Bonney Lake to discuss alternatives to buses

If Pierce Transit goes through with its plans to cut bus routes throughout East Pierce County, why should the cities continue to pay into the system?

That’s the question being considered by Bonney Lake and other small cities around the county as they face the possibility of losing their bus routes due to cuts in the Pierce Transit system.

“It would be like us billing people for water and not giving them water,” Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said Thursday.

This week, representatives from Bonney Lake will be meeting with several other small Pierce County cities to discuss the possibility of de-annexing from the Pierce Transit district should the organization go through with plans to cut routes in the area.

The meeting is called by Mayor Cheryl Temple of Orting and representatives from Buckley, Steilacoom, Eatonville, South Prairie and Dupont were invited to attend.

According to Orting City Administrator Mark Bethune, the idea is to discuss alternatives to Pierce Transit, which, according to their plans based around the current funding model, could eliminate many of the routes throughout the area including the 407 through Bonney Lake and South Prairie, the 406 to Buckley and the 408 through Sumner.

The shuttle from the Bonney Lake Park and Ride to the Sumner Sounder station would not be eliminated.

Pierce Transit is presently facing a budget gap of $68 million by 2012 and has stated the 0.6 percent sales taxes it collects from member cities is not enough to sustain the current levels of service. The organization is proposing an additional sales tax of 0.3 percent, though even if that plan passes, several routes would still be eliminated, including those around Bonney Lake and out to Buckley.

Should they go through with their plans, Bethune said the transit authority would be underserving the needs of those cities while continuing to “subsidize” the more urban areas with sales tax dollars.

“Clearly, de-annexation is a real possible alternative,” Bethune said.

The idea of de-annexing from the district if Pierce Transit eliminates the routes seemed to draw wide support during the April 6 Bonney Lake Council workshop.

Swatman proposed the idea of Bonney Lake potentially creating its own intra-city service, possibly providing routes from the residential areas to the city’s shopping district.

“We’re big enough now to provide our own service,” he said.

According to City Administrator Don Morrison, Pierce Transit’s portion of the city sales tax adds up to a total of about $2 million each year going from Bonney Lake to Pierce Transit.

“They impose a tax on anyone who shops in Bonney Lake so we consider it coming from our community,” Morrison said Thursday.

“What it boils down to is why would our citizens contribute that much money to a system and not get anything out of it?” he asked.

Morrison said the law allows for only one intercity transit organization, but Bonney Lake could use a shuttle around the city or potentially partner with Pierce Transit to rebate some of the money back to the city.

Mayor Neil Johnson said he supported talking about the alternatives to Pierce Transit because it could lead to other conversations and potential solutions, but reiterated that it was not fair to Bonney Lake to pay into a system and not get anything back.

“If we’re not going to get the routes and services we need the revenue should stay in Bonney Lake so we can provide a solution,” he said.

For more information on Pierce Transit’s funding proposals and potential route eliminations visit http://www.pttomorrow.org/