Old City Hall, Tacoma (Wikimedia)

[UPDATE 9:50pm: Tonight’s drop grew the margin to 716 votes. 211 ballots came in today.]

As of Sunday evening, the margin is down to 695 votes, in favor of a NO. The auditor says the ballots received are starting to drop to a trickle, with only 341 received yesterday. But the margin is 0.36%, small enough to trigger an automatic machine recount. [UPDATE: A commenter points out that the linked rule may not apply to local measures. I’ve sent an email to the Pierce County auditor to find out. See the correction.]

Chris Karnes at Tacoma Tomorrow has the city-by-city breakdown of numbers through Friday. Tacoma and the relatively prosperous places near the water are the ones leading on this issue. It’s also interesting to me that Joint Base Lewis-McChord is breaking against the measure given that the on-post shopping options aren’t subject to sales tax, and given how strongly it went for Sound Transit 2 in 2008.

52 Replies to “Pierce Transit Update”

  1. I read Tacoma Tomorrow’s excellent post on this this morning. Tacoma needs to break away from the rest of the county and start leveraging the support it has within the city’s boundaries. Establishing a TBD sounds like a great solution.

    Despite its many problems, Tacoma has always been dear to me and it’s heartbreaking to see its infrastructure ripped away.

    1. Tacoma needs to break away from the rest of the county and start leveraging the support it has within the city’s boundaries.

      Tacoma’s support may not be there if they have to go it alone. Instead of 9.8% everywhere it would be 9.8% in Tacoma and 8.9% everywhere else. Now there’s a proposition the car dealerships in Fife and Puyallup could get behind! You can bet merchandising outfits like the Tacoma Mall would be crying foul.

      1. There are more options than a sales tax which may only increase by 0.2%. An extra 0.2% isn’t going to scare away business.

      2. “An extra 0.2% isn’t going to scare away business.”

        But spun correctly, it will scare consumers and teabaggers.

      3. Meh. Small sales tax differences have happened in other places, and it makes relatively little difference to shopping patterns.

        Furthermore, how much can be saved in operations costs if you eliminate *all* the bus runs which cross the Tacoma (or if you prefer, Tacoma and Fircrest) borders? It appears that the measure either lost or came very close to losing everywhere else. So, for the sake of argument, consider a hypothetical Tacoma Transit.

        If you cut everything which crossed the border, you’d eliminate the:
        (the 497 is already going)

        and you’d truncate the:
        1 (would end at 96th St)
        2 (would end at Tacoma Community College)
        3 (would end at 74th St)
        45 (would end at 96th St)
        48 (would end at 96th & Steele)
        51 (would end at 74th St, roughly)
        53 (would have its route shortened to not enter University Place)
        55 (would end at 96th St)
        202 (would be Lakewood Dr – Portland Dr)
        300 (would end at 74th St, and should be made into the tail of some other trip)

        (And perhaps the 62 could be operated in conjunction with King County Metro.)

        Now, the remaining system map, truncated to the Tacoma city borders, should take far, far fewer service hours, even if you’re trying to run 7-day-a-week frequent service. Honestly it seems like a better system than the “reduced” Pierce Transit.

        This does raise a further point, though: the current system map is a bowl of spaghetti. What’s left after eliminating nearly all of the long runs could probably be reorganized into something much closer to a grid system, since most of Tacoma proper has a fairly good street grid.

        Well, it doesn’t seem to be under consideration, but it’s an interesting hypothetical. Tacoma Transit would probably be a lot healthier than Pierce Transit.

    2. And its also doubtful that tacoma could generate enough funds on its own to fully fund an adiquate level of service in the city of tacoma.

      1. You mean outlying areas have been subsidizing the City of Tacoma?

        Wonder why those outlying areas did not support this sales tax increase.

      2. Usually that’s the case. ST is no diffrent in Pierce County. South Hill gets taxed but has no ST service, Bonney Lake gets taxes and has only peak hour service, Individually, these areas are getting screwed, but as a whole they are benefiting from all the services that are being provided.

      3. Not to mention, MrZ, the economic driver is Tacoma, not the outlying areas. They only exist because of the employment centres in Tacoma, although, the exception to this is JBLM. But on the whole, that’s actually a drain to the region.

      4. On the list of top twenty employers in Pierce County (excluding military) the Longshore Union only comes in at 12th. Healthcare is far and away the largest provider of jobs. Tacoma General (Multicare) and St. Joe’s (Franciscan) are in the City. St. Clare’s (Franciscan) is in Lakewood and the huge Good Sam out in Puyallup is part of Multicare. UPS is in the City but PLU is in Parkland. Number 3 on the list, right after healthcare is the Emerald Queen which technically is on tribal land. Number four is the Boeing plant out in Fredrickson. Number five is Walmart which I don’t think has any of it’s stores inside the city limits. Next is Costco who’s stores are in Fife and Puyallup. Then State Farm which is down in DuPont. Noticably absent from the list are all the mills and smelters which were the backbone of Tacoma’s industry.

        JBLM. But on the whole, that’s actually a drain to the region.


      5. Bernie, most military bases encourage spawl by design and the incomes from them are very modest to low. They are poc marks on urban regions. It’s exactly why Pierce County is a wasteland.

      6. JBLM isn’t “most military bases”. It’s the largest military facility on the west coast. Military economic impact to the area:

        The military creates a stable source of employment and tax revenue for the local economies. In a 2004 report the Washington State Office of Financial Management found that Joint Base Lewis-McChord directly and indirectly account for over 74,000 jobs in Pierce County and over 87,000 statewide. The total impacts in terms of labor earnings sum to nearly $2.9 billion within Pierce County (about 30 percent of the county total wage disbursements) and nearly $3.4 billion statewide.

        Where are these great “employment centres in Tacoma” of which you speak?

      7. Bernie, you’re completely ignoring that the cost of the military base entirely outweighs its benefits. From an urbanist perspective, it’s a drain the county and spatial disaster.

    3. I do want to say separate from the negative impacts on Pierce County’s economic and built torm, JBLM planners deserve praise. They drafted guidelines for the whole of the DoD last year that are founded on New Urbanist principles, enviornmentally-friendly, and providing effecient services. Hopefully those can be implemented quickly at JBLM in particular.

      1. I’ll believe it when they build a gate from the base to the Sounder Station which is just the other side of the border.

  2. But the margin is 0.36%, small enough to trigger an automatic machine recount.

    There is not such trigger for Prop 1 because it’s not a race between candidates and it’s not a State wide measure. If someone wants a recount they have to request it and put up the money to pay for it. A recount can’t be requested until after the results are certified which I believe is in late November. I don’t know what happens if the vote tally comes down to an absolute tie. With candidates it is determined by drawing lots or a coin flip. That has happened in the past. With a proposition or measure I would suspect it would trigger a special election but I’m not sure.

    1. Ballot measures are not significant enough to trigger a recount. Even if it means life and death, job or no job, home or no home for some people, these kinds of things are so unimportant to the Pierce County government that they won’t even bother. But if you bring cash, then maybe they could arrange something…

  3. Pierce transit regulars worry as Prop 1 vote count winds down

    Pierce County Elections Officials say the final ballots will be counted Tuesday. If Prop. 1 fails, the transit service cuts will start in the spring of 2014.

    Why would they keep going full steam ahead toward the fiscal cliff. Wouldn’t a more reasonable approach be to implement cost cutting measures now so that a higher level of service can be maintained going forward. PT’s stance continues to be “I’m going to hold my breath until I die unless you give me what I want.” Spring of 2014 gives them 2 or 3 more shots at going back to voters. Of course by then revenue may be back close to pre-resession levels.

    1. The main reason is that their budget doesn’t start running a deficit until 2016.

      The impetus for the proposition was not to rescue the system, it was to restore it to how it operated previously.

      With the count so close, if it fails, expect another election, probably for 2/10ths to maintain the status quo.

      The TBD idea was thrown down through the ballot box, because the county council had lost the capacity to levy a councilmanic levy.

      1. The TBD idea was thrown down through the ballot box, because the county council had lost the capacity to levy a councilmanic levy.

        Didn’t they just lose that in the last election? Proposed Charter Amendment No. 40
        Requiring a Two-Thirds Vote of the Council to Levy or Increase a New Councilmanic Tax. It doesn’t take effect until January 1st 2013.

    2. According to the News Tribune, the reductions will be finished by Spring 2014 (November 6, 2012). If that is the case, they could begin as early as the next schedule change.

  4. Monday, November 12, 2012 4:41 PM the NO margin has crept back up slightly to 716 after counting what I calculated as about 10,000 more ballots. I think that leaves about 5,000 to report tomorrow. The percentage gap is only 0.36%. If my math’s right, the remaining ballots would have to come in ~57% YES for it to pass. That’s unlikely since even in Tacoma it was only winning with 53% of the votes. It’s certainly feasible though that a recount of selected precincts could tip the balance in the other direction.

  5. Puyallup is killing me.

    People, keep these results in mind next time you see or hear “Cars Cost Less in Puyallup.”

    It’s actually a good thing that cars do cost less in Puyallup because pretty soon a whole chunk of people that used to ride the bus will have to buy a car in Puyallup.

    1. Bus service has always been spotty and infrequent in Puyallup. There was a time when buses only ran every hour (including the 410, which comprised both the current 410 on 112th and what was once the 413-Wildwood) and the 402 down Meridian only went as far south as 160th. But then Puyallup’s basically Tacoma’s Bellevue; if you’re living out there, you better have your situation together to the point where you have what employers call “reliable transportation”.

  6. What I’m wondering is, why is PT’s responsibility defined in terms of a “service area”? Because the fact that a certain area is in the PT “service area” doesn’t necessarily mean anything. If you are in the “service area,” the route might be too far to walk, or it might be a peak-period directional route (or commuter route. Expect to see a lot more of these soon), when you want all day service.

    If PT is doing so poorly, and so insufficiently fulfills its responsibility in its areas that the concept of an area is laughable, then shouldn’t its responsibilities be defined on a route by route basis? Like, within 1/2 mile of each bus stop is its area. People in these areas should have to pay less if there’s only a commuter route nearby (like the 62), and should have to pay more if there are many routes nearby.

    In that case, it’s no wonder people want prop 1 to fail. Tacoma, which is priority for transit, has approved it, whereas Pacific, which is mostly in king county anyway, rejected it because it only has the silly little 497 (Which will remain the same despite the outcome. Why vote yes?). But Puyallup is weird.

    1. Service area = Taxing area = Area where funds can be spent on service. If an area is out of the service area, than by law you cannot spend funds generated in the service area to fund it (although there is general exception to the rule if its a major destination/transfer point like federal way).

  7. It’s to bad that everyone seems to care about Prop 1 now…Now that its loosing and I am pointing my finger at you STB! Your back handed endorsement is a tail tail sign of your lack of ability to see beyond the city limits of Seattle!

    1. Harsh! Last I checked STB stood for Seattle Transit Blog. Maybe should be pointing a finger at the Tacoma Tomorrow blog; land use advocacy from someone that lives in Tacoma and works in Redmond. Yeah, that’s easy on the planet, not. But I can understand why he wants a subsidized ride to work.

      1. The STB seems to address issues on a region-wide basis, not just the seattle microcosm of transit. Indeed, a quick scan of the headlines were issues about the state governor, Amtrak, Federal Way, Tacoma, and many more. One of the problems with the STB is they keep referring back to Metro and Sound Transit as the “models” and every agency is diffrent, with a diffrent situation.

      2. Hmm. If the person you refer to lives close enough to downtown Tacoma, he can get a subsidized ride to work entirely by train if East Link makes it to Overlake.

    1. Reality check. Gas today was down to $3.35/gal. Bus fare is what never goes back down. Right now it’s 35% more in bus fare than it is in gas to get to work. It’s 15 minutes to drive, 35 minutes to bike. Last time I took the bus it was 1 hour 40 minutes because the 255 was late which made me miss my connection at S. Kirkland P&R. It’s a 7 mile trip. 1:40 is competitive with walking, not driving or even biking. Peak oil, we will run out of gas in 1980 1990 2000 2010 when the sky actually falls.

      1. Bernie, here is your free lesson for today. Peak Oil does not equal “running out of gas”. Peak Oil equals the point of maximum oil production and results in price volitility for what, depending on the economy, could be a very long period of time.

      2. Now that peak oil *has happened*, the pattern is, oil prices go up; when they hit some level, people and companies switch away from oil (or there’s a recession); prices drop, but then start going back up again; repeat until nobody is using oil.

        It can’t happen fast enough, unfortunately.

    2. We can start by actually internalising the real cost of gasoline. I’m tired of subsidising poison. Carbon tax!!!!!

  8. There are a couple of routes that go into JBLM, so they’re part of the PTBA by default (though anyone who takes the bus into the base needs to have DoD credential). Besides, the on-base shops only have so much, so the troops on- and off-post end up going into the city to buy goods and services.

  9. Pierce Transit Prop 1 failure would mean fewer services

    downsizing earlier this year of the Pierce County Public Transportation Benefit Area Boundary that reduced the number of jurisdictions from 19 to 14, dropped the area’s square miles from 414 to 292 and cut the population served from 760,000 down to almost 557,000.

    That’s going from serving 1,836 people per square mile to 1,908 per square mile. Factor in reduced economies of scale and they like made the system less efficient. PT really is looking like an agency that requires a cold reboot.

    1. Bernie,

      I’m open to that idea, but how would it work, in practice? What does a “cold reboot” look like?

      1. What in the private sector would be a managed bankruptcy. When you reorganize, presumably with the goal of increased efficiency and fundamentally fail it seems clear to me that the basic management structure is inherently flawed. My guess is too many chiefs all protecting their own turf. Plus starting fresh gets you out from under the rock of past contracts and rules that stand in the way of actual reform. I’m not suggesting they default for instance on all debt such as retirement benefits and I doubt a court would ever allow that. But you might be able to say something like the county will contribute X dollars and that chapter is closed. At least you get all the skeletons out of the closet.

      2. Perhaps this proposal is something like a “cold reboot”: start Tacoma Transit; design a frequent-service grid system for the City of Tacoma (only), connecting outside the City only with Federal Way; raise taxes within Tacoma sufficient to provide service; purchase enough buses from Pierce Transit to run such a system, and hire enough people to operate it. Then pursue an orderly shutdown of Pierce Transit and an orderly startup of Tacoma Transit.

        The voting patterns are *informative*.

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