Over the past year, Pierce Transit has been hard at work to bring the people what they want.
The organization spent most of 2016 conducting a comprehensive analysis of its existing bus service. By holding open houses and seeking out engagement online, Pierce Transit reached out to the public throughout 2016 for ideas about how to improve existing services and to find out what new routes or services riders would like to see. The service routes in place before were designed nearly four decades ago, and Pierce Transit’s goal was to design a new plan that reflected the present needs of current and future South Sound transit riders.
Of the nearly 1,000 responses received, the two most-requested improvements were increased frequency (having buses arrive more often) and a longer span of service on weekdays.
Pierce County spoke, and Pierce Transit listened.
On December 12, 2016, Pierce Transit’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of implementing a more efficient routing plan that delivers on these requests. That means more frequent bus service and service later on weekdays throughout the Pierce Transit service area.
These service expansions, which took effect on March 12, 2017, and include the restoration of 35,000 hours of transit service, included 30-minute peak and mid-day service on nearly all urban routes and many non-urban routes. Service until 10:00 p.m. in the evening on many routes is another change riders can expect to see. The restructured system will also deliver more direct bus routes with faster service between locations and fewer overlapping routes along the same path.
It wasn’t all additions that were addressed during the survey period; there were potential reductions that had riders writing in, too. As part of the new routing plan, Pierce Transit proposed the elimination of Route 13, a bus that runs from the Tacoma Dome Station through downtown and Old Town and on to Proctor. Nearly one-quarter of the comments received during Pierce Transit’s survey period addressed this revision. In response to public comments and requests, the Pierce Transit Board elected to retain Route 13, which will continue on weekdays with hourly service as per the request of many respondents.
Also, as part of the service change Pierce Transit has eliminated Route 300 and is providing service along South Tacoma Way via Route 3. To assist former Route 300 riders get onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord and to the Commissary BX, Pierce Transit is working with GO Transit, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord transit service, to create a new GO Transit Route 7 service onto and off of the base. Since the GO Transit route is not yet finalized, Pierce Transit is providing a “GO 7” on-demand connector in the interim to transport people with a Department of Defense ID to and from JBLM. The Pierce Transit GO 7 Connector will pick up and drop off at six locations: Lakewood Transit Center, Lakewood Sounder Station, Pacific Highway and Bridgeport, Bridgeport and San Francisco, the McChord Base Exchange, and the McChord Commissary. The GO 7 Connector will operate weekdays from 7:00 to 9:30 a.m. and from 3:00 to 6:30 p.m. Riders should call 253-377-4380 to request a pick-up. A detailed and updated list of current routes is available online at Pierce Transit’s website.
Still not enough hours in service? Pierce Transit’s already on it. There are currently plans in the works to restore approximately 10,000 additional service hours in September 2017. A great many of these hours, says Pierce Transit’s Rebecca Japhet, will likely be directed at weekend service. Observations of the March service changes as well as continued feedback will guide Pierce Transit’s further developments.
The expansion has been dubbed a restoration of service, serving as a reminder of all the cutbacks Pierce County riders endured during the Great Recession. During this time, Pierce Transit was forced to decommission almost one-third of its service. A lean budget forced Pierce Transit to get creative with schedules and services, working around the slim budget with less frequent stops and fewer total routes. Before the economic slow-down, Pierce Transit provided 622,000 hours of service a year. By the end of 2017, more frequent service and later hours will bring that number up to 502,000 annual service hours.
“We are pleased that Pierce Transit is able to offer more frequent bus service and rides later on weekday evenings, along with restoring 35,000 hours of service on the street,” said Pierce Transit CEO Sue Dreier. “The last time Pierce Transit was able to provide new service on a comparable level was the 1990s. I invite everyone to come out, give our service a try and experience how convenient and affordable it can be to take transit to work, appointments, or most anywhere you need to go.”
Pierce Transit is excited about these new routes, and plans to continue checking in with riders to ensure these changes meet the expectations of the community. The organization is conducting a wide variety of outreach efforts to inform the public about route changes and to keep their finger on the pulse of the public’s opinion.
For more information about service changes, routes and other public transportation needs in Pierce County, visit Pierce Transit’s website.