Late last night word started spreading on Twitter that Pierce Transit was cancelling ALL of their planned 28% service cuts and most of the planned 84 layoffs.   It appears that so far this is NOT a mistimed April Fools prank; from the Tacoma News Tribune:

Pierce Transit said Wednesday it intends to cancel a 28-percent cut in service hours that had been planned for Sept. 29 and maintain current operations because of increased sales tax revenue.

The agency also said it intends to forego eliminating nearly all of the 84 positions that had been slated to be cut in the fall.

The turnabout is due to an 11-percent increase in sales tax revenue during the first four months of this year, said Chief Executive Officer Lynne Griffith.

While certainly great news, it is important to keep in mind that these would have been just the latest series of devastating cuts to PT, the agency will need to ADD at least 35% more hours just to get back to pre-recession service levels.  We are currently looking into the details of this rapid turnaround, expect a more in depth post in the future.

30 Replies to “Pierce Transit Backs Away from Edge”

  1. While it is good news that the cuts won’t have to happen, it’s really going to damage their credibility. They’ve been sounding alarms over this for quite a while and to then just turn around and say “nevermind” is going to be remembered the next time they say they need revenue.

    And there will of course be some that apply this example to Metro’s own funding shortfall and potential 17% cuts.

    1. As bad as it looks to cry wolf, I think it shows that PT management is making a conscious effort to put the needs of their ridership ahead of the perceptions of naysayers. They could have just as easily gone ahead with the planned cuts and stashed away the 11 percent windfall in their reserve account.

    2. You’re holding PT to an impossible standard. PT can’t predict future economic developments any more than anyone else can. Will the next six months be influenced more by private-sector dynamism, the sequester, or a euro meltdown? How much change in revenue and employment will each of these cause?

      1. You mean they can’t do the job required of every private company that wants to be successful? That is, read the tea leaves and make the right call more often than not.

      2. Bernie,

        Complex macroeconomic predictions are hard. Most companies can make predictions based on the individual demand for their products — and yet, they still get it wrong often, as you can see from the many companies that miss their earnings targets each quarter.

        But Metro has to predict sales tax revenue, which effectively means that they have to predict the demand for *every* product that *every* company sells.

        If there were an economist who was able to do that, why would they be working for a local transit agency, rather than the White House?

      3. It’s really not rocket surgery. It’s not like picking a lotto number; close is good enough and that’s why you have reserve funds. It’s a lot easier for a government agency that doesn’t even have to earn a profit than it is for a private company. You look at the unemployment rate and you look at median income. KC Metro for years was in the mode of trying to figure out how much they could continually add because of the tech and real estate bubble instead of working out what they really needed to provide and… maybe actually reducing the funding percentage instead of just leaving it pegged at max.

    3. Metro’s own funding shortfall and potential 17% cuts.

      Metro has never had a funding shortfall. The threatened 17% “cuts” are the end of temporary increased service funded by windfall mitigation funding for SR-99 and 520 construction. That and the standard government issue of a reduction in planned increases being called a “cut”. PT has actually been hit hard by a reduction in sales tax revenue. King County; not so much. It was flat for a few years (decrease in the planned for logarithmic bubble increases) but it’s more than recovered from “the great resession”. And guess what, if there’s a huge decrease in the number of people commuting because they are unemployeed you don’t need to increase bus service!

  2. With the increased revenue coming in will it have any effect on link’s expansion south?

    1. Link is Sound transit and this wont affect that. It will be intresting to see if the gig harbor trolley stays and if similar trolley/circulator services like what puyallup and fife/milton want get started as replacements for the traditional fixed route currently offered

      1. Not exactly. If PT is getting more sales tax than they expected ST likely is too. How much more is the big question. It certainly won’t be enough to bring all of the ST2 projects back though.

      2. As long as the businesses in Gig Harbor pony up the money, they’ll keep running the trolley. I’d imagine they’d do the same anywhere — there’s something about alternatively funded services in PT’s new strategic plan.

        (Meanwhile, those trolleys sure remind me of the one the Lakewood Mall had tooling around their parking lot many, many years ago.)

      3. The trolley is simply a ride for people to take their children on once a year – a ride which nearly every user is expected to drive to. It is, in no way, serious transportation.

      4. The trolley is also cannibalizing most of the ridership from the existing routed service. All of Route 100 from Kimball Drive south has been detoured onto Highway 16 with a forced transfer to the trolley if you wish to get anywhere in town. Riding from Tacoma to anywhere in Gig Harbor is now less convenient (of course, that may have been intentional!)

      5. The goal of service to Gig Harbor has never been to produce a service that anyone would ride. The goal is to produce a service at the absolute lowest possible cost so that a Gig Harbor resident whose car breaks down (and whose friends and relatives that would normally drive them around are busy at work) isn’t completely stranded. That’s a very low bar to achieve.

      6. @asdf I believe The Trolley demonstration project set out to prove the viability of offering an alternative tailored service to the community, focused on providing local circulator type service. Instead of providing a full through fixed route service, they wanted something “cute” making the rounds around Downtown. And from PT’s press release I would say that it is exceeding its expectations. The one time I have ridden it, it was also doing quite well for itself.

  3. This damages their credibility beyond belief, and it probably damages King County metro’s credibility as well. You can only cry wolf so many times.

    1. I think that really gets to the crux of the issue — the agencies are not presenting a unified advocacy front. Metro, PT, and CT all had different rescue plans they were lobbying for in this last session. (Hell, I think Kitsap Transit was even in there asking for some kind of a loophole so they can run foot ferries that no one wants.) The dysfunctional funding mechanism for transit effects *all* urbanized areas in the state, not just Metro.

      1. But some public officials (47 mayors across the state, for example) did present a unified front to the legislature. It is a shame that the agencies did not do the same, though.

    2. Should PT have just assumed the economy would improve until the checks start bouncing? Agencies have to plan a year ahead based on known trends, and have to err on the conservative side to avoid running out of money if things don’t go as well as expected.

      1. Which is why I personally think the September cuts should go ahead as planned. Allowing for the cash reserves to be built back up so that incase the economy tanks again, PT is not back in this situation. This also gives time for planning to rebuild the system. I hate to say it, but I think the future of PT may reside in gimmicky services like the Gig Harbor Trolley, and other circulator/alternative service routes around the suburban cities.

      2. Hopefully their preliminary budget work has shown that even with rescinding the cuts, there is still enough left over to put in reserves. With an 11 percent jump in tax revenues, that sounds plausible. If the board is doing their job correctly, they would make sure that was the case before approving the plan.

  4. Gee, from 53% to 0%? While this is fantastic news for PC transit users, I am now convinced that PT was lying through their teeth. Because of 11% increased revenue, they can scrap 28% cuts? It just doesn’t add up.

    1. According to the article, they’re still projecting a 10% (39,000 hour) cut in June 2014.

      1. Yeah, you’re right. At the end of the day, it is 10%. It seems that back in August when they made the initial prediction, they intentionally excluded ways to make things efficient in order to put a big red “53% cuts” on the ballot, because they were certain that it would pass (everyone thought that it would).

        But I am happy to see them work it down. The reductions went from 53% to 38% to 28% to 10%, and I am hopeful by next year, sales tax will improve enough to bring them to bring the reductions to 0%, and maybe start building service back. Another difference between then and now is now Buckley and Prarie Ridge are gone. Back when they were still in the district, PT actually made more money than they spent (hence, why they wanted to leave PT), so if they had simply upped service levels on routes 496, 406 and 407 to match the revenue from those cities and sandboxed the revenue from the cities from the rest of the county, then that wouldn’t have any adverse effect on the rest of the system, and in the long run, would provide service to as much people as possible.

        The good news is that Lynne Griffith seems to be more mature about running the agency than she used to be, which is important, because her next job is to lead the agency down the long, windy road of rebuilding trust and credibility with the county. Maybe then, she can float the 0.3% tax increase. And that day is going to be awesome.

      2. PT has one cut they really need to make, Lynne Griffith. It used to be a reasonably well run agency. Time to render the Portland Pork. When a private company makes colossally bad business decisions the CEO gets the ax. Time to make bacon from a lemon.

    2. There are economies of scale involved, so the numbers are perfectly plausible.

  5. I’d still take the cuts first, though, which puts them in a better position if there were any future calamities. It would have been better to do that and then rescind the June 2014 cut instead.

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