Puyallup Herald

Could a faster bus system come to Puyallup? Bus Rapid Transit on Meridian being discussed

The buses are fast, and they could be coming to Puyallup.

Pierce Transit is including Puyallup and South Hill as potential spots to implement Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a bus system designed to run faster than typical buses.

Pierce Transit representatives presented their proposed BRT routes to Puyallup City Council in May.

One of them, BRT 4, stretches from the Sounder Station in downtown Puyallup to the South Hill Mall. Other proposed locations include Tacoma and University Place.

BRT buses can hold as many as 90 riders and reduce passenger wait times by arriving at stations every 10 to 15 minutes and allowing prepaid options. Traffic signals can stay green for longer when they sense a BRT bus approaching.

In designated areas, BRT buses travel in their own lane, allowing them to bypass traffic.

At a May 14 meeting, Councilman Jim Kastama raised concerns about have enough right of way for a dedicated bus lane along Meridian.

“How would that look going up Meridian?” Kastama asked. “We currently have just five lanes — we have a center lane, and then two lanes.”

For areas where there’s not enough room for a dedicated bus lane, BRT buses can travel in mixed use traffic, Pierce Transit spokesman Ryan Wheaton said at the May 14 meeting.

BRT also makes it easier for riders with strollers and disabled riders to board.

The BRT system isn’t new, Wheaton said, referencing RapidRide in Seattle, Swift in Everett and The Vine in Vancouver.

In 2018, Pierce Transit served 34,000 riders in Puyallup with 1,350 weekday trips with an on-time performance of 87 percent. Pierce Transit found that 41 percent of riders who board buses in Puyallup also exit in Puyallup.

Pierce Transit is currently implementing a BRT system stretching 14.4 miles from Spanaway to downtown Tacoma that’s expected to open at the end of 2022. That project costs $150 million and is funded through grants.

BRT projects must meet specific requirements to be competitive for funding, such as ridership along a proposed BRT corridor, density and opportunity for economic development, said Pierce Transit spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet.

The proposed BRT route in Puyallup is part of updates to Pierce Transit’s Long Range Plan, which was last updated in 2016.

“We are in the process of creating an outreach plan for our Long Range Plan update that will include open houses, online surveys and other ways people can provide feedback,” Japhet said.

Pierce Transit serves 13 cities in Pierce County across 292 square miles.

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune