 Sound Move ballot measure. Known as ST Express Route 582, that service operated between Bonney Lake and Tacoma. It was gradually phased out when Pierce Transit began operating Route 496 service in 2007.

It will begin running June 11th, the first workday after PT wraps up the 496 on June 8th. The $253,000 operating cost for 2012 will come out of the Pierce subarea reserves.

38 Replies to “ST Covering Old PT Route”

  1. This worked out as a good deal with the outlying areas. They kept the same route as before and they get it without paying into the PT district.

    If this route was a priority for ST before, why weren’t they covering the cost in the first place? The overlap between ST and the country transit systems creates weird issues like this.

    1. I think the priority part came from the fact that the local politicans realised after the fact that this route would be lost and they would be upsetting a very vocal group of riders. Also, in additiion to east pierce county, dupont is also out of the ptba. I have to wonder how ling it will be until they start wanting more service that serves more of the communy from sound transit

      1. @Mr Z, Sound Transit is doubling Dupont’s peak-only service once Lakewood Sounder comes online. Currently the 592 runs every 10 minutes to Lakewood with every 3rd bus continuing to Dupont. ST will cut the 592 back to every 15 minutes overall but with all trips terminating at Dupont.

      2. In addition, PT hasn’t had service in Dupont for a while, not since one of the variants of the 207 stopped serving Dupont-JBLM (with only 1 trip per day IIRC). A local route between Dupont and Lakewood was planned if Prop 1 had passed, but it didn’t of course, and now Dupont is out of the PTBA.

      3. So, why does the extension of the Sounder justify more service to DuPont that does all the way downtown, bypassing the Sounder?

    2. It seems more fair to provide a bus route to riders in the ST taxing district than to provide a mostly-empty route for riders on an island outside the district (via connecting ferry).

      This is certainly a cheaper option than building another satellite parking lot, not charging for parking, and then providing a shuttle between the lot and the station.

      1. That’s effectively what this route is, except that the satellite lot is already built in Bonney Lake.

  2. What is to become of the PT 497 (between Lakeland Hills and Auburn Station)? I can’t tell whether that route is entirely within the ST taxing district.

    For that matter, who is paying to keep the PT 62, 402, 500, and 501 alive? All those routes serve Federal Way.

    1. I can’t speak for the other routes, but the 402 only terminates in FW. The vast majority of the ridership comes from people in South Hill/Seattle. I take it every day to get to school.

    2. Through creative mapping lakeland hills (auburn pierce county) is still in the ptba. Its unlikely anything unfavorable will happen to the route as a result.

    3. Route 497 is a tri-party agreement between Auburn, Metro and PT. Auburn is still in Pierce Transit taxing district and it will function just as it has, no changes.

      All the routes you listed, 62, 402, 500 and 501 provide connections to a regional transit center for transfers. 62 connects to the 500 from NE Tacoma, 402 operates about 90% in Pierce County until it heads to FW. 500, 501 also operate 90% of their route in PT before it heads to FW to connect.

      There is a value to make these connections – you cant just dump people at the county line!

  3. This really is a milestone: somebody is starting to recognize that our working lives are increasingly and permanently regional. My residence is in Seattle, but my work day frequently crosses at least one county line, sometimes two.

    When I have to use my car, I don’t have to pay any attention to which county I’m in. The sooner the same becomes true for my transit travel, the better. If transit ever means to be seriously competitive with automobile travel, here’s one vestige of the past that’s overdue at the dustbin of history, like the Commies used to say.

    When current Depression is over, hope to see regional system develop to include at least Thurston and Kitsap. But meantime, would like to see this first precedent extended northward. Loss of Sunday service in Snohomish County is a regional disgrace.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Metropolitan Portland has a single regional, multi-county transit system called TriMet, and it seems to function pretty well for both city and suburbs.

      Maybe it’s time to try something like that here?

      1. The difference between Tri-Met and Sound Transit is that Tri-Met has a mandate to serve the region, while we play Let’s Make a Deal with seventeen different agencies.

      2. I think we’ve hashed this out repeated over the years. There are pros and cons. Biggest con is that certain people in certain counties don’t support transit and worse have politicians who simply don’t care. ST is probably the best way to help ease us out of that the situation in the future. Does it suck to have so many agencies? Yes, for a lot of reasons. Unfortunately, there is still taint with ST and the political and support situation still needs to progress so that we can all be on the same page. It’s great that success stories like TriMet, TransLink, and TfL exist. But I really think the transition to region-wide agency only is a long time off. Much of that can be solved through the PSRC and local co-operation, but it will ultimately require an act of the State to achieve it.

      3. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, where all the transit is run by Septa. Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority. I remember after moving here when we originally had the vote to create Sound Transit, at the time I thought we were creating one transit agency that would absorb all of the smaller, county based agencies. That clearly wasn’t the case, but it still seems to me like we might be able to avoid a whole lot of redundancy and provide more seamless service if we were to just make it so. As with most things of this nature I suppose it comes down to political will.

      4. I have to agree with Sam on this one. Sound Transit is not subject to direct legislative veto; it understands that frequency is important; and its service area contains many more people and yet much less land area than King County (i.e. Metro’s service area). I see everything to gain and nothing to lose by having ST take over all of Metro’s services.

        It’s easy to say why this can’t and won’t happen; it’s more worthwhile to spend the time and energy to make it happen.

      5. Before we ever moved in the direction of consolidating all local transit agencies into Sound Transit, ST would first have to prove that they can operate what they already have, and they don’t do that now. They pay other transit agencies to operate their system. So we don’t know if they even capable operating what they have now. So how can we say they should operate everything in the region when they don’t even operate their own routes?

      6. Well in my mind it’s not as though they’d be starting from scratch. If they took over Metro, Community Transit, etc,.. I would imagine that they’d keep the same mechanics, drivers, payroll department, schedulers, you name it. I guess my point is that they’d be keeping plenty of people with loads of experience in running a transit agency.

      7. my suspision if that if the agencys did merge, ST would take over Metro, than intergrate the other agencys into “sound transit” aka metro. same high operating costs, same level of overhead (if not worse). i dont think it would get the region very far.

      8. Z: First, we’d be better off simply because ST is not subject to direct council veto. And second, ST has shown both an understanding that costs are important, and a willingness to take extraordinary measures (such as having the 566 run by Pierce, despite the route operating entirely within KC).

      9. @Aleks Thats true, but if Sound Transit started to intergrate the agencys, would they form a totally new structure, and hire new staff? Or would existing staff, policies, proceedures simply move over into the “new” system? In most mergers, even amonst companys of the same size, there tends to be a dominance of one company over the other. In this case it would probally be metro since they are by far the largest. i’m not saying this can be done, but you would have a very difficult time getting things sorted out and eliminating old corprate mindsets. Furthermore, i dont think it would gain a whole lot of operational efficinces, as the one time costs to merge the system would be very large (to name a few the radio/avl/ava systems would have to be upgraded or replaced to the new standard, dispatching centers expanded to handle the added agencies, Information and back office systems and proceedures intergrated, rolling stock repainted and or upgraded to new standards, what do you do about the unions, since now your negotiating with many more diffrent unions, and one sees perks the other has and your costs start rising, and on and on, not to mention some people would be out of work, which is all this poor economy needs right now). Its not just a simple wave of the wand. I’m sure the local politicans dont want to give up control, and with diffrent taxing rates and authorities it would probally take both a vote of the state legislature and local taxpayers to make such a move happen.

    2. When I have to use my car, I don’t have to pay any attention to which county I’m in. The sooner the same becomes true for my transit travel, the better.

      Truth. There is one hell of a seam in transit service at the Snohomish county line – when me and my wife were looking at apartments on the north side of the city, the county line was a barrier that made otherwise desirable apartments impractical. As soon as you cross that boundary, the fastest commute to Ballard involves 3 seats, 2 bridges, and a transfer downtown.

  4. I forsee a weird future where ST is begged by municiaplities outside of PT for local service and starts providing non-express services on a normal basis above and beyond standard funding (i.e. communities pitching in $$ and contracting). Awkward…

    1. Especially awkward since ST will probably just contract it out to PT, as they’re doing with this route. Only difference is the fare and the paint on the bus.

      1. According to the board informaton, they plan on retaining some otherwise surplus ST Express buses for the service. One would presume this means that a small handful of the 9000s would continue on for a while longer anyways.

    2. There is also somewhat of a president for semi-express service in the ST network. Many ST express routes outside of pierce county also make a lot more “local” stops when they are running on surface streets, which means that concept could be expanded into areas that are no longer served by PT.

    3. Who cares if the communities are paying for it? Seattle pays Metro for extra service of the city’s choosing. WSDOT pays for weekend service to Maple Valley. Somebody is paying for buses across the Narrows. Washington pays Amtrak to run the Cascades. California pays Amtrak to run the San Joaquin, and I think the Capitols and Pacific Surfliner. It’s a win-win. The communities get the transit they want, we can use the transit when we’re going to the outline areas, and it makes the communities more favorable to transit in general, which could lead to full-time routes with real ridership in the future.

  5. So then is ST also handling the paratransit service around these routes? I recall that a big chunk of PT’s savings cutting these routes was that it removed a ton of neighborhoods from the federally mandated paratransit service area.

    1. The route would be an express route so it would be exempt from the requirement of having paratransit service. This is the same way that ST dosent provide paratransit service for their routes in snohomish county on sundays.

      1. The exemption from paratransit in the ADA law is specifically for “commuter bus” service.

        If it’s a peak-only express then it’s clearly commuter. Sounder’s connecting bus clearly qualify as commuter right now.

        Upon researching this, it seems that federal regulations have applied the “commuter bus” exception to “commuter rail”, which is clearly wrong. Worse, one court appears to have allowed agencies to get away with some pretty unreasonable things; SEPTA Regional Rail is an all-day all-week high-frequency service, but one court allowed it to be considered “commuter” for ADA purposes. This leaves a gaping hole in the paratransit requirements.

        I expect that that ruling will also be overturned eventually, as it’s clearly wrong. At least one “commuter rail” system which is actually all-day all-week, Metra in Chicago, is under a *pre-ADA* consent decree requiring it to provide a form of paratransit (in the form of accessible service to the next accessible station), so it is pretty likely that eventually any agency providing all-day all-week services will be required to provide complementary paratransit.

        But however you figure it, it’s pretty clear that peak-only express buses are exempt.

        There’s a long discussion of the meaning of “commuter” for ADA purposes at this webpage:

  6. What else are “Pierce Subarea Reserves” used for? In other words, what is Pierce losing out on by doing this?

    If they’re basically used for nothing else, great!

    If they’re the same fund used for Tacoma-area Sounder construction, then this isn’t such good news.

  7. How about the State mandates that Sound Transit is responsible for transportation in Thurston, Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties?

    Then, the State mandates that IT, PT, KCM, and CT give all their stuff to ST.

    There we go. The problem is solved.

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