Thursday, March 14, 2013

Proposition One: Pierce Transit faces certain cuts

by Grace Demun, Guest Writer 

    Pierce Transit will be making tough cuts likely to affect many Pacific Lutheran University commuters and Pierce County bus riders alike this September.

    Proposition One — the bill proposing a three-tenths of one percent sales tax hike — failed last November, throwing the fate of Pierce Transit into the unknown.

    The revenue from this tax increase would have gone towards sustaining services such as bus routes and other modes of transit. Now, without this tax increase, services across the board will most likely be cut by up to 53 percent.

    The cuts will also mean a decrease of total bus running hours by 28 percent, which includes an elimination of all weekend services, and the end of weekday services by 7 p.m.

    No doubt this will affect those Pacific Lutheran University students who rely on the bus to get to and from school or work.

    “I use the Pierce County transportation system every weekend,” sophomore Alison Holzmann said. Holzmann does not have a car on campus but said she makes trips up to Seattle every weekend. “Using the public transportation system is pretty much my only bet.”

    Without the bus system, many students like Holzmann will be left to fend for themselves to get rides.
    Because Pierce County is the second most populous county in the state, the failure of Proposition One will also affect much of the population in the area.

    According to KUOW news and public radio, about 56 percent of Pierce Transit riders come from households that earn less than $20,000 a year, so the cuts will have a significant impact on low-income individuals, many of whom live in Parkland.

    Already, students are seeing changes in the bus schedules. The cuts in bus availability “definitely make travel time a lot longer,” first-year Chris Edgecomb said.

 “It used to be I could just jump on a bus and I could be a work within an hour.” With extra waiting time and cutbacks, Edgecomb said it now takes him three to four hours to get to work.

    Not everyone has room in their schedules for this kind of extra time — about a quarter of Pierce Transit riders use the transportation to go to medical appointments. This will mean seniors, people with disabilities and those travelling for other medical purposes will need to schedule their appointments around the more limited times the bus transportation will offer.

    The Tacoma News Tribune reported in a March 6 article that the county recently received a $6 million grant as well as several measures put in place to create more cost-saving options. Though this will help ease the cuts that will go into effect this fall, the transit system will still be immensely reduced.

    State lawmakers are looking at a possible bill that would help the Pierce Transit system by allowing them to focus on areas where voters would be likely to support a tax increase. Pierce Transit’s request is to draw a “special” district so that it can continue with at least some of its bus services, but this is only possible as long as voters consent to paying a higher sales tax.

    According to The Tacoma News Tribune, this request “has run into a wall in the state Senate.”
    In fact, The Tacoma News Tribune cites Curtis King, senate transportation committee co-chairman, as saying the problem with Pierce County’s request is that it has the possibility to “leave voters too fatigued” to vote yes on a statewide public transportation tax increase.

    One effect of Pierce County’s request is that it has brought attention to how the tax cuts will affect transportation-dependent citizens, particularly elderly and disabled people.

    PLU subsidizes the cost of a monthly transit pass for commuter students as long as the student travels to school three or more times per week and lives more than one mile from campus. If the cuts continue to decrease bus availability, these students might not have the option of using this pass.