Pierce Transit is planning the South Sound’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line along a 14.4-mile portion of Pacific Avenue/SR-7 between downtown Tacoma and Spanaway. On Friday, May 28, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that President Biden’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget includes $75.2 million in Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program funds for Pierce Transit’s BRT line. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) also included the same amount in its FY 2022 funding recommendations.
The Tacoma-to-Spanaway corridor is currently served by Pierce Transit’s Route 1, which has the agency’s highest ridership. The agency has already secured $95 million for this new BRT line, including $60 million in Sound Transit 3 funds. If the federal CIG grants are awarded as recommended, the BRT line will be fully funded. The project is approaching 60 percent design, with construction slated to begin in 2022. The Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners recently selected the name “Stream” for the agency’s BRT system, which will apply to this line and future lines being considered for other areas of Pierce County.
A BRT line is different from a typical bus route. Its features are designed to move people quickly and efficiently, such as traffic signals that prioritize transit; larger buses with easier wheelchair access and room on board for bicycles; fare payment prior to boarding; and multiple doors for getting on and off the bus quickly. Buses run every 10-15 minutes, and passengers enjoy stations with amenities such as real-time information and lighting, rather than a simple bus stop.
“This BRT funding recommendation is wonderful news for our community,” said Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, who serves as Pierce Transit’s Board of Commissioners Chair. “It will mean more jobs as the line is built, it will address climate change by taking more cars off the road, and it will result in more equitable transit in an area of our community that is lower-income and especially transit-dependent.”
Nearly 22 percent of people in the area of the BRT are living below the poverty level, and 7 percent speak a language other than English at home. About 11 percent of people living along the corridor are dependent on transit for their travel needs.
“We are extremely grateful to our federal legislative delegation, especially Senator Murray, for being so instrumental in our BRT project being recommended for funding,” said Pierce Transit CEO Sue Dreier. “This line will provide a new kind of reliable, efficient transit along this corridor and open opportunities for people who rely on public transportation to enjoy life. It will also provide a critical link between the north and south parts of Pierce County.”
The BRT project will include many safety improvements such as new signalized pedestrian crossings, improved sidewalks and access ramps at BRT stations and increased lighting at transit stops. The route will travel through six federally recognized Opportunity Zones, which are located in low-income census tracts and provide tax incentives for businesses to invest there.
For more information about Bus Rapid Transit in Pierce County, visit RideStream.org.