Destination 2040: Pierce Transit plans for growth


Planning for the Future

Destination 2040” is the name of Pierce Transit’s first Long Range Plan, currently in development.  Next week Pierce Transit will begin holding a series of three open houses to showcase the draft plan and to allow for public comment.  The plan will outline the agency’s service development and growth direction for the next 25 years.

If you wish to make public comment on the plan when it comes out, you can either attend an open house in February, or during the public hearings in March or provide written comment at  The public comment period is expected to last until March, but may be extended further.  Pierce Transit’s advisory committee will be dedicating the next two meetings to a thorough review and vetting of the proposed plan.  I am encouraging neighborhood groups as well as organizations dedicated to urban growth, transportation, and sustainability to also make comments on the plan as to its compliance with the Growth Management Act and regional comprehensive planning.

The plan includes three growth scenarios and one financially constrained scenario where service shrinks in the event that funding is jeopardized.  All of the scenarios are based on different levels of funding that would be available for the agency to use for service.  All of these plans have a planning horizon year of 2040.

Scenario 1, the existing conditions scenario, is 450k service hours, results in 15 million boardings per year, and would require no additional funding.  Scenario 2, “incremental growth” would grow fixed route service hours at 2% per year and would result in a 61% overall increase in service by 2040, and would require another $334M between now and then.  Scenario 3, “rapid growth” would provide for service expansion at 2.5% per year.  Scenario 4, “aspirational growth” would yield service growth at 3% per year.  The routing and service level performance of each of the scenarios was evaluated using Puget Sound Regional Council travel modeling.

Growing at different rates

New services that would be provided under the Incremental Growth scenario include:

  • Restoration of 15 minute headways on Route 2 (S. 19th St / Bridgeport Way)
  • 20 minute service connecting Lakewood, Downtown Tacoma, Puyallup, Point Defiance and South Tacoma Way
  • Doubling of the frequency on 15 routes from hourly headways to 30 minute headways
  • Tripling the frequency on two routes from 60 to 20 minutes, plus more morning, evening, and weekend service

New services in the Rapid Growth scenario include:

  • All services from the current conditions and incremental growth scenario, and
  • Added frequency for seven routes from 30 to 20 minutes
  • Frequent express service from Puyallup to Downtown Tacoma
  • 10 minute headways on Route 1 (6th Avenue / Pacific Avenue)

New services in the Aspirational Growth scenario include:

  • All service from the Rapid Growth and Incremental Growth scenarios, and
  • New limited and express service along 6th Avenue, Pacific Avenue, Bridgeport Way, Point Defiance, Tacoma Mall, University Place, and South Hill
  • 10 minute headways between Lakewood, Downtown Tacoma, and every 20 minutes between Puyallup and Downtown Tacoma
  • Buses every 15 minutes from Downtown Tacoma to TCC, along South Tacoma Way, and to Federal Way
  • 10 minute bus service on Meridian Avenue in Puyallup / South Hill

Growing the fastest is also the most cost effective

Preliminary TacomaTransit analysis based upon the “Future Service Scenarios” handout relative to current conditions shows that the Aspirational Growth scenario is the most cost effective of all of the scenarios at a cost of $2.17 per incremental boarding (or new passenger) averaged over a 2017-2040 time period.  The next most cost effective scenario is Incremental Growth at $2.42 per new passenger.  Rapid growth appears to be $3.60/passenger.  Current Pierce Transit cost per passenger is in the area of $4.50, so all growth scenarios represent a relative cost savings per passenger for increased investment in public transit service in current dollars.  Again, the biggest bang for our buck is the Aspirational Scenario, which yields new passengers at less than half the public cost of current service.

Pierce Transit Service Area
The Pierce Transit Service Area – 2012

If you attend the public open houses in February, here’s what you should watch for and make note to make public comment on:

  1. Watch for service in the scenarios that is located outside of the Pierce Transit service area.  Sound Transit does not plan for service outside of its district.  Pierce Transit may be out of step with the intent and legal requirements of enabling legislation, if it decides to make provisions for fixed route service principally outside of its taxing district.
  2. Look for service that relies on new highways that are controversial and/or currently unbuilt.  The effect of a highway being in a transit plan can be used as justification for said highway at a regional or state level.  Such service must stand on its own and be justified relative to other investments.
  3. Observe how much service relies on the transit center model for connections.  Currently dwell time at transit centers is 6 minutes or more per route per trip, service that could be focused towards a frequent transit network model, which is the dominant paradigm of the day and has been used in the redesign of transit systems in Portland, Vancouver, Houston and elsewhere.  The 1979 design of the Pierce Transit pulse system needs to evolve further into a grid system as we approach the 2040 planning horizon as land use and density levels change.
  4. Which aspects of each scenario support the development of a Frequent Transit Network?  For each scenario, think about what percentage of the PTBA is walking access to a transit line that operates at least every 15 minutes during the day.  If public transit is focused along key corridors, it may give more residents more options, while providing better coverage service.
  5. What strategies is Pierce Transit suggesting should be pursued to implement any of the growth scenarios?  Will Pierce Transit implement a buyback program and enlist the support of municipalities to restore transit service?  What should be the schedule for attempting another district-wide ballot measure? All of the growth scenarios assume full utilization of Pierce Transit’s 0.9% sales tax authority.
  6. What assumptions are being made for Sound Transit infrastructure, as well as congestion, priority right of way, etc?
  7. What new capital facilities or transit corridors are being planned?
  8. How does Pierce Transit’s plan mesh with other growth plans at the City of Tacoma and other neighboring municipalities?

If you can, please attend one of Pierce Transit’s open houses in February.  I expect to be able to attend Tacoma’s open house and the Lakewood presentation and I would be glad to meet several readers of the blog at these events to hear input and to discuss the future of Pierce Transit.

Tacoma – Wed., Feb. 3, 3 – 6 p.m., Hilltop Community Room, 1202 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

Puyallup – Tues., Feb. 16, 4:30 – 7:30 p.m., Puyallup Library, 324 S. Meridian

Lakewood – Thurs., Feb. 25, 5 – 8 p.m., Pierce Transit Training Center, 3720 – 96th Av.