East Pierce cities on cusp of new transit lines

Pierce Transit board will decide fate of new routes in Fife, Edgewood and Milton in meeting Monday

Staff writerNovember 17, 2013 

Leaders from Fife, Edgewood and Milton want more local stops for transit users in their cities and better service to the Puyallup Sounder station.

That’s what they’ll get if Pierce Transit’s board adopts a plan Monday to spend about $1 million to operate two “community connector” routes for 12 months starting in mid-February.

The agency’s latest proposal for tailored service would add two loop routes with shuttle vehicles.

One would run daily and connect Fife, Milton and Edgewood, stopping at or near libraries, grocery stores, a food bank operation and a post office.

The second would run on weekdays between Fife and the Puyallup Sounder Station, transporting commuters for scheduled train departures and arrivals. That route includes a connector loop in Fife.

What Pierce Transit is proposing is precisely what elected leaders from the three cities told the agency they wanted, said Milton Mayor Debra Perry.

“I am excited,” Perry said. “I think it’s going to work.”

The improvements will cost about $1 million, but because of reductions to a related bus route, the net cost will be $759,886, according to Pierce Transit.

The agency will charge its normal fares for the community connectors. The shuttles can hold up to 24 people, standing room included.

Pierce Transit is able to add services primarily because of increased sales tax revenues.

Last spring, when the agency was planning a major service cut, the city councils for Fife, Milton and Edgewood adopted a joint resolution rejecting cuts to their routes. Led by transit board member and Fife council member Glenn Hull, they proposed a “circulator” route connecting underserved areas to major transit corridors.

In 2011, the three cities paid roughly $4 million in combined taxes to the agency and received about $2.75 million in combined value of services.

Perry said Thursday that the cities never threatened to pull out of Pierce Transit’s system.

“But if you leave us no option, we’re not going to pay for something we’re not going to get,” she said.

This year’s major cut in the transit system’s annual service hours never took place. Pierce Transit’s board rescinded the 31 percent service reduction in late July because the agency’s sales tax revenue increased beyond projections.

But service hours for Fife, Milton and Edgewood were cut in 2011 as part of a 35 percent reduction across Pierce Transit’s system after voters rejected a sales tax increase.

The new connector routes would add a net total of 5,030 service hours during the year they run. It’s unclear how many hours of service the three cities lost during the 2011 cuts.

Leaders for Fife, Edgewood and Milton this year asked for more frequent service with more stops for those who depend on the bus as their sole means of transportation, Perry said.

They also wanted service for commuters that lines up with the Sounder schedule.

“We have to make it appealing for commuters not to take their cars,” Perry said.

The Sounder commuter train runs between Lakewood and Seattle.

Fife Mayor Rob Cerqui said the added service will be good for his city’s residents and businesses.

“I think it will be an improvement,” Cerqui said. “I hope that it will work great and it will continue.”

The proposal would result in some schedule changes for two Pierce Transit bus routes.

Four weekday trips on Route 402, which includes Milton/Edgewood and the Puyallup station, would be adjusted to connect with the Sounder schedule.

Some weekday and weekend trips on Route 501 between downtown Tacoma and the Federal Way Transit Center — via Fife and Edgewood — would be eliminated. Riders of the community connectors could transfer to other routes to reach Tacoma or Federal Way.

IF YOU GO

What: Weighing “community connector” routes for Fife, Milton and Edgewood.

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.

ALSO MONDAY

The Pierce Transit Board could adopt another tailored service project.

Called “custom bus” service, it would transport employees of the Western Institutional Review Board from Olympia to Puyallup, where the private business is relocating. To avoid a not-in-service trip from the agency’s Lakewood base to Olympia, Pierce Transit also would add an early-morning express route from the University Place Town Center Park & Ride to Olympia.

The total cost for the six-month project, which would start next month, is $203,889.

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647
steve.maynard@thenewstribune.com
@TNTstevemaynard

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