|How can we avoid going back to 1980 service levels?|
My position, as a member of the Pierce Transit Community Transportation Advisory Group, is that we should aim to bridge the gap or come up with some of the funds to buy us some time to come up with additional funding partners (whoever they may be - at the state or federal level). For this reason I am coming out in favor of several measures that will seek to bridge the gap. This is a diverse mixture of roughly $10m in new revenue per year and $3m/yr in efficiency-based cuts. Not all of it can be raised by the Pierce Transit Board but, but much of it does require Board action to get it started.
Raise Adult fares to $2.50, youth to $1.25 (~$2.0m/yr)
The first element is to raise local bus fares across the board, 50 cents - the same cost as a Sound Transit single county fare, $2.50. Some will criticize this as a regressive method to save bus service, but it's better than the alternative of no weekend service at all. Additional changes to the fare structure should be explored, such as charging riders more for late night service. Additionally, the agency should begin negotiations with Tacoma Community College to create a blanket fare arrangement similar to the UPass, which would raise revenue for Pierce Transit, help boost ridership from community college students, while also providing a tangible benefit to young people.
Focus on Saving Tacoma bus service (~$8m/yr)
Next, Pierce Transit should provide the City of Tacoma with a preliminary analysis of how much service could be provided in a service overlay at various levels of funding and what trips and routes would be the best candidates for saving. This kind of information will be important if the City of Tacoma and their Transportation Benefit District can play a meaningful role in averting the coming transit crisis. If a measure could be put to Tacoma's voters for a time-limited vehicle license fee or a 0.1% or 0.2% sales tax, Tacoma residents could be spared service cuts, while we find a long term solution, and the City of Tacoma could have a stronger voice in planning transit in the future.
Efficiency based cuts ($3m/yr)
Finally, Pierce Transit will have to look at pruning routes that have low ridership. Further, a new analysis of service should begin with the effort of wringing out as much bang that we can get out of existing routing and scheduling. If we need to convert a local to an express to keep frequency level, we should consider doing that. Dwell times, redundant stops and fare-related delays must be substantially cut down with a tenacity not yet seen before at Pierce Transit.