Saoirse Kenney
OPINION

County citizens without cars are finding it much harder to get around these days.  On October 2nd Pierce Transit kicked off the latest and largest reduction of services and employment. This was necessitated by a $51 million gap in the company budget.

The gap could have been fixed by Proposition 1 to increase sales tax by 3 cents on a $10 purchase, but voters rejected it last February.  This has forced Pierce Transit to put itself on financially stable footing though deep cuts – a 35% cut in services and the layoff of 20% of employees. Many routes have been outright eliminated, which affects the outlying areas of Tacoma in particular. Other routes, even those most heavily used, have been cut. The Pierce Transit Board Chair commented that the number of passengers on buses will increase. This is hardly good news for those of us who ride routes like the #1. The bus is nearly always full, often with standing room only. It's not uncommon for a person waiting with a wheelchair or baby carriage to be unable to board the bus.

It remains to be seen just how deeply people will be impacted by these changes, but there will surely be fallout. Working people, including some who have cars, often use public transit to commute to work. I regularly take the express bus to Olympia, which I've always found to be full going in both directions, but has now had two of its four routes discontinued, one of those eliminated served Gig Harbor and the Narrows Park and Ride. Poor people will feel these changes the most. My partner must make a weekly trip to Puyallup from our NW Tacoma home. For the last several years it's been a three and a half hour round trip, it now takes at least five hours to make the same journey.

Over the last few months my partner and I have heard people on the bus expressing dismay about the changes. Many have said they will either lose a job they won't be able to get to or be forced to move to Tacoma – if they can afford the higher rent along with the costs of moving. Accessing health care, no easy task at the best of times, will become more difficult, if not impossible, for those living outside the city. People in dire need of other services such as food or clothing banks, free meals, or hygiene services will also be in a terrible position. A simple errand such as going to the grocery store may now be a daunting task of many hours and transfers – bad for perishable groceries on a hot day!

Pierce Transit had no choice but to make $51 million dollars in cuts, and there was no good way to make them. The failure of Proposition 1 is having a devastating impact on the people of Pierce County. It will only exacerbate many social ills which already plague us – from unemployment and homelessness to increased traffic with its myriad additional problems.  We need to convince our friends and neighbors that good public transportation benefits all of us. Email us at feedback@thepierceprogressive.org with your experiences.