Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tacoma Tomorrow: Suburbs Have not Supported Transit in Over 10 Years

Chris Karnes over at Tacoma Tomorrow is diving into a series of posts about past election results for transit in Pierce County and what the agency needs to do in order to be successful going forward.

In his most recent post Chris looks at Pierce Transit election results between 2002 and more recent transit elections (2007, 2008, 2011).

The data is conclusive, Pierce County voters have not changed in the last 10 years: Tacoma, Lakewood, and Downtown Gig Harbor and Puyallup continue to to say yes to to transit, while voters in the suburbs and exurbs continue to say no.

Results from Pierce Transit Prop 1 - February 2002
Pierce Transit Prop 1, Feb 2011.  Red = Failed Transit votes in 2007, 2008, 2011.
Chris goes on to point out what has changed:

In the last ten years Pierce County's unincorporated population has mushroomed.  In South Hill, the population increased 65.8%.  Tacoma's growth rate hasn't kept pace, only increasing a paltry 2.5%.  So generally speaking, that's a lot more no votes than Tacoma's urban pro-transit voters can handle.

If voters in the suburbs say get rid of transit funding in 1999 and then reject additional transit funding in 2002, say no again in 2007, no in 2008, and no in 2011, why should we expect a yes under any circumstances?

The whole thing is well worth a read.  While you are there, make sure to read his earlier post on the 163 transit hostile districts in Pierce County and the need for Pierce Transit to shrink its service and taxing area to be successful in the future.

To add my own two cents, we cannot stay in a world where the urbanized, high-transit use areas of Pierce County have sub-par transit service due to a lack of political will to pay for transit in the exurban and rural areas of the county.  In the last 3 years Pierce Transit has cut around 43% of their transit service, which is unacceptable in the short and long-term.  Buses stop running at 10pm and high ridership routes like the Route 1 are often overcapacity and delayed (I know this from experience and Piece Transit's data backs this up).

We need great bus service in Pierce County to keep people moving and get our economy back on track.  In order to restore bus service Pierce Transit needs to get the rest of its sales tax authority.  In order for this to happen they need to cut out the low ridership, high service cost, transit hostile parts of the county.  To be clear, a new and improved smaller Pierce Transit would not be "Tacoma Transit" as some have claimed.  The Pierce Transit of the future could provide great bus service to places where transit is cost-effective and works (i.e. Tacoma, Lakewood, Puyallup, Sumner, South Hill, Gig Harbor, Dupont, Parkland, Spanaway, and Fife) and at the same time only impose taxes on communities that receive bus service; a win-win scenario for transit supporters and anti-tax exurbanites alike!

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