Letters to the Editor

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BUSES: Pierce Transit saves families money

Letter by Lisa K. Rae, Spanaway on Jan. 31, 2011 at 11:37 am with 41 Comments »
January 31, 2011 1:19 pm

I live in Spanaway, a mile and a half from the closest bus stop. However I do have a daughter who often rides the bus with lifts from me to and from that stop.

Surely I’m not the only parent grateful that Pierce Transit service is available. I must save hundreds of dollars per year on gas that I would be using for the sole purpose of shuffling daughter to and from malls, movies, friends’ houses, etc.

Multiply this situation by many other families and the number of cars kept off the road and gallons of gas saved must be incredible. The amount of tax increase being asked is a bargain for families taking advantage of this important service.

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  1. Zillahboy says:

    I read online (average teacher salary in Washington State) that the average teacher in Washington makes made $54,000 in 2009. The average Pierce Transit driver makes just under $60,000. So the teachers should be paid less than the bus drivers who deliver the kids to them?

    Say no to higher taxes.

  2. The average bus driver does not get a lunch break; the average bus driver gets verbally or physically assaulted one a month on the average; the average bus driver has cronic back pains; hospitalized two-fold compared to other professions due to constant sitting for up to 8-hours a day w/maybe a 15 minute break. If you think this is worth 60G a year, why not drive w/us?!

  3. dmx…many would love to get one of those jobs if there were vacancies (is there a union to join as well?)

    $60K salary is pretty damn good compared to other jobs that also have some offsetting health issues (working outdoors come to mind).

    In a metropolis with nearly full capacity I would say the cost of mass transit via a government subsidy is worth it. But half (or more) empty buses for a largely suburban environment shouldn’t justify higher public funding – with or without the issue of $60k salaries. But like the ferries – let those who use them pay higher fees, and operate within those boundaries (if they have to pay drivers only $50k then so be it).

  4. Fibonacci says:

    It seems like every letter lately isasking to either A) don’t cut something because it is imortant, or B) don’t raise the rates on something because it would cause a hardship.

    OK, since the econony is in the crapper and the Country/State/County/City/School District is hurting financially, just how do you propose the money gap get closed is nothing gets cut nor rates rasied?

  5. live4fish says:

    @dmx

    If that is the case then you and your union need to get together and say something. That, my friend, is against labor laws.

  6. The union has brought the no-lunch issue up to the last two union presidents to no avail! It’s expecially hard on the drivers who must eat at certain times due to health reasons. We average 15 people calling in sick a day due to injuries aches and pains from driving. We don’t get social security, we pay co-payments for medical, I don’t know what great benefits people are talking about; this job takes a great toll on the drivers physical health and mental abuse from the drunks, immature kids and readers in the past weeks about how terrible PT is. I wish I could give the wheel to one of the opposition writers, just one day, to experience what we go through in just one day!

  7. UnbiasedReporter says:

    Tell you what – I’ll vote for Prop 1 as soon as I hear that Pierce Transit CEO Lynne Griffith is giving back her $450 a month CAR allowance, OK?

  8. the3rdpigshouse says:

    I agree that it would be great to maintain the current level of bus service or even expand it – as long as the riders agree to pay for the bus service thru higher fares!!!

  9. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    The only thing that saves me money in this state is defeating union sponsered tax measures and Tim Eyman. I donate to both.

    I want ride a bus unless I am armed. It’ssafer to walk. Vote NO

  10. TheOutlawJoseyWhales says:

    No, it doesn’t. It costs you every time you buy something, whether you use PT or curse it. You pay much more per ride than you’ll ever know, because most people these days have a trophy where their math education should be.

  11. nokoolaide says:

    What saves your family money costs mine. Pay your own way.

  12. the3rdpigshouse says:

    “The amount of tax increase being asked is a bargain for families taking advantage of this important service.”

    I am happy you are happy – now pay for your own bus fare – I don’t ride the bus and have no desire to pay your fare!!

  13. Another uninformed letter writer. For the bazillionth time — there will still be bus service. The bus your daughter takes to the mall will still take her there, just not every 15 minutes. If you live way way way out in the county you may have to drive her a couple of miles to her bus stop instead of just a mile and a half, but there will still be a bus for her to take.

  14. tree_guy says:

    dmx, you have been posting almost constantly about how bad it is to be a bus driver. for heaven’s sake why don’t you do yourself and the readers a favor and quit? there must be some highly lucrative private sector jobs that interest you. one of my friends is a bus driver. he told me it’s a piece of cake.

  15. Concernedfather says:

    This proposition would raise the amount I pay towards your kids’ bus ride to around $1.00 a day. You save $200.00 in gas a year, but I pay $360.00 for your daughters, ride.

    This is redistribution at its’ finest.

    Cut the routes back to every half hour, no problem. Maybe they will actually fill half the darn bus that way.

  16. ConcernedFather: If you spend 40K on sales taxable items in WA per year, it’s true 360 dollars of that would go toward PT’s 18 million rides (in 2009) if the tax measure passes. That’s 0.00002 cents per ride from you for elderly, poor, children, disabled, and those who simply prefer to ride the bus, thus saving gas for your car, reducing wear on the roads, health problems from exhaust, and on and on. The benefits are substantial, your contribution minimal, even supposing you actually spend 40K on sales taxable items in WA per year–which, if you do, means you’re living pretty high on the hog to begrudge a measly 0.00002 cents per ride for bus service.

    So, supposing the letter writer’s daughter took 360 rides in a year, you’d be paying 0.0072 cents for _all_ of her rides in a year. That must be pretty painful for you. I feel your pain, believe me.

    Cutting the routes to every half hour (which most already are anyhow) probably would be no problem for you, since you evidently don’t ride the bus anyhow. But how would you know how much of the bus is full, seeing as you don’t ride it?

  17. alindasue says:

    Zillahboy, Bus drivers fully earn the money they make. Teachers should be paid more than they are. We need to put our priorities into paying for basics like schools and transportation. We do not need to constantly spend it on things like refurbishing stadiums or golf courses.

    northsc, if Proposition 1 fails, there’ll be no vacancies to apply for; if it passes, there may be some. Then you can apply for that $60,000 job – provided you have a Class A driver’s license with passenger endorsement (or are willing to go to school, then test to obtain one prior to applying). Of course, it’ll take several years before it actually is a $60,000 job. My husband (a truck driver) looked into it. The job starts off at a much lower wage and only part-time hours for the first year or so.

    UnbiasedReporter, the CEO of the Red Cross earns roughly half a million dollars a year. Does that mean we should quit supporting the Red Cross? I don’t think so. Just because the CEO of Pierce Transit makes as much as a lot of other CEOs (or government officials, for that matter) doesn’t make Pierce Transit any less worthy of our support.

    taxedenough, You are willing to donate to Tim Eyman’s expensive lifestyle but you aren’t willing to spend just a few pennies a week to keep a valuable public transportation system going? I’m glad it makes sense to you. It certainly doesn’t to me.

    By the way, if you take a weapon on the bus, the security officer will escort you off. Period. They don’t allow any unsafe behavior on the bus.

    3rdpigshouse, the bus fare has been increased three times in as many years. If they increase it any more, Pierce Transit would be the most expensive single county transit system in the state. The fact is that unless you are making an unusually high number of purchases of taxable items, you probably won’t be paying enough extra sales tax in most months to cover anyone’s round trip fare for even one trip.

    Fibonacci, you are correct. In the current economic situation, we have to either cut services or raise taxes if we are going to close the gap in the budget. What it comes down to is which hurts us more: decreasing bus service or adding 3 cents sales tax to a $10 purchase.

    I can think of a lot of people who would be hurt by decreased bus service: disabled, elderly, commuters, and even people driving on the freeway in the increased traffic. However, the increased sales tax would be so small that I can’t think of anyone – even low income people – who would actually be hurt by it.

    Heck, I bet if half of the people declaring “no more taxes” dropped 3 pennies, they wouldn’t even bother to bend down to pick it up. That’s how small an amount it is. It doesn’t make sense to vote against it.

  18. Zillahboy: Teachers are underpaid, no question about that.

    Your other points don’t add up, though. An earlier article in TNT (http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/01/23/1513567/benefits-wages-biggest-share-of.html) claimed bus drivers’ base ages were between “$44,241 and $56,160″ per year, not “just under” 60K.

    The TNT article garbled the facts, anyhow: PT drivers’ wages don’t “range from $21.27 to $27″, as the article claimed; those wages start much lower, at $17.62 per hour, and stay below $20.54 per hour for 4 years or more from the date of hire.

    Why the TNT can’t get the facts straight I don’t know. I’m not a reporter and I had no trouble finding the actual wage range for PT operators. Perhaps the TNT editorial board wanted to slant the facts to suit their position vis-a-vis Proposition 1?

    Why you, Zillahboy, can’t get the facts straight is obvious, of course.

  19. alindasue says:

    ronniew,
    The problem isn’t the frequency of the busses being reduced. That’s easy to work with. The problem is that several routes will be cut altogether and the hours on many of the remaining routes will be reduced to the point that it would be very hard to get anywhere and back after about 6:00pm when the reduced routes will stop running. That means Ms. Rae’s daughter may be able to ride the bus to her destination, but she may not have a bus to go home on.

    zaqar,
    You said it very well. I don’t know why these people are so set against a tax increase that’s so minor they wouldn’t even feel it.

    I do ride the busses – not frequently, but I do ride them. Rarely have I ever been on a bus that wasn’t at least half full. Some of the busses like Route 1 are often so full that people have to stand – and that one runs every 15 minutes! The demand is that high.

  20. crocodopolis says:

    If indeed “the demand is that high”, why is it that almost every evening driving home I follow a PT bus for no less than 3 miles, and on it are there seldom more than one or two passengers?
    Maybe I’m living in one of those “outlying districts”…. you know: the ones within the City Limits of Tacoma.

    Same arguments they use every few years when they come around demanding more money.
    Run it like a business and stop whining.

  21. alindasue says:

    crocodopolis,

    What route do you follow? I know that route ST 574 (for example) is often down to just a few people after dropping the majority of it’s riders at the Tacoma Dome transit center. Then it goes to Lakewood, drops the rest, and picks up new people. The routes are always emptiest at the beginnings and endings of routes.

    Most of the routes are long enough that 3 miles is not a long portion of one. You may be seeing the bus after the largest bulk of the passengers have gotten off. Very rarely has it been just me and a couple people on a bus through the whole route.

  22. crocodopolis says:

    alindasue:
    Your points are valid and well-taken.
    Nonetheless, my observations are what I have actually seen with my own eyes for the last 10+ years I’ve lived in this location: inbound/outbound- great big lumbering busses hauling maybe one or two people.
    They could get the job done with a 9-passenger Dodge van.

  23. ItalianSpring says:

    Increasing prices of fares and gas are good reasons to take measures to reduce costs by…….drilling here and drilling now. NOT jacking taxes forever upwards because they’ll never be high enough for some people, you know, the libs.

  24. harleyrider1 says:

    Read the WA state DOT study last year that said even though they have continued to spend more money on mass transportation than supporting the automobile, more and more people opt out each year and do not use it. Yet DOT did not suggest they re-direct the tax dollars to build a larger more serviceable automobile infrastructure. They suggested other ways to try to force mass transportation even though in Puget Sound, their own studies show it is not the first choice by taxpayers.i

    If this is a big deal to you, then vote in politicians who will do what you want or at least reflect as much of your opinion that you enter her.

  25. fatuous says:

    “Increasing prices of fares and gas are good reasons to take measures to reduce costs by…….drilling here and drilling now. NOT jacking taxes forever upwards because they’ll never be high enough for some people, you know, the libs.”

    The estimated amount of fuel left in the ground doesn’t not support your view.

    So we can’t drill ourselves out of the problem.

    On the other hand, it irks me to no end that the transit employees are holding the poor and the disabled hostage. That was enough for me to have voted no on the proposition.

    The transit employees need to learn to get by on the current revenue that sales tax is providing.

  26. fatuous says:

    “Read the WA state DOT study last year that said even though they have continued to spend more money on mass transportation than supporting the automobile,”

    I suspect the study counts HOV lanes as mass transit. HOV lanes are mainly occupied by single automobiles.

  27. ronniew says:

    alindasue — No, 3 pennies probably won’t hurt very many people, but this isn’t about 3 pennies. It’s about the straw that broke the camels back. We have countless agencies who are all lined up to take their turn for petitioning for just 3 more pennies. Each request comes with a heartfelt plea that not having those 3 pennies will completely decimate the lives of the disabled and elderly.

    We’re up to 93 pennies already, (which is DOUBLE what we paid when I was a kid) and all I hear about is how poor we treat our disabled and elderly. Got that? NOT ONE GOOD THING about all the people we can shuttle around for what we already pay. Just a bunch of complaints about what we CAN’T do with that money.

    Once in a while when I give my kid a cookie he complains it’s not big enough. As a lesson I take the cookie back so he gets nothing instead.

  28. fatuous says:

    “I do ride the busses – not frequently, but I do ride them. Rarely have I ever been on a bus that wasn’t at least half full. Some of the busses like Route 1 are often so full that people have to stand – and that one runs every 15 minutes! The demand is that high.”

    Outside of the commuter buses at peak times, I see buses with very few passengers, many times with no passengers at all, very frequently.

  29. fatuous says:

    “alindasue — No, 3 pennies probably won’t hurt very many people, but this isn’t about 3 pennies. It’s about the straw that broke the camels back. We have countless agencies who are all lined up to take their turn for petitioning for just 3 more pennies. Each request comes with a heartfelt plea that not having those 3 pennies will completely decimate the lives of the disabled and elderly.”

    Well said!

  30. PumainTacoma says:

    3rd pig is right.

    LISTEN UP. Pay your fair share of the fare. None of this for the kids BS again. Every time I open the paper someone is saying for the kids for the kids. Well kids also need to work, walk, and contribute to society. And don’t bother telling me we need to keep transporting kids to school. Parents start picking up the bill. Two kids on a bus and then reading about someone complaining about their back driving and no breaks!!! Well here’s a solution. Have the kids walk, bike, to school. Stop the manic hyperbole with the kids. It’s getting pathetic.

  31. elizabethan11 says:

    Maybe rather than complaining about how the buses ride around empty it’s time to sit down with a Pierce Transit time table and figure out how you can use the system that you’re paying for. This would mean less stress, fewer cars on our streets, fewer gallons of gas being burned (meaning LESS money out of your pocket).

    Most people have a long list of (pretty invalid or weak) reasons why they don’t ride the bus. Safety concerns? Really? Expensive? Try looking at your maintenance + gas costs per mile. Inconvenient? You can’t figure out a schedule? What else is stopping you?

  32. Well there are 3 votes in my home – all against the tax increase.

    Let the ballot decide. I still compare it to ferry use – it’s only fair if you decide to live on an island that you pay for a ferry service. Sure, some public subsidy might be justified – but the public at large who never use a ferry shouldn’t be expected to support those who made a life decision to live on an island.

    Bus service could actually make money on primary-urban routes with higher occupancy. Cut back on bus service to more dislocated/suburban/rural areas of Peirce County – or raise the rates for those routes (rate should be higher for a Graham to Puyallup route than a downtown Tacoma route).

  33. Blitzfan says:

    I occasionally ride the bus and at first I was not sure how I felt about Prop 1. I have always felt it my civic responsibility to be informed about an issue before casting my vote. A lot of responses I read here seem to be more of a knee jerk reaction to “oh no, not another tax”.

    On the issue of empty buses….

    Consider this, are you seeing a bus at the end of a route? At the beginning? Unless you ride the entire route, you can’t know if the bus remains that way throughout. Some start empty but are full by the end. Some just the opposite, like commuter routes that are designed that way, because they are one way routes, getting people to and from work.

    As for a few people on a bus, please try to think about why the people are on the bus in the first place. All have important things to do or they wouldn’t be there….

    I have met people going to dialysis appointments, going to give blood, give plasma or any of hundreds of other important medical procedures. Many elderly going about their daily activities from shopping to senior centers, with the bus the only way to remain independent. Kids going to and from school, workers to and from work and shoppers to and from shopping. I personally ride the bus to work when not car pooling.

    Which or how many of these activities justifies the bus? They are all important to the people on the bus. Sometimes a snapshot does not allow you to see the entire picture.

    In the end though, this point is moot in my opinion. Had you attended any of Pierce Transit’s community outreach seminars ( I did) or gone to PT Tomorrow (I have), you would know that the system as it stands now is 30 years old and out dated. Demographics have changed, traffic patterns have changed and destinations that riders want may be in different locations. Pierce Transit has already redesigned the entire system and has two plans ready to be implemented. Which plan is to be put in place will be determined by the outcome of Prop 1. So empty an bus now is a very poor indicator of the future.

    Concernedfather – I have seen you make many posts just like this before, very misleading. Pierce Transit would receive 9 cents on a $10 purchase… to reach $1.00 a day to pay for “a bus ride” and have to spend over $100.00 a day, every day. To imply that every cent of sales tax goes to pay for “a bus ride” is deplorable. If you want to state facts, please at least make them factual.

    I try to weigh the cost of every measure that is put on the ballot. Most of the time I need to look outside of my world to see what is “good” for the community as a whole, rather than “what’s in it for me.”

    Maybe all should pause a moment before making rash misinformed / uninformed judgments.

  34. MalcolmRussell says:

    These are the Pierce Transit positions that pay over $100k/yr, it includes PR directors and HR managers all making great CEO level salaries not to mention the very expensive Cadillac pensions & benefits plans.

    $205,853 CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER $205,853
    $162,073 VP-FINANCE, AUDIT & ADMINISTRATION $162,073
    $153,933 VP-HUMAN RESOURCES & TECHNOLOGY $153.933
    $150,257 VP-TRANSPORTATION SERVICES $150,257
    $126,397 DIRECTOR OF PROCUREMENT $126,397
    $126,372 DIRECTOR OF MAINTENANCE $126,372
    $126,372 DIRECTOR OF LABOR & EMPLOYEE RELATIONS $126,372
    $126,372 DIRECTOR OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY $126,372
    $126,372 DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS $126,372
    $126,372 DIRECTOR OF FINANCE $126,372
    $119,172 SENIOR PROJECT MANAGER $119,172
    $118,991 CHIEF OF PUBLIC SAFETY $118,991
    $117,183 DIRECTOR OF SCHEDULING & PLANNING $117,183
    $114,475 SAFETY & TRAINING MANAGER $114,475
    $111,795 BUDGET MANAGER $111,795
    $110,595 EMPLOYMENT MANAGER $110,595
    $110,410 ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING MANAGER $110,410
    $110,322 BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS MANAGER $110,322
    $110,108 PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER $110,108
    $107,616 FLEET MANAGER-BUS $107,616
    $104,405 BENEFITS & COMPENSATION MGR. $104,405
    $103,930 COMMUNICATION CENTER MANAGER $103,930
    $101,433 QUALITY ASSURANCE MANAGER $101,433
    $101,430 SPECIALIZED TRANSPORTATION $101,430
    $100,831 SERVICE SUPPORT MANAGER $100,831

  35. In another story today, Gov. Gregoire justifies a raise in permits to visit state parks to $10 per day visit and $30 per year per vehicle by stating it is necessary to get state parks off public funding and placed on the user.

    If higher fees for the public to visit public land is justified by this logic then the same logic should hold for public transportation.

    Users need to pay higher fees!

  36. BlaineCGarver says:

    If it cost five bucks to ride, you would still be paying WAY less than it costs me to drive my car. I’m tired of subsidizing your transportation. Maybe some have an extra few hours in the day to dink about waiting for bus transport, but I and most others do not. Tell ya what: privatize the bus system. Someone with the wherewithal to buy a new school-type bus could make big dollars and still serve the public better than these gubment goof-ups.

  37. alindasue,what do you base your claim on how Tim Eyman lives? I have never met the man,but from what I can ascertain,He has done more good for the Washington Voters than our so called Reps!Whatever he receives from the voters, he has earned every dime.I suspect you will never see Tim run for any Political office,for fear he would get to be too much like them.But if he did,and won, it couldn’t help but be an improvement!

  38. alindasue says:

    sincere,

    I base my claim on the news articles from the time back in 2002 where Tim Eyman finally admitted he was skimming money for himself out of the campaign finances after saying for months that he wasn’t profitting from his inititive work. After paying a fine to the Attorney General’s Office, he accepted a lifetime ban on involvement in any political committee’s financial accounts.

    http://www.atg.wa.gov/pressrelease.aspx?&id=5798

    Despite having his hand caught in the cookie jar, “Eyman said he intends to continue pushing initiatives, but he intends to be paid, and to be up front about it,” according to a Seattle PI article written at the time.

    http://www.seattlepi.com/local/56964_eyman03ww.shtml

    In other words, has now joined the ranks of the paid lobbyists. I have never seen anything good come from any of his inititives that have passed. Even his “$30 tabs” only benefitted people with newer cars; it ended up costing us more for our tabs than before! Yet, of course, he still has to churn out new inititives and keep the “no taxes” bandwagon rolling. If he doesn’t, he just might have to find a new job.

    If you and taxedenough want to keep supporting him in his chosen livelyhood, that’s your perogitive. Myself, I prefer to put the money into things like public transportation, where it’ll do some good, and encourage others to do likewise.

  39. alindasue says:

    MalcolmRussell,
    Congratulations. You’ve figured out that the executive level staff at Pierce Transit actually earn normal executive level salaries. Add the top three salaries together and it might top what the Red Cross CEO makes. That doesn’t make the Red Cross any less worthy of our support nor does it with Pierce Transit.

    Blitzfan,
    You’ve explained it all quite well. I haven’t been able to make the public meetings like you have, but I have been to their site and submitted comments and suggestions. I’m really excited about the redesign option that would take effect when/if Proposition 1 passes!

    The only thing I could add to what you’ve written is that PT does, in fact, pay attention when there are bus runs that consistantly have few riders and makes adjustments accordingly. For example, if you look in the “What’s New?” page of the new schedule book, you’ll see that one route 45 trip has been dropped and a route 51 trip has been alterred “due to low ridership”.

    Despite what many of you think about Pierce Transit’s executives actually earning executive level salaries, they do seem to try to cut unneccesary expenses in the routes where they can.

  40. Even if I made 500.000 dollars a year I would still vote no on this increase it isn’t the money it’s the principle PT need’s to manage better and prove they have done the best with what they have before I vote yes.

  41. alindasue says:

    jegggo,

    What makes you think they haven’t already done the best with what they have? Have you actually looked into the issue or are you going along with the line that because the executive staff earn executive salaries, they can’t be doing their job right?

    I earn much much less than than $500,000, and I voted yes.

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