Unhappy cities consider severing ties with Pierce Transit

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by ZAHID ARAB / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 3, 2013 at 10:11 PM

Updated Saturday, May 4 at 9:46 AM

With long waits and low reliability, some cities may go a different route and break away from Pierce Transit if service isn’t improved.

Out of a total of 37 routes operated by Pierce Transit, seven service the eastern part of the county.

Fife, Milton, Edgewood and Puyallup are all considering breaking away from the agency and becoming a new one called “East Pierce Transit.”

Fife City Councilman Glenn Hull, who is also on the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners, is spearheading the idea, which would function on private public partnerships.

“There could be a separation in the future if our needs aren’t being met,” said Hull.

According to Hull, the issue is crucial in eastern parts of the south sound.

“We do a lot of waiting and transferring,” said Nicole Carner, a bus rider.

“It’s a hassle because of the infrequency between stops, said another bus rider, Aubrey Perry. 

Late start times and distance between bus stops are common complaints.

“Depending on where your house is, it’s a quarter mile to a mile and a half to the nearest bus stop. These are difficult decision to have because people’s lives depend on this,” said Hull.

Nearly 70 percent of Pierce Transit’s revenue comes from sales tax. If Fife separates from it, officials say losing the money generated by the city’s many car dealerships would be devastating.

“It would hurt the entire system,” said Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma Mayor and Pierce Transit Board Chair.

Strickland is committed to working out a compromise to keep the cities with the agency.

“We’re really trying to think of the agency differently, but also be aware of the fact that we have limited resources,” said Strickland.

Nearly $136 million has been cut this year. An additional $6.6 million will be cut May 13th.  With the last two ballot measures voted down, money is tight.

Fife citizens were among those that didn't approve November's Proposition 1, which would have raised sales tax within Pierce Transit’s boundaries by three-tenths of 1 percent.

“Improving the system is a great idea, but breaking off, I don’t think that would work,” said Carner.

The Pierce Transit Board will present ways to improve east side service in June.

If the cities still want to sever ties, they’ll do a 18 month outreach study to see if people will support a new system.

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