At a work session last month, the Board discussed the financial impacts of 10 months of continuing declines in sales tax revenue and the removal of jurisdictions from the Pierce Transit boundary. They carefully reviewed agency financial projections and scenarios that ranged from staying at the current 0.6 per cent sales tax authority to putting forward a ballot measure that could utilize the 0.1 per cent, 0.2 per cent, or 0.3 per cent capacity that remains. They also discussed timing options for potential ballot and the merits of including a sunset clause.
The Board determined that to restore access to essential services for seniors, the disabled, and people who rely on Pierce Transit requires asking voters to approve a ballot proposal to utilize the remaining 0.3 per cent (three cents on a $10 purchase) authority.
Pierce Transit riders began to experience significant service reductions in October, 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 on Oct. 2. 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. The process was completed in November.
This overall 35 per cent reduction is necessary due to a $51 million budget shortfall brought on by the economic recession and the loss of Proposition 1 during the February 2011 election, according to a Pierce Transit spokesperson. Given the current economic projections, a 20 percent permanent service reduction went into effect on June 12, with the final 15 per cent service reduction effective Oct. 2.
In June, more than 140 people attended a public hearing at Pierce Transit headquarters in Lakewood to express their concerns over the service reductions. 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.
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. Pierce Transit moved to a high ridership and efficiency service plan in 2011 during the most recent cut to service to focus on moving the most people with the limited resources available.
More information is online here.