Pierce Transit to restart Puyallup fair service

Agency’s board also votes to boost service inside the city, starting in June, with a community connector route

steve.maynard@thenewstribune.comMarch 11, 2014 

Pierce Transit will provide bus service to the Washington State Fair in Puyallup this year for the first time since 2010.

In another gain for Puyallup, the agency’s board also decided Monday to boost service inside the city by starting a “community connector” route, similar to a Fife-Milton-Edgewood connector that began last month.

The yearlong demonstration project connecting local health care facilities, City Hall, the library and other locations in Puyallup will start in June at an annual expense of $864,000.

Board members were especially enthusiastic about restarting service to the fair, which was eliminated due to systemwide service cuts.

Riders will be able to catch buses to the fair Sept. 5-21 from the South Hill Mall and Lakewood Towne Center, plus either Tacoma Community College or the Tacoma Dome Station. The Tacoma locations are unresolved.

Fares will be set at Pierce Transit’s regular rates of $2 for adults, 75 cents for youths 6 to 18 years old, and free for age 5 and younger.

The Washington State Fair is paying up to $150,000 of the cost. Pierce Transit’s expense of $190,560 would be partly offset by fares.

Chairman Rick Talbert said adding the service is a way to “re-engage” taxpayers who don’t use Pierce Transit regularly.

When the agency cut the fair service due to declining revenue, “we heard from many folks who (said) this was their only direct experience of Pierce Transit,” said Talbert, a Pierce County Council member from Tacoma.

“It saddened me when it went away a few years back,” said board member and Steilacoom Town Council member Nancy Henderson.

The fair service will be less than what Pierce Transit has provided in the past. In 2007, it operated 3,630 hours of service for the fair. This September, it will provide 2,365 hours.

While Puyallup gained service on two fronts Monday, it lost on another.

Because of lower-than-budgeted ridership, the board voted to end “custom bus” service at the end of a six-month trial in June for employees of a business that relocated from Olympia to Puyallup.

Workers from that company, the Western Institutional Review Board, are using other transportation, including their own cars, or have left the company, Pierce Transit said. Passengers per trip has dropped to below 20. The cost for the six-month trial will be about $219,115.

Board members expressed disappointment at cutting one of Pierce Transit’s first demonstration projects, which had been budgeted for a year.

“Sometimes it doesn’t work out the way we hoped,” Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said.

The board Monday also resolved the status of vanpool service, deciding to continue operating it on a countywide basis. The board had considered reducing or contracting out vanpool service but decided to leave it as is.

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

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