There but for the Grace of $20 Go We: Pierce Transit Slashes Service 35 Percent

Comments

1
But but but...they have their FREEDOM!!!!! Yeah, that's right, the people of Pierce County are FREE!!!!! Praise the Lord!!!
2
Community Transit in SnoHoCo is planning the same kind of thing in February. At that point, you really can't call it a "system" anymore. It will just be commuter oriented routes going from P&R's to Seattle or Bellevue, with some random local routes running once an hour.
The commuters that previously used the local routes to get to the P&R's will now have to drive those stops, concentrating traffic in those areas. The folks that took the local routes to their jobs will now be walking or unemployed.
To think that they are just going to start driving is to completely misunderstand the situation: they take the bus because they cannot afford to own a car or cannot drive.
3
@2 So it'll be like Renton where you can't find a parking spot at the main P&R after 7:30.
4
Well Metro got their 20$ but still canceled many routes, mine is one of them and I suppose the only way to show my annoyance of having to take 2 buses to get to work M-F is to tap those Sound Transit light rail pay stations and make sure Metro gets only half of my monthly ORCA money.

Metro really screwed up as they still havent put up signs telling riders that the 256 route will be cancled by Oct 1st. The only warning we got was the bus driver telling us about it 2 weeks ago. It fully reminds me of the scene in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy were Mr Prosser informs Arther Dent that the plans to demolish his house have been on display for months. Metro had planned to cancel several routes back in May, but didnt tell anyone that when they went to King County begging for an extra 20$. If your not into casually browsing Metro's web site every day, you wouldnt know it and having the bus driver inform you, pretty much upset off alot of riders who rely on these special routes to commute to work.
5
Kinison @4,

Metro's sales tax revenues are falling $200 million a year short of projections. The $20 car tab fee only raise about $25 million a year. The difference is made up by $135 million a year in ongoing "efficiencies" plus finishing off their remaining reserves. And yes, part of making the system more "efficient" is eliminating and reducing some routes.

But look at Pierce and Snohomish and you can see that it could've been much, much worse.
6
So, here's how my Metro commute on Wednesday went:

- The bus I take to my transfer point blew by my stop without even slowing down. Had to wait for the next one.

- The bus I was supposed to transfer to never showed up, having apparently broken down. The next scheduled bus on the route was a 40' instead of the usual 60', and was completely full. (I don't just mean there was no room to sit down; I mean the driver was not letting anyone board because it was so stuffed.) When a bus I could actually get onto finally showed -- after I'd been waiting around for an hour -- it turned out to be one that the driver admitted had already broken down twice that day. Sure enough, it broke down *again* on I-5 with me on it. A commute that normally takes 45 minutes by car and an hour by bus took me almost two hours.

This is what our transit system has come to. I'm a strong supporter of public transit, but at a certain point I found myself thinking, "I own a perfectly functional car. Why am I subjecting myself to this?"

Metro, no one is going to vote to give money to a system this poorly run. That's just how it goes.
7
@ 6- do you think it's going to run better or more regularly with less money?
8
@Orv: Here's how my Wednesday commute on Metro went:

-Waited for 2 minutes for the 5 express downtown (just like every other day)
-Got off and waited 5 minutes for my next bus to work (just like every other day)

If one day what happened to you happened to me I'd just give it a pass since it's been working fine the other 364 days of the year.
9
@8: I'd feel the same way if this weren't the capstone on years of steady decline. The bus I take almost never runs on time; it's just most days they make me wait around for 15 minutes instead of an hour.
10
@4: Oh, so NOW you want us to keep "inefficient" routes around? Classic.
11
Pierce county? I guess that means they'll just have to stuff more Mexicans into every car.
12
get ready, because it is going to happen. there's nothing & no one to stop it. this state is going to get teabagged.
13
@5

And I understand this, but I found it very misleading that Metro was begging for money, threating to cut services, when they were going to cut many routes no matter what and most of these routes are ones that people use to commute to work M-F, were customers who pay out 108$ a month, every month to get to work. I suppose since its service to the eastside and most of SLOG (and many of its readers) are staunch anti-eastside people, its kinda no suprise that SLOG editors would dismiss the closing of routes that go over the lake.

The 256 isnt an empty bus, its 85% full most of the time and if it wasnt a double bus, it would be packed every day. The reason why Metro thinks this is an empty bus is because they have no idea what theyre doing when it comes to surveying who is riding what bus. They hand out cards that instruct you to go to a web site, if the majority of people dont fill out the poll, then they honestly think nobody is using that bus.

So when you talk about how PT or ST planing to cut services, you need to remind yourself that Metro got their money, but are still cutting service.
14
@13 About the "full most of the time" .... some routes do have times that they are always full, but they run most (if not all) day. While I agree that Metro just seems to be getting greedy, there are a lot of times that buses, no matter how busy they are, are empty or low during most of the day.

However, adding fees to motorists as a way to pay for it is counter productive, because then you will have fewer motorists and no real increase in ridership. Motorists will either become bikers or find other ways to avoid paying if it goes above their price range. Giving Metro more city money hasn't helped in a long time either. The thing is, public transit is not profitable, it just isn't, which also means it's not sustainable. You need profit to be sustainable.

There is no easy fix that will magically make public transportation work. Either riders will have to make up the for the low periods, or they will just have to give it up and only keep the profitable routes. I don't like either idea because I like to take the bus sometimes, but it's a harsh world we live in.
15
It's because Metro convinced the County Council that passing the $20 car tab would prevent a 17% cut in service, which is complete bullshit. As Goldy notes, the $20 car tab doesn't raise much. The way they're preventing cuts in service similar to Pierce Transit and Community Transit is that they're going to spend down all their reserves over the next two years. Then Metro will be in the same position as the others.
16
The good news, @13/@14/@15, is that Metro is finally getting around to restructuring its system around a proven, exponentially more efficient network model, as opposed to a thousand infrequent, discombobulated one-seat rides to everywhere.

The bad news is that Metro has no experience building such a network, so they're not very good at it, and that they are doing it so gradually that the corollary benefits -- extremely high frequency on core routes that enables extremely reliable service and totally painless transfers -- are unable to make themselves immediately apparent.

So what you actually should be arguing for is a more dramatic overhaul of the route structure rather than less.
17
@16 I can agree with that.
18
@14,

Many of the suburban commuter routes only run at peak times in the morning and evening.
19
@14: Public transportation is unprofitable pretty much everywhere in the world, at least when viewed in terms of farebox revenues. It's always government subsidized. It exists in spite of being unprofitable because having good transit is seen as a public good that brings overall benefits that exceed its costs -- increased mobility for people who can't/won't drive, less traffic, less resource consumption, less land dedicated to parking. These are valuable benefits but they're hard to put a dollar-and-cents figure on.

In the U.S. we aren't big on public goods, however, so we tend to frown on anything that can't turn a profit in a free market.

20
@18: Yup, the routes I take are that way. Inbound in the morning, outbound in the evening. It's efficient but does make things difficult if I have to leave work midday for some reason.
21
@19 True, however that would also mean having to tighten the belt in other areas, and politicians don't want that, nor do the special interest groups. The main reason it's not profitable though, it's inefficient, as #16 pointed out, they are trying to fix that. Many programs in the US have been inefficient so it makes one like this hurt more since they've run out of welfare projects to cut. As I said, there is no magical solution, there needs to be either a complete overhaul in how the governments do business (which the government shouldn't be doing actual business in the first place) and we need to look at why things like this are happening more. Look for all the connections that create a problem because as long as those other problems are still around, there will be no way to fix the resulting problem like this. Like a spider's web.
22
@21: My point is if you start cutting "unprofitable" routes in the hopes of making the system pay for itself in fares, you're going to end up cutting the whole system. Public transportation is not a money-making enterprise; that's why you don't see private city bus systems.
23
@22 Aaah, I will grant you that. I didn't comprehend your meaning fully. I should have said "the most damaging routes", the ones that cost too much and serve too small of a purpose. I mean, do we really need 100 buses through downtown? I exaggerated because I don't know the exact number.
24
@20: Actually, those commuter-only routes aren't even efficient either! Metro's over-reliance on them is a huge part of the reason Metro's expenses are so much higher than comparable systems in other cities.

When you ride it to and from work, you may see a full bus. But Metro is paying for that vehicle and its operator to drive (empty) to the starting point, to fight counter-commute traffic (empty) to return for its next run, and then to drive back to the garage (empty) immediately after the rush hour. It's spending 2/3 of its time with no one on it.

The peak-only buses average less than 33% farebox return. So on an Eastside route with a $3 fare, they're averaging a $6 subsidy per passenger. That's worse than almost any 2-way route at peak, and worse than many well-designed 2-way routes in the mid-day or even late at night.

Metro would do far better to create a system of routes that connect places with worthwhile demand at all hours, with frequencies and "route legibility" (straight as possible, destinations clear, transfer points obvious) to make transferring easy and to provide good access from anywhere to anywhere. If this means requiring a transfer to cross the bridges (which have high enough demand to justify vehicles both ways every five minutes anyway), so be it.

But as cranky Kinison is aware, the transfers have to be a lot better than they are.
25
For clarification " passing off" the threat meant passing it to the sheriff and security to investigate. I can assure you that the threat was taken seriously both at work and at home.
As you may have seen in the news this weekend, Pierce County Transit is cutting their bus schedule by 35%. This is what we are trying to avoid in King County. Having a well functioning transit infrastructure is an important asset to the county.
Metro has made many changes and has had two audits as well as the Senate Transportation Committee to evaluate their changes and improvements. The Senate felt they had done a good job and authorized the $20 fee for TWO years. At that point the state is to come up with another sustainable plan and/or it go to a required vote of the people. The fee will raise $25 million each year, on a $60 million deficit. So more cuts will be required and efficiencies. There will be some reserves spent to do this, but it will not all be spent. One of the aspects of the new plan is Right Size Buses. That allows smaller more economical buses to run in routes where the ridership is lower. When tolling begins in December, we expect an increase in ridership demand again. That is not the time to be having a 17% reduction in buses.
As for some of the info on costs per Metro - you might want to go to the Metro website and look under "Peer Review". That will give more accurate data on how they compare to other transit agencies across the country.
Thanks - Kathy Lambert