Pierce Transit’s board voted Monday night to cut service by 34 percent in September as a result of the defeat of a sales tax increase.
The board also debated options to cut sooner in June or later in February 2014, but chose a middle course.
During two hours of deliberations, board Chairwoman and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland stressed the decision was difficult. “No matter what we do, we’re going to have to take service away from some of our riders,” Strickland said.
The board voted 6 to 2 to adopt a timeline and plan to make the cuts effective Sept. 29.
The cutbacks won’t be as drastic as what the agency had projected in mailers sent to voters before the Nov. 6 election. Pierce Transit said in those cards that annual service hours would be reduced by 53 percent if voters failed to approve an additional three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax.
The reductions mean:
• Weekend and holiday service will be eliminated, as projected before the election.
• Weekday evening service after 7 p.m. will be reduced but not entirely eliminated as was stated in the mailers.
• On most routes, mid-day or peak-hour service won’t be cut as severely as predicted.
Some on the board leaned toward supporting Pierce Transit’s staff recommendation to make all the cuts in June – an option the agency introduced Friday. Chief Executive Officer Lynne Griffith said Pierce Transit changed its recommendation Friday from September to June because it could save a additional 7,000 more service hours over September.
Doug Middleton, vice president of operations, said bus operators have been quitting at an accelerated rate – one a week – since the three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax proposal was narrowly defeated in November. Operators with less seniority are leaving because of the inevitable cuts at a rate that will leave the agency short 30 to 40 drivers in September, Middleton said.
That attrition added to the pressure on the board to cut sooner rather than later.