The Public Transportation Improvement Conference, convened to consider new boundaries for Pierce Transit, voted unanimously last night to contract the transit agency's boundaries, excluding the car-centric suburban and exurban areas that voted against last year's proposed transit funding measure from the transit agency's boundaries.
After voters rejected a sales-tax increase---three-tenths of one percent---in 2011, Pierce Transit had to reduce service by 42 percent---
cutting routes, eliminating service after 8 pm on weekdays and 6 pm on weekends, and reducing service frequency throughout the system. Some exurban areas are no longer served by transit at all.
In response to the vote, Pierce Transit is effectively saying to the suburbs: "If you don't want to pay for bus service, fine. But you can't have bus service anymore, either."
The decision comes after ten solid years in which the Tacoma suburbs (including Buckley, Bonney Lake, Orting, and South Hill) have voted against every transit measure that has gone to a countywide ballot. Although the suburbs' opposition to transit once
didn't matter---Tacoma's pro-transit vote was enough to pass any transit measure---massive population growth in unincorporated, car-centric Pierce County has swung the pendulum in Pierce County in the anti-transit direction.
As Andrew Austin at Transportation Choices Coalition sums up the situation:
None of this is rocket science. It is extremely expensive to provide fixed-route bus service to sprawling car-centric areas. In those sprawling communities, they don't see the value of bus service (or don't even have any service) and have more conservative anti-tax voters than urban areas like Tacoma. As a result, they came out swinging against
save our buses, and we lost. ...
We have hit the rock bottom of bus service in Pierce County. Under the current map, communities that are willing to pay a little more to restore thousands of hours of bus service will be able to do just that.
The new map eliminates about 200 square miles from Pierce Transit's service area, including Orting, Sumner, Bonney Lake, Buckley, DuPont and parts of unincorporated Pierce County.