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Proposed Pierce Transit Vanpool Service Changes Could Affect Local Commuters

Vanpool groups that have both origin and destination locations outside the updated service area boundaries received letters last week indicating they need to change origin locations or discontinue service if current proposals are passed.

With the failure of Proposition No. 1 last fall, Pierce Transit is weighing significant changes to its vanpool program that would greatly impact commuters who live in areas now outside of its service area boundaries, which include Bonney Lake and Sumner.

Namely, the agency is proposing aligning its vanpool service area boundaries with its general Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA). This means that, should its Board of Commissioners approve the change, commuters who currently meet in Bonney Lake or Sumner to ride to a destination outside of the service area would have to either change their origin point by June 30 or dissolve.

Click here to view the new service area (pdf).

"We are trying to be considerate of how our policies best serve the people who still live in the [service] district," said spokesperson Lars Erickson.

Last week, 683 riders from 78 vanpool groups received the letters indicating they would need to change origin locations or discontinue service if the proposal were passed, Erickson said. In all, Pierce Transit's vanpool program serves 2,598 people from 308 groups.

Vanpool coordinators are fielding questions from affected groups and trying to mitigate conflicts by working with analogous services in the neighboring counties where the groups make their destinations. Those with questions or concerns about their service should contact the vanpool coordinators listed in the letter they received, he said.

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for Feb. 11 in Lakewood.

Erickson clarified that if either origin or destination point were within the service area, those groups were not affected by this particular proposal. Those affected would be, for example, a group that currently meets in Bonney Lake to drive to Tukwila, in King County. As the destination can't change, the origin must, and must move to a point within the Pierce Transit service area.

As part of the proposal, the agency is also adjusting its overnight parking policy to allow for parking at riders' homes, particularly if a group has members who live within the service area. The current policy only allows for vans to be parked at a designated driver's home or at an agency-approved spot, Erickson said.

The Feb. 11 public hearing will also allow for comment on proposals to increase vanpool fares as well as recover Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls for vanpools that cross the bridge.

The hearing is part of the regular monthly meeting of the Board of Commissioners and takes place at 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11 at Pierce Transit's Training Center, Building 5, 3720 96th St SW, Lakewood, WA.

Would this proposal affect your vanpool group? Tell us in the comments. 

Todd January 09, 2013 at 02:59 PM
I understand that Bus and Van service is expensive, and that fares don't pay the entire expense. However, to pull Vanpool service from some nearly 700 faithful customers, some of which have been with PT for decades, merely because of either management expenses or redistricting due to lack of voter support just isn't very Green! If it’s simply a funding issue, can't the true cost of the Van service be passed on to the users? I'm sure they would all be willing to pay $10, $20 or $30 more a month to avoid having to pay the difference in personal gas and maintenance expenses, probably costing hundreds more! I certainly hope the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners, http://www.piercetransit.org/commis.htm rethinks their decision to turn their backs on the environment and force so many customers and cars to return to the road. Isn't this the wrong direction? Isn't there a better way? This is going to cause an extreme hardship on a great many people, and not just those being forced out...everyone on the road will feel a bit more crowded. Help us to help them see that creative solutions to real problems require pulling together, not just red tape and pulling plugs! Please tell us what you think!
Jowene January 09, 2013 at 03:41 PM
I too understand that bus and van service is expensive; however, this change that Pierce Transit to "Align the vanpool service area boundaries with the new bus and SHUTTLE boundaries" does not make any sense. I followed the new boundary and the boundary is mostly in rural areas and in fact, part of the Bonney Lake/Sumner boundary is on a hillside that is either heavely wooded or recently logged by Corlis Concret. I did not see one bus stop in this area. I agree with Todd's comment above, this is going to cause problems for over 700 customers and doesn't seem to coinside with "Going Green". Does Pierce Transit want all of these current customers to transfer vans to King County Metro, assuming vans are available at king county? I would think not but maybe that's their plan all along. Jowene
Daniel C Beebe January 09, 2013 at 07:48 PM
I am a van driver and I came up with a low milage of 546,400 miles these riders and drivers would be driving per month. Taking the figure of 683 riders times 20 miles a day(low number) times 2 trips a day times 20 days a month (usually 22 or 23 days) comes to 546,400 miles a month. I am sure that most of us would dread the traffic and parking each day with 683 more cars on the road.. Are we not trying to get more poeple off the road not on. Dan
Todd January 10, 2013 at 03:13 PM
Good point! Our commute is nearly twice that, so let’s say we'll have an extra 1 million miles put on our roads soon. Divide that by an ave. of 20 mpg and you'll have an extra 50,000 gal. of gas consumed. Multiply that by a future gas price of say $3.50/gal. and it will cost those 683 people an added $175,000 per month. Now add in all the extra maintenance, tires, oil and batteries that will be added to our landfills! This is huge people! It's not just about local taxes, or PT getting their nose out of joint because we don't want to pay for empty buses. This is about real people trying to solve real problems and we are mad that they just want to pick up their toys and leave the sandbox. Grow up Pierce Transit, and be part of the solution, oh and, yes, you have a right to make a profit in the process! So, let's do this. P.S. I hope PT employees realize, that if their management does away with nearly a third of their van fleet, nearly a third of you will be next.
Steve January 10, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Our vanpool commute is 84 miles round trip. The busses were empty the vans are not empty. Both a cost and enviromental analysis of the entire vanpool program need to be presented to the Board.
Teresa January 10, 2013 at 06:27 PM
Did anyone catch the date on the map? May of 2012!!! Yes, this was in the plan all along. How on earth do you justify eliminating groups that pays taxes like everyone else that are using the vans? Pierce County is Pierce County!! Thank you Pierce Transit for opening my eyes to your real mission, and it has nothing to do with going GREEN!!!!!
Nat Phillips January 11, 2013 at 09:48 PM
I plan on & encourage each one of the 683 folks affected by this proposal to show up at the hearing on Feb 11. If every one [of the 683] just took 1 minute to present their unique view, then the meeting would last over 11 hours. That would be the equivalent of how much extra time per week each would spend on the road. The council would only do this once. However, it would be just the beginning of the impact to our professional & personal lives.

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