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Bus riders in Pierce County face drastic cuts after sales tax proposition fails

Oran Viriyincy

Bus riders all over the Puget Sound region are coping with cuts in service, but Pierce County is facing something much more drastic.

If you don’t have a car in Pierce County, you may be homebound on the weekends and after 7 pm. That’s because voters have now – for the second time – rejected a sales tax increase. Pierce Transit will likely have to cut service in half.

Are there any other sources of revenue the agency could tap?  Pierce Transit CEO Lynne Griffith says the state limits them to sales tax. King County Metro, Sound Transit and Community Transit have been able to pass measures to raise their sales tax to the maximum, but voters in the Pierce Transit area have balked.

Griffith says that makes it hard when she goes to Olympia to lobby for other sources of money. 

"Legislators have said, 'Go use the taxing authority you have before we give you more,'" Griffith said. "Well, now we’re going to have a discussion with them. We’ve tried that twice and our citizens are not willing to increase sales tax."

Griffith says there’s been a little bit of talk about a transportation revenue package from the state, but it’s very preliminary. Federal funds are tight, too.

The Pierce Transit board will meet December 14th to map out how to make cuts and whether to do it quickly or in phases. She says the agency will also seek public input on what to eliminate.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.