Pierce Transit begins campaign for Prop. 1 voter approval

Pierce Transit will host an open house next month to discuss a ballot proposition that would raise the sales tax...

Pierce Transit will host an open house next month to discuss a ballot proposition that would raise the sales tax to help pay for transit services.

In June, the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners determined that restoring access to essential services for seniors, the disabled, and people who rely on Pierce Transit required asking voters to approve Proposition 1 in order to utilize the remaining 0.3 per cent (three cents on a $10 purchase) authority.

In June 2011, more than 140 people attended a public hearing at Pierce Transit headquarters in Lakewood to express their concerns over proposed service reductions following a ballot proposal that was rejected by voters earlier in February 2011. In addition, more than 350 people provided spoken or written testimony on the reduction plan. The majority of people told the Pierce Transit Board 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.

Still, Pierce Transit riders began to experience significant service reductions in October 2011, when bus service underwent considerable changes throughout the county. Weekday and weekend service were reduced, segments of some routes were cut, and in some cases entire routes were eliminated. Yellow bags began covering signs at the bus stops slated to be closed. Approximately 600 bus stops, including 35 with shelters, were closed. Following that, Pierce Transit Facilities Maintenance crews began physically removing the bus stops, including the sign pole, shelter structure, or bench that may be at the site.

This overall 35 per cent reduction was necessary due to a $51 million budget shortfall brought on by the economic recession and the failed ballot proposal, according to a Pierce Transit spokesperson. Overall, Pierce Transit has made significant cuts in service since 2008 to mitigate the impacts of the recession. Nearly $111 million dollars has been cut or saved, including 43 per cent cut in bus service, elimination of special events service, sale of land and assets, and a 19 per cent cut in staffing — including 31 per cent in management.

On Tuesday, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber announced its board of directors voted to oppose Proposition 1, arguing the proposed tax levels would push sales taxes for Pierce County to the highest in the state. According to Chamber officials, Tacoma and Pierce County sales tax are tied with Seattle, King County and other cities like Kirkland and Redmond for the highest sales tax rates before the proposed increase.

“The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber has long supported transit in Pierce County — even supplying the headquarters for the establishment of Pierce Transit decades ago,” said Tom Pierson, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber President and CEO. “Unfortunately, the proposed sales tax levels are simply unacceptable. As the Chamber continues to welcome businesses and jobs to the area, we need to stay competitive with the communities around us. Having the highest sales tax rate in the state is not a distinction Tacoma-Pierce County would want to be known for. Being a community that preserves a reasonably business-and-economy friendly atmosphere is the sort of favorable distinction we should strive for instead.”

On Monday, Pierce Transit and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local #758 announced they reached a tentative agreement that calls for no wage increases over the next three years.

“I am very grateful ATU Local #758 leadership came back to the bargaining table,” said Lynne Griffith, Pierce Transit CEO. “As everyone continues to navigate through difficult economic conditions, it’s important for the public to recognize that we understand their expectations for keeping down costs and maintaining the best service possible. This tentative agreement reflects what we’ve heard from the community and our Board of Commissioners.”

“This agreement is about saving jobs, not just the jobs of Pierce Transit employees, but the tens of thousands who rely on the vital service our that member’s provide every day,” said Don McKnight, ATU Local #758 President. ATU Local #758 represents 708 Pierce Transit employees.

Pierce Transit’s open house will be held on Weds., Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. at University Place City Hall, located at 3715 Bridgeport Way West. It is the first of nine open houses planned in September and October before voters decide on Proposition 1 on Election Day on Tues., Nov. 6.

More information is online here.

***UPDATE | Mon., Aug. 27, 2012***

Pierce Transit officials Monday released the following scheduled for the Prop. 1 open houses is as follows:

University Place

Weds., Sept. 5

6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

University Place Library 3609 Market Place West, Suite 100, University Place, WA

Lakewood

Tues., Sept. 18

6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Pierce Transit (Rainier/St Helens rooms) 3720 96th St SW, Lakewood, WA

Gig Harbor

Weds., Sept. 19

6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Gig Harbor Civic Center (Council Chambers) 3510 Grandview Street, Gig Harbor, WA

Tacoma

Thurs., Sept. 20

5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Tacoma Municipal Building (Council Chambers — 1st floor) 747 Market Street, Tacoma, WA

South Hill

Mon., Sept. 24

7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

South Hill Library 15420 Meridian E., Puyallup, WA

Fife/Milton/Edgewood

Tues., Oct. 2

6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Mill Ridge Village 607 28th Ave., Milton, WA 98354

Puyallup/Downtown

Weds., Oct. 10

6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Puyallup Library (North Room) 324 S. Meridian, Puyallup, WA

South Tacoma

Mon., Oct. 15

5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

South Tacoma Library – Olympic Room 3411 South 56th Street, Tacoma, WA

Parkland/Spanaway

Tues., Oct. 16

6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Parkland Library 13718 Pacific Ave. S., Tacoma, WA

More information is online at online here.

Pierce Transit. (PHOTO COURTESY PIERCE TRANSIT)
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