Pierce Transit changes course, won't pay for marketing help for now

Staff writerApril 24, 2014 

Pierce Transit has reversed course and won’t be spending up to $450,000 to improve the agency’s public image for now.

Board Chairman Rick Talbert pulled the proposal from consideration Wednesday in response to public complaints.

“The last thing we want to do is further alienate the people we’re trying to reach,” Talbert said Thursday.

Talbert said he had received a few dozen phone calls and emails critical of the plan since a story on it appeared in The News Tribune Tuesday.

“The legitimate criticism is how is it you can afford this when you can’t afford to provide services,” said Talbert, a Pierce County Council member.

Chief Executive Officer Lynne Griffith said she agreed with Talbert’s decision.

She said her agency received just a couple of phone calls questioning why the money wasn’t being spent on more service hours.

“I’m inclined to agree with customers,” Griffith said. “It’s more important to put the service out there."

Both she and Talbert said they were not surprised the public criticism.

“I think we anticipated that this would be the reaction,” Talbert said.

Talbert said two board members also voiced concern about moving forward with the three-year public relations contract at the next board meeting May 12.

Talbert said he still believes it’s important for the agency to study what nonriders as well as riders expect from the transit system.

But he has removed the proposal from the May 12 agenda.

“I don’t think it’s worth pushing it through right now when there’s no immediate pressing need,” Talbert said. “I just don’t see the rush and need to further confuse the public.”

The proposal was to spend $150,000 already designated in this year’s budget for the consulting work. The contract would have included options to renew for the following two years, not to exceed a total of $450,000.

Griffith has said $150,000 would fund about 1,000 service hours annually. Pierce Transit is increasing service hours this year to 427,717.

That's still dramatically lower than the 617,000 hours that were in effect in 2008 before voters twice rejected sales tax measures.

Griffith said Pierce Transit would review putting the $150,000 already in the budget toward more service hours for this year.

“It’s not going to make a notable difference,” Griffith said.

Talbert and three other members of the board’s finance committee unanimously recommended April 17 contracting with Moore & Associates of Valencia, California, for public relations and marketing help.

Griffith said she would like to put off that contract this year and take up the matter later for next year’s budget.

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