Pierce Transit has decided it wants to restore some Saturday and Sunday bus service to a plan that would eliminate all weekend routes in September.
Riders have cried out for weekend service since the agency’s board voted last month to cut service by 34 percent starting in September as a result of the defeat of a proposed sales tax increase last year. That plan included eliminating all Saturday and Sunday bus and shuttle service.
“People want access to anything on the weekend,” said Pierce Transit spokesman Lars Erickson. “Even if it’s stretched thin, anything would help.”
The agency now proposes putting back 17,000 annual service hours on Saturdays. That’s 43 percent of the Saturday hours provided now.
It also would bring back 9,000 hours on Sundays – 29 percent of current Sunday service hours.
Some shuttle service for people with disabilities would be restored as well.
“That’s obviously good news,” said board vice chairman Rick Talbert. “Everything we can do to keep as much service as we can now makes the most sense.”
Since the board’s decision in January, the agency has identified $25.7 million it would shift from its budgets over the next 10 years to pay for weekend service, Erickson said. The shifts include forgoing construction of a $10 million maintenance building for shuttles and vans.
The agency also would operate buses longer – extending their “useful life” from 14 to 16 years. That would divert another $9.5 million for weekend service, Erickson said.
“In some regards you’re robbing from one area to cover another area,” said Talbert, a Pierce County Council member. “Eventually we’re going to have to deal with that, too.”
“Both of these items are taking money from the future to pay for service today,” Erickson said.
Although the system is shrinking now, Erickson cautioned there is a risk that Pierce Transit might not have enough buses to meet its needs in the future.
The total cutback in service hours would be reduced from 34 percent to 28 percent, Erickson said. Annual service hours would be cut from 417,000 currently to 300,000.
The agency’s board is expected to take action on the revision Monday.
The elimination of all weekend service was a major drawback among members of the public and some on the board at its meeting Jan. 14. In comments, they stressed that people need transportation to go to work and church on the weekends.
Laurie Alvaro, who lives in Lakewood and works in Fife, told the board she can’t afford a car or taxi.
Without weekend or holiday service, “how am I supposed to get to work?”
The board, comprised of elected officials from other local governments, voted 6-2 to cut service by 34 percent, effective Sept. 29 – including all holiday and weekend service.
The agency’s new proposal does not restore any holiday service.
The weekend service would be added back while maintaining about the same level of Monday-through-Friday service in the cutbacks approved last month. The board also will have the option of restoring the same amount of weekend hours – 26,000 – back to Monday-through-Friday service, instead of to the weekends.
Pierce Transit had projected weekend and holiday service would be eliminated if voters failed to approve an additional three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax in November. After that ballot measure was narrowly defeated, the agency has been developing and revising proposals for cutbacks.
The board won’t take a final vote to implement the reductions until June.
Fare increase may be in store for vanpool users
Pierce Transit is proposing changes that will affect riders in vanpools and will eliminate some vanpools entirely.
The transit agency wants to increase vanpool fares by $5, to $55 a month per person, depending on the number of riders and commute distance. In addition, it plans to start charging vanpools that cross the eastbound Tacoma Narrows bridge the $4 toll the agency now pays. It also wants to require that vanpools either start or end inside Pierce Transit’s boundaries, which were reduced last year.
About 30 of 300 vanpools could be eliminated, spokesman Lars Erickson said. About 50 other vanpools outside the agency’s boundaries could transfer to Kitsap Transit or King County Metro Transit or change their origin to within Pierce Transit’s service area, Erickson said.
Pierce Transit wants vanpool users and their employers – both government agencies and companies – to cover more than the 58 percent of vanpool costs they currently are paying for, Erickson said.
The board will hold a hearing on the proposal Monday and is scheduled to take action on the vanpool fare hike at its March meeting.
IF YOU GO
What: Restoring some weekend service to planned cuts for Pierce Transit.
Who: Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners.
When: 4 p.m. Monday.
Where: Rainier Room, Pierce Transit Training Center, 3720 96th St. SW, Lakewood.
Info: piercetransit.org, 253-581-8000.
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647