Pierce Transit has a vision of growth, but it will take a substantial amount of additional public investment to realize. A long-range plan update, as proposed, would put Pierce Transit to increase weekday ridership by 198% from 28,700 to 85,700 by 2040. This would be made possible by introducing three bus rapid transit lines, launching several new fixed bus routes, and increasing frequencies so that more routes benefit from 15-, 20-, and 30-minute service headways.
Pierce Transit has struggled in the past decade. The Great Recession devoured finances since the transit agency is heavily reliant on the sales tax. As a funding source, that type of tax is highly volatile to economic circumstances and based upon consumer purchasing. Demand for goods, particularly of high value, plummeted during the Great Recession in Pierce County. The transit agency also did not have a well-padded rainy day fund to pull from to cover continued operational expenses.
The combined financial troubles of Pierce Transit led to massive service reductions after reaching a record high of about 660,000 annual service hours in 2008. The transit agency subsequently tried to obtain voter approval for new taxing authority to save and expand service. However, anti-tax activists led by the car sales lobby were successful in ensuring rejection of new taxes at the ballot box.
In order to create service efficiencies and consolidate bus service, Pierce Transit sought to reduce the geographic area of its Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA) in 2012. Cities like Bonney Lake, Buckley, and Sumner were taken out of the PTBA meaning that they would no longer be taxed but also would no longer benefit from bus service, limited as it was.