Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pierce Transit Set for Heart-wrenching Stories

This blog post was originally posted on the Transportation Washington Blog Here.  Follow it!

People across the state are struggling to pay their bills and provide for their families. On Monday we heard 50+ people testify in Pierce County on how they depend on bus service to get to work, the grocery store, and critical medical appointments. Most of these people either moved to live near a bus line for its efficiency or -- more frequently -- couldn't afford to own a car and were transit-dependent.

Pierce Transit has a huge 35% budget hole. This isn't the agency's fault. Over the last few years, time and time again they've cut overhead and administrative costs and made the bus lines more efficient. But behind-the-times state law restricts local transit agencies to only get local revenue through the sales tax, which has been decreasing with the economic recession.

It's a fact: no matter what we do, many Pierce Transit bus riders will no longer be able to use the bus.  The personal stories will be bad.  Our obligation -- and that of Pierce Transit -- is to minimize the number of those stories.  The best way to do that is to use the existing resources to maximize ridership -- making sure the most people possible can ride the bus
Well, how to make that picture a reality is getting clearer.  We recently got ridership information on all of Pierce Transit’s routes.  Unsurprisingly, the exurban bus plus routes are the lowest ridership routes in the system.

Click here to get the chart (PDF).

The highlighted blue are routes the 10 lowest ridership routes in the system.  You’ll notice on the bottom of the page many of the low ridership routes will not be cut.  These bus routes carry 10-40 people per day and cost on average $27 dollars per passenger in places where transit doesn’t work. By comparison, the average cost per rider on Route #1 is $2.76 and that route carries 7,600 people per day.  The entire fixed-route system (with all of its efficient and inefficient fixed routes) costs on average $6.83 per rider

During financially constrained times, we cannot afford high cost, low ridership bus routes.  We must focus our efforts on where we get the most bang for our buck and hurt the fewest number of riders. 

So, why is Pierce Transit  cutting the highest ridership routes by 30-40% but not cutting our heaviest subsidized bus routes at all?

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