Moving Forward - Update from Pierce Transit CEO Sue Dreier

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Moving Forward with CEO

Dear Community Member,

Since I wrote you last in April, Pierce Transit has been consistently adapting and changing in ways that have helped us continue providing essential rides for people in our community. We have proactively responded to changing circumstances while providing as much service as possible amidst declining funding levels. Most importantly, we have been focusing on keeping customers and our employees safe. You will find more details on all these topics below.

Stay healthy and safe,
Sue Dreier, CEO
Pierce Transit

Safety Onboard

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Pierce Transit has had extra safety measures in place to keep our customers, employees and communities safe. In addition to cleaning and sanitizing our buses each night, we are also sanitizing them – with a focus on “high touch” areas – whenever they pull into transit centers, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. We have marked off seats on buses to keep customers apart, and have limited the number of customers aboard, running “shadow” buses on our busiest routes to pick up extra passengers. In March, we suspended fare collections and passengers began boarding from the backdoor to decrease interaction between operators and customers. Since then, we have installed operator “health shields” around the driver area and in June we were able to reinstate fare collection. Of course, we have provided all our employees with masks, disinfectant, gloves and hand sanitizer, to keep them safe and healthy on the job. On a related note, Pierce Transit just issued a community survey to learn more about ridership habits during COVID-19 and how we can best meet your transportation needs during this time. I invite you to take the survey at this link

Face Coverings are Key

Gov. Inslee recently ordered all Washingtonians to wear facial coverings when indoors with others or outside when social distancing is not possible. Pierce Transit has been encouraging this practice for months through all our available communication channels, including recorded messages from Tacoma Mayor and Pierce Transit Board Chair Victoria Woodards and Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Tom Pierson that have been playing onboard our buses. Over several days in June and July, Pierce Transit employees handed out hundreds of reusable cloth masks to customers at transit centers. We are also installing mask dispensers onboard buses. 

Pierce Transit Mask Distribution at Transit Center

Carefully Watching Revenues

This pandemic has had a dramatic impact on virtually every business and organization in our community, and Pierce Transit is no exception. Outside the contracted funds we receive to provide Sound Transit’s Express bus service, Pierce Transit receives about 85 percent of its funding from sales tax. This funding source is, of course, dramatically impacted each time there is an economic downturn such as this one. In fact, estimates indicate that our funding (outside help we will receive from the federal CARES Act) could be down by one-third in 2020 alone. Pierce Transit has taken responsible steps to bring spending in line with revenues, laying off or furloughing about 10 percent of our workforce, putting capital projects on hold, re-examining budgets and temporarily reducing service. We are continuing to carefully monitor revenues and spending as we move toward 2021.

On a related note, if you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to read Matt Driscoll’s recent News Tribune column on the critical need to pursue a new and more stable funding source for transit. This would help ensure we can continue to provide essential trips whenever the economy dips and people have fewer transportation options, such as owning a personal vehicle.