By Jessyn Farrell, Interim Public Relations Officer
Lakewood, WA – On Monday, May 9, 2011, the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners approved a 20% permanent service reduction scheduled for June 12, 2011 but rejected the proposed plan for the final 15% reduction scheduled for October and directed staff to develop a modified plan that focuses on maximizing ridership.
As a result of budget shortfalls brought on by the economic recession and loss of Proposition 1 at the February 8, 2011 election, the Board directed staff to develop plans for a 35% reduction in service to address the agency’s budget shortfall.
This situation is being compounded by the fire on February 28, 2011 at the Pierce Transit natural gas fuel station, which has significantly reduced the agency’s ability to operate the regular weekday service schedule. Regular service has been reduced by approximately 20% as a result.
Five public hearings were held to present the details of the reduction plan and gather comments on the proposed service cuts. Public hearings were held in Lakewood, Gig Harbor, Tacoma, Puyallup, and Bonney Lake. More than 300 people attended the hearing with 319 people provided spoken or written testimony. The majority of people told board members how essential public transportation is to their lives and how devastating the proposed cuts would be, keeping them from getting to work, attending school, shopping, going to church, and visiting friends.
On June 12th, 2011, the first permanent reduction of 20% of fixed-route bus service will occur and will be similar to the service levels of the current Emergency Reduced Service. In response to public comment, there will be adjustments in service that focus on getting people to jobs and school and reducing low ridership routes and trips. This service reduction will not provide for any special event service, including the Puyallup Fair or Tacoma’s Fourth of July Freedom Fair.
Board Chair Claudia Thomas stated, “Everyone who depends on public transportation is affected by these cuts, no matter what the scenario. It is extremely difficult to make these decisions but rest assured that we will do our best with the resources we have available to us.”
Additionally, the Commissioners are exploring an alternative plan to implement the final 15% reductions, which will be implemented as close as possible to the originally scheduled October 2nd, 2011 service change. They asked staff to develop a plan that uses ridership and cost information to determine which routes and trips would help the most riders. A public hearing will be held on this new proposal at the June 13, 2011 board meeting, with possible adoption at the July 11, 2011 board meeting. Staff reductions are expected to occur no later than the end of this year.
SHUTTLE, the Pierce Transit paratransit service for people with disabilities, will parallel the fixed route service reductions, but will occur no sooner than October 2011. This service operates on the same days, during the same time, and within three-quarters of a mile of bus routes. Where bus service is reduced, SHUTTLE service will be reduced. Registered SHUTTLE customers will receive more information once the final decision on reductions is made.
Route-by-route information about the June 12th service change will be available on Pierce Transit’s website. Customers may also call Customer Service at 253.581.8000.