Pierce Transit riders said Monday they rely on buses and shuttles to go to school, buy food and see their loved ones.
They need more services, not less. And because of that, many of them urged the transit systems Board of Commissioners to put a measure that would raise the sales tax by three-tenths of 1 percent on the November ballot.
Bruce Beechum, of Tacoma, told Pierce Transit commissioners that he cant see his mother who lives at the Washington Soldiers Home in Orting. And he cant get to and from Seattle Mariners games on Sundays because bus service is limited, he said.
I wish Sunday service would improve, Beechum said.
The transit board held a public hearing Monday in Lakewood on its plan to put the sales tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Nobody spoke in opposition.
Pierce Transits Board of Commissioners reached consensus May 11 to go forward with a three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax increase.
Final board action is scheduled for next Monday. The measure would add three cents to every $10 purchase made within Pierce Transit boundaries, generating $28 million a year.
In February 2011, voters rejected a sales tax increase of the same size, which would have maintained Pierce Transits services with only a nominal increase in service hours.
Since then, Pierce Transit has slashed bus service by one-third, cut its work force by 18 percent and had its service area cut by 30 percent.
The new proposal would increase annual service hours from 417,000 to 580,000 over a smaller territory and add around $7 million for the replacement of buses in the first year.
If the transit board sends it to the ballot and a majority of voters approve, the transit sales tax will increase from six-tenths of 1 percent to nine-tenths of 1 percent the maximum allowed by state law.
The Rev. Maria Johnson, a longtime shuttle rider, told the board she voted for the tax hike 16 months ago and would vote for it again.
She said the cutbacks have hurt transit service for military widows to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
These are women who have served their country, Johnson told the crowd of about 50 people at the Pierce Transit Training Center.
Johnson, who is legally blind, said she needs to go shopping at the base exchange and commissary with her mother, a military widow. But they can only catch a shuttle to shop on the McChord side of the base for an hour on weekdays and not at all on weekends, Johnson said.
Sam Roberts is studying at Pierce Colleges Fort Steilacoom campus in Lakewood. He said catching a bus home to Tacoma for night classes is a problem. The last bus leaves at 7:58 p.m., he said.
Amanda OKeefe said patients at the health care facility where she works depend on Pierce Transit to receive nursing care. She urged the transit board to put the measure on the ballot to maintain services.
Its a big help to us, OKeefe said.
Two public officials the mayor of Steilacoom and a Sumner city councilwoman offered qualified support for the tax hike during the half-hour hearing.
Even though hes a strong supporter of public transit, Puyallup resident James Arsenault criticized Pierce Transit for doing an abysmal job of explaining what services the latest proposal would pay for.
Arsenault said he fears if the transit system doesnt communicate its plan better to the public, the proposed tax increase would be defeated again.
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