Letters to the Editor

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TRANSIT: Increase cost to bus users

Letter by George Frey, Puyallup on June 1, 2012 at 2:08 pm with 33 Comments »
June 1, 2012 3:16 pm

Here we go again. According to a Pierce Transit press release, “The Pierce County Transit Board came to consensus that securing funding to restore access to essential services for seniors, the disabled and people who rely on Pierce Transit requires a November 2012 ballot measure asking for 0.3 percent.”

Based on the 2012 budget, this would give the agency an additional $32,996,120 in sales tax revenue. It would leave you to believe that the only people who use Pierce Transit are seniors and the disabled.

The budgeted operating revenue for 2012 is $131,183,221 and budgeted operating expenditures are $115,609,650, leaving a positive balance of $15,573,571.

Pierce Transit need more money? Fares are projected to be 9 percent of total revenues. A lot of people using Pierce Transit can pay more for this service. Paying 75 cents for a shuttle service that costs more than $35 a trip is ridiculous. There are people meeting the criteria for shuttle service who can afford to pay a higher fare. Just because someone is over 65 does not mean that they need a reduced fare.

We put tolls on bridges and highways to ask users to help cover costs. We don’t give them a break because they are over 65 or it causes them a financial hardship. Based on the 2012 budgeted ridership of 15,992,124, the average fare is 74 cents.

If taxpayers are going to be asked for a 50 percent increase in funding, then I think that the riders should see a significant increase in fares. They should pay for the service they use.

Leave a comment Comments → 33
  1. I was brought up to respect my elders; seniors deserve a break in their twilight years. Yes you bring up good points in your letter, which will be echoed below……wish there was a way to help the disabled/elderly without angering taxpayers.

  2. itwasntmethistime says:

    BORG — Seniors are already getting a big break in that the fare they pay represents just 9% of the cost. We could raise the fare to cover 20% and they would still be getting a huge break on the actual cost. The rest of us pay 100% of the cost to get ourselves around so 20% isn’t unreasonable.

  3. concernedtacoma7 says:

    The break the get is SS and Medicare, receiving way more in benefits than they ever paid in.

    Now heavily subsidized public transport (near free).

    Where is the line? When there were more workers per elderly the math worked (kind of). Today it is no where close.

  4. dgraves says:

    concernedtacoma7, I’ll gladly give up my forthcoming SS and Medicare, just as soon as I get back all that money I paid into it, so that I may invest it myself. I don’t think that asking for a little interest on the loan I was forced to pay to the government wouldn’t be too much to ask either.Say around 3-5%APR.

  5. dgraves says:

    Excuse me, I meant to say money, not loan. I should profread before I click submit. ;)

  6. dgraves says:

    How ironic can one get.

    *proofread*

  7. concernedtacoma7 says:

    The problem is that money is not there. Just a bunch of IOU’s. You need to hope the youth of today and our economy can support the continued transfer of wealth from the young to the old.

  8. itwasntmethistime says:

    Buses, guys. This was about buses.

  9. Great, lets put the whole burden on the people who can least afford it. The elderly and the handicap. Nice.

  10. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Itwasnt- this is about another entitlement, funded by people who do not use the service.

    Frida- why is near free transportation something the state should pay for, only utilized by a small segment of the populous at a huge cost?

  11. Why do you think that the people using the bus are all elderly and handicapped? Can you support that with any facts? The fare that the people using public transit are currently paying doesn’t begin to cover their fair share of the costs.

    On a separate note, why do we need to expand the service that they are currently providing? They cut out most of the outlying areas when they made their cuts. I don’t see any reason to provide more service then they are currently providing.

  12. Tacomalover says:

    3 pennies on ten dollars, 30 cents on $100 dollar sale, $3 dollars on a $1,000 dollar sale, $30 bucks on a $10,000 sale.

    Is this really a burden?

  13. Tacomalover. It is not the 3 cents. It is the 94 cents we are already paying in sales tax. We keep trying to minimize the cost as we keep adding to our sales tax. We are already paying 6/10th of a cent for Pierce Transit. Now they just want to build up their system but it is a losing proposition. If they increase ridership on their existing routes that is great but when they add more routes and increase frequency it costs more. It may be great for the people that live in Tacoma but for those of us in the outlying areas it is just us subsidizing a service for someone else. If I am going to spend another 3 cents I can give you a list of a lot of items I would rather fund than Pierce Transit.

  14. Tacomalover says:

    They cut 43% and have lost millions of boardings a year because of it! So, they are not building up anything, they are just trying to bring back what was lost!

    The boundaries were cuts – see this story: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/03/09/2060072/new-proposed-pierce-transit-map.html

    Or Here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/03/09/2059134/group-approves-pierce-transit.html

    so those areas where buses were cut all together no longer are inside the Pierce Transit taxing area! see here: http://www.piercetransit.org/ptic-library/maps/PTBA_bondary_030812.pdf

  15. alindasue says:

    swmpr,

    After the tax increase is approved, you would still have to spend a full $100 in taxable items (not food) for your contribution to Pierce Transit to equal the value of whole candy bar.

    Not all the people who ride the buses are elderly or disabled – true – BUT a very large percent of the people are AND they are the ones whose rides are more heavily subsidized. The standard adult fare ($2) is more than twice the elderly/disabled fare ($0.75).

    “It may be great for the people that live in Tacoma but for those of us in the outlying areas it is just us subsidizing a service for someone else.”

    The reason that much of the outlying service was cut back is because it costs considerably more per rider to serve those areas. We here in Tacoma are actually spending more to subsidize the outlying area trips than the people in the outlying areas are spending to subsidize service here in town. Yet it was in the outlying communities, not here in Tacoma, that Pierce Transit’s last request for the increase was voted down…

    Now those same communities complain about being under served.

  16. alindasue says:

    Tacomalover,

    Please, don’t confuse the issue with facts (even though we appear to be in full agreement on the issue.)

  17. concernedtacoma7 says:

    The real cost is the shuttle, as the LTE stated. 3
    $35 and they pay less then a buck.

    And if you buy a $20k car, do you want $60 going to subsidize someone else’s transportation? Does that make any sense? Not for roads or something you might use, but so old ladies can spend $70 going to farmer’s market to buy $10 worth of veggies (ref last week’s LTE).

  18. You are right. They want to rebuild but the riders aren’t participating in covering the costs. The board can’t make the hard decisions to raise fares. Pierce Transit fares are less than King County.

    Pierce Transit expenditures in 2010 were $133,045,076 and they are budgeted to be $155,185,720 in 2012. If they can’t maintain service with a $22,000,000 increase in funding then they need to look further at expenses. The increase they are asking for is an additional $32,000,000. When the economy turns around, and eventually it will, are they going to come back to us and say we are going to lower our assessment? They will just spend it like all the other government agencies.

    We didn’t need to spend over $250,000,000 on a new enhanced 9-1-1 system but we are going to.

    Take a look at this link. It is the 2012 Pierce Transit Budget.
    http://www.piercetransit.org/budget/_2012FINALBudget.pdf

  19. alindasue,
    How many of these individuals that are only paying $.75 can’t afford to pay another $.25 or $.50 for their ride? That’s less than the cost of a candy bar.

    How about this for a bargain. For summertime savings, any youth can load a PT Summer Youth Pass on a Youth ORCA card, valid for unlimited rides on local Pierce Transit service June 1st through August 31st, for only $36. Why would you offer a discount like this? What a bargain and what an easy way to get around the city on the cheap.

    Forget all of the discounts and run the transit service like a business, not a charity. Ask the people who live on the other side of the Narrows bridge what kind of deal they get on tolls. If you use it you should pay a fair price for the service.

  20. alindasue says:

    swmpr said, “Ask the people who live on the other side of the Narrows bridge what kind of deal they get on tolls.”

    The people on the other side of the bridge get plenty of “subsidized” bus and ferry service that allows them to avoid paying the tolls if they don’t want to. They also have many many miles of freeway that they don’t pay tolls on – our tax dollars pay for that.

    As for the Summer Youth Pass… Why would they offer a discount like that? Why do we have public parks and libraries? It’s the same reason. It gives young people something constructive to do during the Summer months and enhances our community.

    “The board can’t make the hard decisions to raise fares.”

    Over the last few years, fares have risen from $1.25 to $1.50 to $1.75 and now the current $2 per ride. It sounds like they’ve been making the “hard decisions”.

    “We didn’t need to spend over $250,000,000 on a new enhanced 9-1-1 system but we are going to.”

    Which has absolutely nothing to do with Pierce Transit…

  21. Typical conservatives, take from the poor and give to the rich.

    The republicans (mittens) are now proposing to cut taxes on the rich, to crate jobs cuz that works so well, and…..RAISE taxes on those that earn less than 35K a year!
    Where is grover??

  22. “The problem is that money is not there. Just a bunch of IOU’s.”

    How does someone get so uninformed and wrong?

  23. “why is near free transportation something the state should pay for, only utilized by a small segment of the populous at a huge cost?”

    The question is,
    If it was explained to you, would you understand it?

  24. tree_guy says:

    George Fey, you’ve contributed a valuable letter to the editor. In your letter you make a good case for voting NO on any Pierce Transit sales tax increase.

    Pierce Transit has just about the lowest farebox recovery ratio (fares / operating expenses) of any transit system I could find. Amtrak is 70%, Sound Transit is 22%, and where is Pierce Transit? Well according to Wikipedia, Pierce Transit is at a mere 13% (2009). This means the riders aren’t paying any significant portion of the ride. The leading contributor to Pierce Transit is already the government subsidy which is the current tax rate. If the tax rate for transit is increased, then the farebox recovery rate will drop even further.

    Those people who say the taxpayers should pay more because, after all, we’re only talking about the price of a candy bar, are trying to make illogical appeal to low information voters. Don’t buy into that. People who vote yes are going to be paying a lot more into the government than the cost of a candybar. Multiply 3/10 percent times the amount you spend on taxable items each year (from now until eternity) and you will have a very large number indeed. This is never going to be reduced. It’s a legacy you’ll be leaving to your children and grandchildren.

  25. Another 3/10 of a cent will take the sales tax rate up to 9.7% or 9.8%. Where do we stop? We have one of the highest sales tax rates in the country and sales tax is a regressive tax placing a heavier burden on low income families. I know we don’t have an income tax. That is a separate issue. We keep getting lost in the 10ths of a percent and forget to look at the big picture. It isn’t another $3.00 on a $1000. It is $97 on a $1000 and you know there are more ideas out there for another 10th for street repair. Enough is enough. When the economy improves and there is more money available then they can rebuild their routes. Until then they should live with what they have.

  26. BlaineCGarver says:

    No more taxes. Let the riders pay what the ride is worth. Perhaps a reduced fair for the needy.

  27. alindasue says:

    tree_guy said, “Sound Transit is 22%, and where is Pierce Transit? Well according to Wikipedia, Pierce Transit is at a mere 13% (2009)”

    I think we can both agree that Pierce Transit’s Shuttle service is its biggest money loser in terms of paying for itself. Sound Transit has no similar para-transit type service, so of course it would not have to be subsidized as much.

    I wonder about that 13% figure you cite for Pierce Transit and how currant it would be today. 2009 was two fare raises ago and prior to some of the more expensive outlying routes were cut back.

    I just found the 2012 budget and am in the process of reading it. I do note that, understandably, ridership decreased with the reduction in routes and route hours this last year or so. After I’ve read it fully and analyzed it, I’ll probably comment further. Here’s the link, if any of you want to read it too:
    http://www.piercetransit.org/budget/_2012FINALBudget.pdf

  28. taxedenoughintacoma says:

    Until the unions are out and PT is privatized I am a NO vote and will donate to the NO on Prop 1 crew.

  29. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Alindasue. Let’s say it doubled, given your math (and a lot of grace), 26%.

    Is that OK?

  30. It is difficult to think that the board is looking objectively at this issue when it is made up of a Union Representative, the CEO and politicians from various local governments in Pierce County. These politicians are going to look for anything to help garner votes. We need unbiased individuals on this board to determine what is the best way to provide service and still be fiscally responsible.

  31. alindasue says:

    swmpr said, “The board can’t make the hard decisions to raise fares. Pierce Transit fares are less than King County.”

    King County Metro just rose their fares a few months ago to the $2.50 rate. Prior to that, the single zone off-peak rates were the same as Pierce Transit’s and their elderly/disabled rate was a quarter less at only 50 cents.

    Pierce Transit’s elderly/disabled rate has been 75 cents for a couple years now. The standard fare went up to $2 last year and is scheduled to go up again in 2013.

    concernedtacoma7,
    Now that I’ve had a chance to look at current 2011-2012 figures…

    About a fourth of Pierce Transit’s revenue comes from Sound Transit. Sound Transit mostly deals with the running of the trains and farms out its bus operations to the local transit agencies. Pierce Transit operates about half a dozen of them. 72% of the remaining revenue after Sound Transit’s payment is from sales taxes. Roughly 14% of that same remaining revenue comes from fares.

    So, ST’s fare revenue that goes to PT, using tree_guy’s 22% figure would be $6,546,677 for 2011. Combine that in with PT’s $12,511,403 and it equals up to about 16% of the revenue coming from fares.

    Of course, as pointed out, the most heavily subsidized service is for the elderly and disabled riders, particularly those who use the Shuttle service.

    You said, “And if you buy a $20k car, do you want $60 going to subsidize someone else’s transportation? Does that make any sense? Not for roads or something you might use, but so old ladies can spend $70 going to farmer’s market to buy $10 worth of veggies (ref last week’s LTE).”

    You and I both know that an old lady or a disabled person living on SSI cannot afford to spend $70 on specialized transportation. Even spending $5 on a regular basis can be a hardship. That’s why they are charged 75 cents per ride instead. It’s possible that in the 2013 fare rise it might go up to $1. It was 50 cents just a couple years ago.

    Would I want to spend $60 supplementing someone else’s transportation? Would it really harm me financially to do so? No, it wouldn’t – and it is the moral thing to do.

    It makes sense to make it easier for them to get around. The more disabled people can participate in our community, the more they contribute to our economy. Consider it an investment in the community’s economy if you can’t find reason within yourself to do it for moral reasons.

  32. It looks like I should have gone to the public hearing today. Nobody was opposed to raising the sales tax. One of the people said that he couldn’t get to the Mariner’s game on Sundays because of the limited service or visit his mother in Orting. Several women said the cutbacks have hurt transit service for military widows to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It seems like the only people that attend these hearings are the people that support it. I hope that there is enough support to defeat this measure in November. Such a small portion of the population uses public transportation but the majority pay for it.

    You can also count on wages and benefits increasing for those employed by Pierce Transit. It will be interesting to see what their budget looks like for 2013.

  33. alindasue says:

    swmpr said, “You can also count on wages and benefits increasing for those employed by Pierce Transit. It will be interesting to see what their budget looks like for 2013.”

    Like most of us, the Pierce Transit employees haven’t had a raise since the recession started.

    To give you an idea what the 2013 budget will look like:
    http://www.piercetransit.org/budget/_2012FINALBudget.pdf

    Starting on page 43 of the file is their six year financial plan.

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