The proposed tax increase of 0.3% for Pierce County residents to maintain and slowly increase bus service implores UWT students to ask an important question: “Do I want to pay more taxes for this?”
The increase would come out to three pennies for every ten dollars, and would provide Pierce Transit with the funds to improve services by 23% over the next six years. If rejected, route distances and times would be severely diminished and all day and weekend services eliminated. After operating sufficiently on the 0.6% tax for over 20 years, Pierce Transit can no longer afford its operations.
Mycal Aikens rides the bus every day to work and then to school, and if the 7pm cutoff were to happen, his schedule would be turned upside down. “I’m for the increase as long as it really goes to keeping the busses running.” Still, he understands the obstacle of getting people to approve tax increases. “But what’s point of paying taxes if you’re not willing to pay for things that will help us? I’d rather pay an increase because I will actually see what’s being done.”
At an open house in South Tacoma, employees of Pierce Transit addressed many questions concerning the proposition. Details of the six year improvement plan are available online, but will begin with replacing many of the buses that are near the end of their federally mandated life span. The removal of several cities from the Pierce Transit jurisdiction has left the company in “devastation of finances” according to Public Relations member Lars Ericson. $8 million in sales tax cuts from the voluntary withdraw of cities like Bonny Lake and DuPont, in addition to the $111 million already cut from Pierce Transit since the 2008 recession left the company with no choice but to ask voters for help. Sales tax revenue is 71% of Pierce Transit’s operating budget. Employee Justin Layton reminded voters that Pierce Transit is “very limited as a government agency” and getting facts and information to parts of the community who aren’t familiar with Prop 1 lies mostly with the people who will be impacted by its approval or rejection.
Josh Kienson, a junior, recognizes that getting non-bus riders to vote yes will be difficult. “I haven’t looked into all the details, but if the big deal is the tax increase, I’m for approving [Prop. 1]. I use the bus for work and I need the weekend service.”
Samantha Ryke doesn’t use the bus every day, but knows its operations are important to downtown Tacoma. “Every UWT student should vote yes if they can. This campus needs as much bus service as it can get.” The Pierce Transit community is larger than UWT’s.
Irene is a senior who has used the buses for 15 years, with no other alternatives to get around. “I don’t want your sympathy. I want my independence.” She won’t be able to get to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, or to see her children if the proposition is rejected and shuttle services are ended. She represents one of many community members who rely on current public transportation services, and the 45% of riders who use the bus because they have no other option. Consider the impact in these community members’ daily lives against the averaged $3.33 per month you’d have to spend as you prepare to vote this November.