Milton, Fife and Edgewood have adopted a joint resolution rejecting Pierce Transits planned service cuts in the three cities. Instead, they propose an alternate route in hopes of softening the blow for riders in the area.
The Milton City Council unanimously approved the resolution last week rejecting the agencys plan, part of a sweeping 28-percent transit cutback across Pierce County set to take effect in September. The Fife and Edgewood city councils approved the resolution in May.
Their joint proposal now moves to the Pierce Transit board for review Monday at the same time the board could take action on its countywide reduction plan.
Affected routes in Milton, Fife and Edgewood include Routes 402 and 501, which link the three cities to transit centers in Federal Way, Puyallup and downtown Tacoma.
Its a pretty significant blow to the communities, especially when you are talking about our most vulnerable citizens, said Glenn Hull, a Fife councilman who represents all three cities on the Pierce Transit board.
According to Pierce Transit data from 2011, the most recent figures available, Milton, Fife and Edgewood paid roughly $4 million in combined taxes to the agency and received about $2.75 million in combined value of services. That discrepancy could increase if the planned service reductions are implemented in September, Hull said.
In comparison, Tacoma received about $44 million in services and paid roughly $23 million in taxes to the agency, according to the data.
Basically, were not getting what we pay for, Milton Mayor Debra Perry said at last weeks meeting.
Perrys and Hulls concerns echo those of four other East Pierce cities that pulled out of transit district boundaries last year. But Perry said it is too early to talk about leaving the agency.
We are trying to work closely with Pierce Transit, she said.
To that end, Hull said the three cities are proposing a so-called circulator route, an attempt to connect already underserved areas to major transit corridors, both in developed and soon-to-be developed areas. He said the hope is to restructure Route 501 and link businesses, single and multifamily homes, as well as key shopping and civic centers.
Pierce Transit is noncommittal at this point about the circulator route idea.
The agencys proposed cuts would significantly reduce the frequency of service in Milton, Fife and Edgewood and in some cases completely eliminate weekend service in the North and East Pierce County communities.
Beyond the cuts to bus routes, paratransit service in the three cities also would take a hit. Shuttles rely on having a fixed route within three quarters of a mile, and the cuts would affect the availability of that service for seniors and people with disabilities.
Collectively, Hull said, Fife, Milton and Edgewood provide a strong voice that represents a population of roughly 30,000 who count on transit service to meet basic needs.
But Perry said the trio of cities had to fight for a seat on the Pierce Transit board last year, before Hull was voted into the new position in May. Board vice chairman Rick Talbert, however, said board members went out of their way to broaden representation and that other jurisdictions gave up seats.
The board is made up of nine voting members from various jurisdictions that receive service.
Pierce Transit spokeswoman Carol Mitchell said the board planned to take action on the countywide service reduction plan on Monday, but its unclear how the recent proposal of the circulator route will affect the boards action.
Mitchell said the agency needs to gather ridership data and public input to be sure the cities proposal makes sense.
This evaluation and planning process may not move as quickly as some may wish, but we have already and will continue to work closely with elected officials and staff from the three cities to find meaningful solutions, she said in an email. We want service restored as much as they do.
Officials from the three cities say they want Pierce Transit to find the middle ground between deliberation and urgency.
We absolutely understand the problems and the limitations, but we dont agree with their plan. We think there is a better way, Perry said.
If the board rejects the circulator route, city officials say the next step is unknown. However, one option is for the cities to pull out of Pierce Transit boundaries and take their tax revenue with them.
East Pierce bus service started taking hits two years ago when the first of two Pierce Transit sales tax measures failed. Faced with declining service, Bonney Lake, Sumner, Orting and Buckley asked to be removed from the boundaries.
The second tax measure failed last November, leading to the most recent service cuts in the shrinking district.
Hull said Pierce Transit currently prioritizes high-density areas such as Tacoma, an approach that could continue to drive out lower-populated cities. If the agency doesnt rethink that philosophy, he said, it risks shrinking further.
The cities have sent this message, both publicly and privately, over the last few months, Hull said. The agency now has a choice. They can either adapt or continue on the path theyre on.
Officials say transit is a vital resource for cities that fall on a major Interstate 5 corridor, not only for residents but for everyone in the region.
Others outside Milton, Fife and Edgewood are taking notice.
Puyallup Mayor Rick Hansen said his city of about 37,000 people a major transit point in the affected corridor has been in discussions with Fife on how to improve service in light of the cuts. His primary concern is maintaining connections between neighboring cities, including Milton and Edgewood.
There are lots of things we do in common, Hansen said. We want to be a good neighbor, and that includes maintaining connections.
Kari Plog: 253-597-8682
IF YOU GO
What: Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners will vote on a 28 percent cut in bus service that would take effect Sept. 29.
When: 4 p.m. Monday.
Where: Rainier Room, Pierce Transit Training Center, 3720 96th St. SW, Lakewood.
More information: piercetransit.org, 253-581-8000.
BIG CUTS FOR 3 CITIES
Route 402: Pierce Transit has proposed altering the frequency of the Milton-Federal Way Transit Center segment from one hour to every two hours on weekdays and eliminating all Federal Way service on weekends.
Route 501: Pierce Transit has proposed eliminating all weekend service and modifying weekday routes, providing buses only during peak travel times.
In addition: Pierce Transit initially proposed cutting a vital link to Federal Way on weekdays, but that was modified to include a route to the Federal Way Park & Ride via state Route 18 to accommodate World Vision and Weyerhaeuser employees.