Pierce Transit’s Proposition 1 was closely defeated Nov. 6, and now a detailed analysis of service reductions and a public process will take place before reductions are implemented.
“The (Pierce Transit) board has asked staff to develop plans to implement cuts in September 2013 or February 2014,” said Lars Erickson, spokesperson for Pierce Transit. “We’re not allowed to make cuts right out of the gate.”
Federal law dictates an analysis must vet the proposed reductions to ensure low-income and minorities are not disproportionately treated. September 2013 and February 2014 are the two possible times for implementation because they are set aside regularly for any system-wide changes.
“We will bring plans to the board for either of those timing scenarios,” Erickson said.
Pierce Transit staff members will present detailed timelines of either scenario before the board of directors on Jan. 14. Once a timeline is established, a two-month analysis will begin.
Afterward, Pierce Transit will bring finalized reductions to public forums, where people will have a chance to provide feedback.
Lynne Griffith, Pierce Transit CEO, said many public meetings will be held during the first part of the year.
“We hope that there is robust public input as these plans go out to communities,” Griffith said.
Erickson said the agency is reaching out to its partners to seek space to hold open houses.
“People can review plans and submit comments in writing, and there will be public hearings in front of the board,” Erickson said.
In mid-September, Erickson said the agency saw some improvements in service provided.
“Our union came back and accepted zero wage increases over a three-year period,” he said.
Other union concessions that helped to bring back some service hours included increased contributions to the health care plan. But Erickson said the agency is still facing deep cuts.
Based on a September 2013 model, Erickson said the service plan would see a 34 percent reduction, down to 275,000 annual service hours. On a February 2014 model, Erickson said that reduction would be slightly deeper at 36 percent, down to 268,000 annual service hours.
Erickson said the sooner the agency decides to implement the cuts, the better the savings will be.
“There are pros and cons between September 2013 and February 2014,” he said. “You gain that many more hours, and more time in general. Waiting until February 2014 allows people to make that decision whether they need to move where there is better service or find a new job.”
During the past two months, Erickson said some transit users have expressed anxiety about their future.
“We want to make sure that they understand the process, and that they are able to really understand what their service will look like,” he said.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.