Pierce Transit approves request for sales tax request on 2002 ballot

The Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners has approved a resolution to be placed before the voters on Feb. 5, 2002. This is a request for an additional three-tenths of one percent in local sales taxing authority.
If approved, the measure will increase the sales tax by what amounts to 3 cents on a $10 purchase. This additional tax revenue will replace funding that was lost when the state Motor Vehicle Excise Tax was eliminated and will allow Pierce Transit to provide increasing levels of local bus service, SHUTTLE transportation for people with disabilities, vanpool services, and additional Park & Ride lots, at a rate that will keep pace with Pierce County population growth.
If rejected, the measure will leave the sales tax at the present rate. With no additional funding Pierce Transit, beginning in 2003, will be forced to cut local bus service by 40 to 45 percent, cut SHUTTLE transportation for people with disabilities by 20 to 25 percent, stop the growth of vanpool services and Park & Ride lots.
In order to achieve this magnitude of service reduction, Pierce Transit will have to consider elimination of Saturday and Sunday service, elimination of many bus routes, and less frequent service. Should these service reductions become necessary, options would be explored in-depth with the community prior to implementation.
This situation came about following the passage of I-695 when the state legislature voted to eliminate the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax which provided approximately 38 percent of Pierce Transit’s operating budget. In February 2000, the Pierce Transit Board implemented a service reduction of 14 percent, made administrative cuts and service efficiency improvements.
The Board also adopted a three-year financial plan that would maintain the reduced service level by using available financial reserves to fund the revenue shortfall. Pierce Transit recently an-nounced a fare increase of 25 percent effective January 1, 2002. This increase will help Pierce Transit keep pace with inflation, maintain a reasonable farebox recovery rate, and generate modest new revenue. However, it will not make up for the magnitude of lost revenue.
Now, with the available reserve funds set to run out at the end of 2002, the Board has elected to ask the voters of Pierce County to consider an increase in sales taxing authority.
“Sales tax revenue is the only means available for additional funding,” said Don S. Monroe, Chief Executive Officer of Pierce Transit. “This will be the first time since its inception, more than 21 years ago, that Pierce Transit will ask for additional funding from the public.”
He said eight transit systems across the state have already been successful with similar ballot measures to replace funding lost by the repeal of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax.
At the Board meeting on November 26, Tim Strege, former commissioner and the first Pierce Transit Chairman of the Board stated, “This is the single most important transportation decision facing the community since the formation of Pierce Transit more than 21 years ago.”
Pierce Transit is the public transportation agency for Pierce County, providing the community with local and express bus routes, vanpools, rideshare services, and SHUTTLE transportation for people with disabilities. Last year, the agency provided more than 14 million passenger trips.
For more information on transit services/schedules in Pierce County, call Pierce Transit Customer Service at (253) 581-8000 or visit their Web site at:
By a vote of 97 to 2, the U.S. Senate yesterday approved the fiscal year 2002 transportation spending bill, authored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). The bill allocates millions of dollars to ease traffic congestion throughout the Puget Sound region.
“There is no greater threat to our region’s prosperity than the crippling congestion that commuters face everyday,” Murray said. “This funding is an important step in addressing the Puget Sound’s traffic woes.”
Among the money Murray helped secure, there is $2.5 million in federal support for Pierce Transit in Tacoma to help replace 19 high-mileage buses with compressed natural gas vehicles and help add 40 additional vans to expand vanpools in Pierce County.
“We will not only see the effects of this funding on our roadways, but in our daily lives,” Murray stated. “Improving our roadways and expanding the efficiency of our commuter rails and buses will shorten our commutes, reduce pollution and allow each of us to spend more time on our own priorities, instead of being stuck in traffic jams.”
The bill now goes to President Bush for his signature.