Pierce Transits board voted Monday night to cut service by 34 percent starting in September as a result of the defeat of a proposed sales-tax increase.
The board also debated a pair of options to cut sooner (in June) or later (in February 2014) but chose a middle course.
During two hours of deliberations, board chairwoman and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland stressed that the decision was difficult. No matter what we do, were going to have to take service away from some of our riders, she said.
The board voted 6-2 to adopt a timeline and a plan to make the cuts effective Sept. 29. The board is comprised of elected officials from other local governments.
The cutbacks wont be as drastic as what the agency had projected in mailers sent to voters before the Nov. 6 election. Pierce Transit said in those cards that annual service hours would be reduced by 53 percent if voters failed to approve an additional three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax.
Pierce Transit attributed the better outlook to union concessions and improved sales-tax revenues in the second half of 2012.
The reductions mean:
• Weekend and holiday service will be eliminated, as projected before the election.
• Weekday evening service after 7 p.m. will be reduced but not entirely eliminated as was stated in the mailers.
• On most routes, mid-day or peak-hour service wont be cut as severely as predicted.
The options to cut annual service hours ranged from about 32.5 percent if they were implemented in June, up to 36 percent if delayed until February 2014.
Some on the board leaned toward supporting Pierce Transits staff recommendation to make all the cuts in June a late-developing option the agency introduced Friday. Chief Executive Officer Lynne Griffith said the agency changed its recommendation because it could save an additional 7,000 service hours by moving it up three months.
Doug Middleton, vice president of operations, said bus operators have been quitting at an accelerated rate one a week since the sales-tax proposal was narrowly defeated in November. Operators with less seniority and less job security are quitting at a rate that will leave the agency short 30 to 40 drivers in September, Middleton said.
But board members voiced support for September over June to provide more time for riders to prepare and for officials to study the impact of the cuts.
Steve Vermillion, a Transit Board member who also sits on the Puyallup City Council, said he favored September as the best option for balancing quality of life with a business decision.
The two no votes were cast by vice chairman Rick Talbert, a Pierce County Council member, and Kent Keel, a University Place City Council member.
Talbert favored waiting until February. Its a human decision, he said. The implication for the riders is life-changing.
Keel said he wanted to see if weekend hours could be saved from the cuts.
Several transit users spoke out against cutting service on weekends. Laurie Alvaro, who lives in Lakewood and works in Fife, said she cant afford a car or taxi.
She asked board members: Without weekend or holiday service, how am I supposed to get to work?
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647