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TRANSIT: Smaller tax measure infeasible

Letter by Chris Karnes, Tacoma on Nov. 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm with 7 Comments »
November 15, 2011 10:11 am

Re: “Press reset button on mass transit for cities losing buses” (Our View, 11-14).

The News Tribune asserts that if the Pierce Transit Board had proposed a 0.2 percent sales tax measure, it “might well have won.” A smaller tax measure was studied and deemed infeasible by Pierce Transit. I served on the citizen committee that studied it last year.

Despite cost containment and management layoffs, it would have combined higher taxes with less bus service in outlying areas where people ride less often and costs are generally higher. The campaign logistics for communicating with voters who would be paying more for less service would have been unworkable.

With less service, ridership would have declined even if it had passed, so our committee unanimously recommended a 0.3 percent proposition to the Pierce Transit Board to preserve the system.

On top of that, suburban Pierce County has a long history of voting against transit measures of any size. Over the last ten years, Bonney Lake and most of unincorporated Pierce County have rejected all four of them. Why would a new fifth proposal fare better?

It seems to me that the editorial board either dismissed the budget numbers and community involvement process that Pierce Transit went through, or they haven’t come to terms with their own unwillingness to back the measure, the failure of which now denies and hampers provision of basic mobility to the most vulnerable of our society like the working poor and their children, people with disabilities and the elderly.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. tree_guy says:

    PT doesn’t need higher sales tax subsidies, it needs a fundamental change in priorities. The priority is NOT making sure the unions are happy with transit wage levels, but rather making sure the system operates at the highest level of efficiency. Salaries must come down in reflection of economic realities. Driver salaries for example have a base wage rate of $44,241 – $56,160. That’s way too high for an easy job that doesn’t require any education beyond GED. There are other extravagences too numerous to mention in a posting.

  2. aislander says:

    If we were not wasting all that money on light rail that nobody rides (at least not enough to come close to paying for itself) we could ADD bus routes…

  3. “If we were not wasting all that money on light rail that nobody rides (at least not enough to come close to paying for itself) we could ADD bus routes… ”

    One, they are different agencies, Pierce Transit, the other Sound Transit.

    Two, a lot of folks ride the light rail downtown Tacoma. The problem is Sound Transit doesn’t charge for the ride. They really should try to collect some money for the ride.

  4. aislander says:

    One: That they are different agencies is irrelevant to the point. We’re talking about transportation.

    Two: Quantify “a lot.” And while you’re at it, take a flyer at the per-rider cost. I understand we should charge about $250 per ride in order to get this nocturnal emission paid for in the current millennium…

  5. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    I am a NO vote on any attempt at another tax increase. Until their is real change in PT there will be NO tax increases.

    Staff salaries should be reduced in half and decertify the drivers union before even talking about a tax increase.

    King county even said NO. Pierce county has had it with union driven property tax increases.

  6. alindasue says:

    aislander said, “And while you’re at it, take a flyer at the per-rider cost. I understand we should charge about $250 per ride in order to get this nocturnal emission paid for in the current millennium…”

    I don’t know where you are getting your ridiculous figure, but logic doesn’t play it out.

    Buses average between 6-8 mpg diesel. Most of the Pierce Transit routes are about 10 miles or so long. At approximately $4 per gallon for diesel, we can figure about $10 per run for fuel.

    An hour of driver’s wage (assuming he’s been on the job 10+ years and the route is one of the longer ones that PT serves) would add close to another $40 to the cost.

    There are a few other people involved in maintaining the buses and keeping them running. Their wages can be divided between all the buses in the fleet, but we’ll factor in another $40 (two workers) just for argument’s sake. (It’s probably much less than that…)

    That means that IF a bus goes through an entire run through its route with only one passenger – which I have never seen happen – that bus ride cannot logically cost any more than about $90 to run.

    If you are going to use hyperbole for your “understanding”, then at least keep the basis for it somewhat logical.

  7. alindasue says:

    I should point out that in my last post, I was estimating high and rounding up. The reality is that most routes are about a half hour long each way, using closer to $5 in diesel and about $15-20 in wages. Even when I’ve ridden the bus late at night, there’s always been a couple other people getting on or off during the route. So, even during slow times, the cost per ride is only about $8.

    Ah, but $250 is a much more fun number to cite, no?

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