"Loss of MVET Funds from I-695 Leads Pierce Transit to 14 Percent Reduction in Bus Service, Some Runs Cancelled"

“At its board meeting this Monday, Pierce Transit’s Board of Commissioners adopted the 2000 budget, including reductions in bus and other transit services scheduled to take effect February 6, 2000.Planned reductions stem from the loss of motor vehicle excise tax revenues taking place from the passage of Initiative 695. The initiative eliminated the MVET as of January 1, 2000. Previously, MVET revenues made up 38 percent of Pierce Transit’s annual operating budget, according to figures provided by the agency.“This is a short-term plan that preserves as much transit service as possible for the citizens of Pierce County but only for the next three-year period,” said Brian Ebersole, chair of the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners and Mayor of the City of Tacoma. “By the end of 2002, unless additional revenues are available, additional service reductions will be necessary. We need to begin working with the community on a long-lasting solution to funding local transit.”To help minimize the direct impact on transit riders, Pierce Transit is absorbing some of the revenue shortfall during the next three years by spending down reserves, eliminating 62 jobs, using capital funds to pay for service, cutting administrative costs and other measures. In addition, the agency is counting on receiving its remaining third and fourth-quarter 1999 MVET distribution from the state.“If those revenues don’t materialize, we will have to make further cuts,” said Don Monroe, the agency’s executive director.Transit services the agency provides include local and express bus services, vanpools, ridesharing services and specialized transportation for disabled individuals called SHUTTLE.“The board has had to make difficult decisions about which services to reduce,” Monroe said. He noted the cuts were based on public feedback the agency received this fall, along with an evaluation of the agency’s financial status.“We’ve focused on improving the overall efficiency of bus and SHUTTLE services, while impacting the fewest number of people possible,” Monroe said.Improving transit efficiency includes eliminating or reducing service on the routes with the lowest ridership, which tend to be located in rural and suburban areas of Pierce County, according to the agency.Overall, bus service will be reduced by 14 percent and SHUTTLE service by 2.8 percent. Three bus routes will be eliminated, including Key Center, Orting, and Sumner-South Hill Mall.A total of 15 bus routes will run less frequently, and routes in Gig Harbor, Puyallup, Sumner, Bonney Lake, Graham and Milton will no longer offer service on Sundays. Saturday service on many routes will also be reduced.In accordance with guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act, SHUTTLE service also will be eliminated in areas where bus service is eliminated.Vanpool fares will rise an average of $2 per month per passenger, while Olympia Express and Gig Harbor – downtown Tacoma Express fares will increase to $2 per one-way trip.“We know that some citizens will face real hardships as a result of these service reductions and we very much regret that,” Ebersole said. “Demand for transit services continues to grow in Pierce County. But the reality is, some cuts had to be made.“This is happening all across the state with transit agencies, cities, counties and other public agencies,” Ebersole said. “We invite the public to work with us on creative solutions for providing transit services.””