Pierce Transit is moving forward with a $3 million plan to spruce up three transit centers and one of its main Park & Rides, facilities that haven’t had a substantial overhaul in the decades since they were built.
The agency’s board voted this week to authorize initial work on the projects, and Pierce Transit officials hope to employ consultants with expertise in electrical systems and architecture by the end of the year to begin designing improvements.
Work probably will not start until spring 2017 and continue through that summer, said Clint Steele, a senior project manager with Pierce Transit.
Targeted facilities are the transit centers at 72nd Street and Portland Avenue, Tacoma Community College and the Tacoma Mall.
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The agency’s Park & Ride at state Route 512 and South Tacoma Way is on the list for improvements as well.
“We have a number of transit centers and Park & Rides,” Steele said. “These floated to the top as being in the worst shape.”
Steele rattled off a litany of troubles:
▪ Deteriorating wood beams holding up the roofs of passenger shelters.
▪ Missing or damaged pull-down seats in shelters.
▪ Rutted and cracked concrete and asphalt on bus approaches and parking areas.
▪ Antiquated fluorescent lighting in many fixtures.
▪ Faded and peeling paint throughout the facilities.
Bad lighting was a particular complaint among riders who participated in a recent survey, Steele said. Many of the fluorescent fixtures are stained or damaged, he said.
“We’re not getting quite the lighting from them as we did when they were new,” Steele said.
And they were new a long time ago.
The 72nd Street and Portland Avenue transit center was built in 1995, the Tacoma Mall center in 1985, the Tacoma Community College Center in 1984 and the state Route 512 Park & Ride in 1988.
Agency spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said that while the facilities have been routinely maintained, there have been no major renovations since their construction, and they’ve begun to show their ages.
That’s become a problem, according to a report on the projects submitted to the board before its vote.
“Through recent customer satisfaction surveys, Pierce Transit has become aware that the state of the transit centers has and is impacting (customer) satisfaction and sense of safety,” the report states.
“When people do not feel safe or they view a facility as run down, trashed, ugly or unmaintained, their trust in the rest of the organization soon follows. The same is true for the surrounding community and businesses who want to encourage their employees and customers to use public transportation.”
Steele said the work will wait until next year to take advantage of the better bidding climate inherent at the beginning of the year and a complete spring-summer construction season.
The agency is developing plans for opening temporary facilities for riders while the work is underway, he said.
The Pierce Transit board decided earlier this year, with staff members’ input, to tap the agency’s swollen reserve account to start fixing up what’s called “outward facing” facilities, Japhet said.
Improvements to the transit centers and Park & Ride are the first major item on the list. The agency also intends to repair or refurbish hundreds of bus shelters on its routes.
“During the economic downturn, the decision was made to keep as much money on the streets in the form of service as possible,” Japhet said. “A lot of maintenance was deferred. Now, we want to do this refresh.”
Agency accountants told the board in April that Pierce Transit had built up about $110 million in reserves, thanks in part to increasing sales tax revenue generated by the recovering economy.
The $3 million for the transit centers and Park & Ride will come from that.
The agency also is embarking on a plan to use some of that money to restore 59,000 service hours cut during the Great Recession.
A plan for doing that is expected later this year after a consultant finishes a “comprehensive service analysis.”