By John Arbeeny, Lakewood
All these figures [Save our Buses Campaign Kick-Off] are based upon the latest information available from Pierce Transit and other government sites: most effective for 2009. I served as a Pierce Transit commissioner for 2 years while Deputy Mayor and have some understanding of how they operate and where savings can be made. Did you know that the shuttle service is essentially a “on call” (you call…we haul) taxi service with the cost of single trips into the hinterlands running near $50.00 per for which they pay $.75!? I have a source inside Pierce Transit that informed me that Pierce Transit could cut 25% of the cost of this service alone if they’d just do a better job or using the computer system to schedule pickups and drop offs in clusters instead of making multiple trips for the same group of people.
There is also the matter of supporting “life style” decisions that people make in terms of where they live and the employment or services they require. I retired from the US Army after 21 years and decided to live in Lakewood since all the military services I use were very close by at Fort Lewis. If Fort Lewis/McCord had closed I would have had to make a decision on whether to move closer to another base or commute: but I wouldn’t have expected public transportation to accommodate my life style choice to remain in Lakewood.
Indeed we have disabled persons scattered all throughout Pierce County who regularly use the Shuttle service for shopping, jobs and medical services. Wouldn’t it make better sense to encourage these people to move to urban areas where all these services are centrally located and accessible via public transport instead of supporting their decision to continue to live in the hinterlands of Pierce County? It would seem a natural progression given the objectives of the Growth Management Act. This will only get worse as a whole generation of Boomers ages and refuses to leave their rural surroundings to become urbanites.
Public transportation can work effectively in built up areas where there are a concentration of people, jobs and services. I know: I’m from Brooklyn NY and grew up with public transportation (buses, subways, ferries, light rail systems) although it was subsidized there as well. However, except for those urban growth areas within Pierce County and between those areas, public transportation is otherwise not cost effective out in the rural areas.
It’s time for Pierce Transit to downsize to do what it does well and efficiently. A 50% increase in the tax rate conceivably could amount to $35M+ in new revenue source, leading to a further expansion of Pierce Transit during good times simply because it then has the revenues to do so. Then you can be sure in the next economic downturn that Pierce Transit will be back to the voters for another miniscule “3 cents on a 10 dollar purchase” tax hike request to support a system that should have never grown to that size in the first place.
That’s how government works.