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2020 Annual Report
Pierce Transit improves people’s quality of life by providing safe, reliable, innovative and useful transportation services that are locally based and regionally connected. Never has this been more apparent than in 2020, when the world was faced with an unparalleled challenge to every facet of daily life. With nearly all systems as we knew them grinding to a halt, Pierce Transit kept going. This is the story of how our agency moved forward to support our community, together.
When 2020 began, Pierce Transit, like so many other organizations, had a strong vision and strategy for how we would serve our community throughout the year. While things didn’t turn out as planned, I am happy to report that Pierce Transit was instrumental in keeping the economy moving in 2020 – and in new and unexpected ways.
As the pandemic unfolded, we were buoyed by the opportunity to provide the essential service of mobility to the people of Pierce County. Even at the height of the pandemic, we were providing more than 9,000 rides a day to people getting to essential destinations, and to essential workers getting to their jobs. This report details many of the ways Pierce Transit kept our community safely moving forward in 2020.
Despite COVID-19, Pierce Transit also continued planning on key projects, including our Bus Rapid Transit line that serves Tacoma to Spanaway, scheduled to open in 2024.
In 2021, as we move beyond COVID-19, we are restoring service lost during the pandemic and talking with the community about the level of service Pierce Transit may provide in future years.
Finally, I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to serve our community as Pierce Transit CEO. I am retiring in 2021 after a 30-year transit career. It has been one of my highest honors to serve in this role, and I wish Pierce Transit and Pierce County all the best in the years ahead.
Pierce Transit CEO
Message from the Board Chair
The role of public transportation in keeping our communities open, connected and accessible was made more apparent than ever as we all navigated the pandemic. It became apparent early on that transit was essential for getting our workers to their jobs, appointments, groceries and other necessary activities.
As the Chair of the Pierce Transit Board, I am so proud of the dedicated workers at this agency for their courage and grit to show up every day and provide the high-quality, safe transportation services our county deserves. As we look to the future, I am excited about the opportunities to increase access to all that our region has to offer.
Keeping Pierce County Moving – Safely
Pierce Transit put everything it had into keeping the community, riders and employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the agency began a series of aggressive measures to ensure a safe ride:
- Disinfecting buses several times a day
- Marking off seats for distancing
- Installing bus driver barriers
- Screening employees for illness
- Upgrading building air filters to hospital grade
- Eliminating fares and boarding from the back to keep operators and customers distanced
- Holding transit center mask giveaways
- Distributing masks on every passenger vehicle
Supporting our Community During COVID
Rides for Essential Workers
Because of pandemic-related impacts, Pierce Transit joined other agencies worldwide in reducing service levels in early 2020. In an effort to assist transit-dependent essential workers whose regular bus service was temporarily suspended, we offered a special reservation-based service to help those individuals get to work and keep our economy moving.
To ensure social distancing on board vehicles, we added “shadow service." Empty buses were dispatched when buses in route reached capacity so that passengers waiting at subsequent stops could still make their trip.
Wi-Fi Buses for Students
Pierce Transit collaborated with Pierce County Emergency Management and local school districts to provide a bus in Lakewood and Spanaway, the areas of greatest need, to act as Wi-Fi hotspots. Families were able to park near these buses and students logged on to interact with teachers, conduct research and download and submit assignments. Family members also used this resource to participate in virtual meetings and attend important online appointments. The Wi-Fi buses were available from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays from April through May 2020.
Giving Back to the Community
Pierce Transit employees went the extra mile for our neighbors in 2020 through our Good to Give Committee, conducting food drives, Adopt-a-Street litter clean-up, packing food at Emergency Food Network and tending gardens at Mother Earth Farm to grow food for neighbors in need.
In 2020, the Good to Give Committee jumped in to help with 11 events, donating a total of 2,145 volunteer hours.
Are You Ready to Stream?
Our Bus Rapid Transit project planning and community outreach teams made great progress in 2020. The Board of Commissioners selected the name Stream for the overall BRT system, and approved the preferred station design and lane treatments for our first line. We also contacted property owners along the 14.4-mile route regarding potential impacts. Our Sales and Outreach Team quickly pivoted to take information-sharing virtual, meeting with business owners, public agency staff, neighborhood councils, service clubs and advocacy groups to update them on the project and encourage them to get involved. Our Virtual Open House in December had 115 attendees.
Our Commitment to Transit Equity
For many people in Pierce County, public transit shapes the path to a rewarding life. Equity has been a required component of publicly-funded transportation for many years. It is now time to move forward and see equity as an integral part of making Pierce Transit service better for all who ride.
To this end, Pierce Transit will engage in the intentional work needed to bring about more equitable options in our diverse communities. Research to determine areas of potential impact is underway, and the next year will provide many occasions for engagement on the topic. Community members, elected leaders, public organizations and businesses all play a role in planning equitable transit that better meets public needs.
For example, the agency partners with Transit app to provide passengers with the tools they need to ride while practicing safe physical distancing. Transit app features:
- A map showing the real-time locations of buses along their route
- A step-by-step navigator that enables riders to report current passenger loads on their trip
- In-app predictions showing each vehicle’s load levels over the course of its route, depending on the time of day
Pierce Transit has also introduced a new online, regional Trip Planner with improved features:
- Ability to see your bus in real time on a map
- Option to pin ‘to’ and ‘from’ locations on a map rather than entering exact addresses
- Ability to view and print bus schedules from your desktop browser
- Lookup tool with preloaded destinations, including landmarks and businesses
- Step-by-step tutorial
Pierce Transit also provides real-time bus information on screens at transit centers. Passengers at bus stops along their routes can call or text to find out when their bus will arrive. Finally, Pierce Transit offers customers the ability to pay their fares by phone through the Hopthru app.
Pierce Transit's Funding
In 2020, when the pandemic hit, Pierce Transit reduced service several times to better align spending with reduced revenue and decreased ridership.
The agency also cut costs by temporarily laying off or furloughing 10 percent of our workforce and spending only on critical items.
These moves, combined with some federal relief funds, helped Pierce Transit end 2020 on solid financial footing.
In March 2021 Pierce Transit restored bus service to about 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels.
As our economy reopens and more people get back on transit, Pierce Transit will be here to get the people of Pierce County where they need to go.
The agency will also look to the future with continued planning for our Bus Rapid Transit line and other projects, such as the delivery of six new zero-emission buses in the spring.
Pierce Transit 2020 Board of Commissioners
If you would like more detailed facts and data, please see our Key Performance Indicators section.