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Plateau to get back some bus routes
Just as a representative from Pierce Transit was about to give her presentation to the Bonney Lake City Council, Councilman Jim Rackley offered her a joking warning.
“You’ll have to be careful,” he said with a smile and the beginnings of a laugh. “We’re hostile.”
But changes to the transit authority’s latest proposal have replaced many of the routes – or at least the service hours – originally slated to disappear from East Pierce County, including the those through Bonney Lake.
“The plan is really trying to serve all of the communities,” Pierce Transit Principal Planner Tina Lee said.
Lee’s presentation to the council focused on changes that have made to Pierce Transit’s proposals in an attempt to address the complaints of small cities like Bonney Lake, Buckley and Orting, which joined together with other small cities to complain that Pierce Transit was continuing to tax their people while eliminating service to and from their cities.
In response, Lee said Pierce Transit added a couple of additional routes to Buckley in its “reduction plan” and increased service to Bonney Lake, Buckley, Orting and Prairie Ridge as part of its “growth plan,” which would take effect if the Pierce Transit board opts to ask for an additional 0.3 percent sales tax and it was approved by voters.
The transit authority is seeking to deal with a gap between revenue and expenditures that is expected to reach $68 million by 2012. Lee said Pierce Transit, which receives approximately 70 percent of its funding through sales tax revenues, is experiencing the same issues as many of the municipalities it serves: declining revenues.
“Most folks aren’t spending money,” she said.
Lee also said Pierce Tranist is not presently taxing at its highest level, but the “growth plan” would increase the Transit sales tax to 0.9 percent, which would top-out the authority’s taxing capacity.
Under the new “growth plan,” which assumes the tax increase, the city would still lose routes 406 and 407, with service to Buckley and Prairie Ridge, respectively, every two hours, but the 450 would connect Bonney Lake and Buckley with service mid-day every two hours. Route 496, which connects the Park ‘n’ Ride to the Sounder Station, would include two trips to Buckley each morning and evening, timed with the trains.
Lee also detailed some of the costs involved in the routes to Bonney lake. According to Lee, the typical cost to Pierce Transit per passenger is $2.54 on a “trunk route” and $3.88 on an urban route while the cost per passenger on Route 407 through Bonney Lake is $14.12.
“It’s harder to serve a community where you don’t have the density,” Lee said.
The council listened to Lee’s presentation, asking questions about expenses and getting more details on cuts being made, and while the council seemed happy the authority would potentially increase service, many councilmembers remained skeptical that the public would approve a tax increase, meaning Bonney Lake and other outlying cities could be left without bus service.
“You’re talking about raising taxes for a bus service most of us don’t use,” Councilmember Mark Hamilton said.
Mayor Neil Johnson, who was recently elected to the Pierce Tranist Board said he understood the authority’s need to pull back and focus on Tacoma, but said the rest of the county deserved “some level of service.”
“For the outlying areas, right now it’s considered Tacoma Transit,” he said.
However, Johnson said he was confident that Pierce Transit heard the concerns of East Pierce residents are being heard by the board.
“They are definitely talking a lot about the small cities,” he said.