Bus service around Pierce County will increase by thousands of hours starting this weekend as Pierce Transit expands its routes significantly for the first time since deep cuts were made nearly five years ago.
Starting Sunday, the transit fleet will run an additional 12,000 service hours per year, with 20 different routes running more frequently on weekends and three high-demand routes on weekdays.
Details for increased weekend service can be found online at piercetransit.org/pierce-transit-routes.
Weekday routes will grow on Route 402 serving the Meridian corridor between East Pierce County and Federal Way and on Route 500 between downtown Tacoma and Federal Way. In addition, a new Route 4 will consolidate routes and increase bus frequency between Lakewood and the Puyallup/South Hill area.
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“The new Route 4 will provide bus riders with a faster and more frequent trip getting across mid-county,” Rick Talbert, Pierce Transit’s board chairman, said in a statement.
The increase in hours is the latest sign of Pierce Transit’s rebound from budget cuts, but the agency is still not providing nearly the service it did before the economic recession. Buses will be on the road 443,000 hours per year, compared with a peak of 621,000 annual hours in 2007. Voters rejected two attempted transit sales tax increases in 2011 and 2012.
Last December, an expansion plan for 16,000 additional hours was approved by the transit board as part of its $160.8 million budget for 2015. The board authorized 4,000 of those hours to go into effect immediately, with the remaining 12,000 hours finalized this spring.
The changes coming this weekend are in addition to trips already added to address delays caused by state work to widen Interstate 5. The estimated cost of those extra trips and other service likely to be added as the project continues over the next two years: a bit less than $1 million. The agency asked the state to bear that cost, but the Legislature didn’t include the money in a state transportation budget it approved last week.
That omission apparently won’t affect riders. Pierce Transit can absorb the cost without cutting service elsewhere, an agency spokesman said.