2023 Report to the Community
Transit is You
Transit is Supportive
Have You Checked Out ORCA LIFT?
Many residents of Pierce County face barriers in accessing community resources because their income does not adequately cover the cost of transportation. To help provide equitable transit to these community members, in 2023 Pierce Transit joined regional transit partners in offering the ORCA LIFT program. ORCA LIFT is a reduced adult fare program available to individuals with incomes below or equal to 200 percent of Federal Poverty Level guidelines.
Those who qualify pay $1 adult fare per one-way trip on Pierce Transit buses and Runner services, and reduced fare on most regional transit services. To learn more about ORCA LIFT, including where to apply, visit PierceTransit.org/ORCALIFT.
Looking For Cost Savings?
Transit Delivers In A Big Way.
Did you know that using public transportation instead of driving can save you about $1,100 a month, or more than $13,000 a year? A recent report by the American Public Transportation Association shows just that.
We all know how expensive things are getting. With rising costs for cars and fuel, personal transportation costs are affecting families in a major way. Meanwhile, Pierce Transit fares have remained low, leading many people to hop on board transit as a way to save money needed to cover other expenses. Imagine paying just $2 to get to work. Or, boarding a Rideshare vehicle with your coworkers where you pay an affordable monthly fee (even less if you’re a part-time rider), while gas, maintenance and repairs are all covered. Or, catching an on-demand ride for the same price as riding the bus. To learn how to get started riding the bus, visit PierceTransit.org/how-to-ride. To get information about our on-demand Runner service, visit PierceTransit.org/Runner.
Rideshare Is Rocking It!
In 2023, Pierce Transit, in conjunction with other transit agencies in Washington, is transitioning the name of our “Vanpool” program to “Rideshare.” This new title more accurately reflects the many ways you can use this service – and it isn’t just about vans anymore.
In fact, we recently replaced almost 50 of our Rideshare vehicles that had reached the end of their useful life and began offering riders new options, including Chevy Traverse and Chrysler Pacifica vehicles. These modern, fuel-efficient and eco-friendly vehicles are proving a hit with customers.
Ridesharing can save you significant costs in your travel budget, freeing up funds to spend elsewhere. If you want to explore the idea of joining or starting a Rideshare group, visit PierceTransit.org/Rideshare.
Building The Next Generation Of Transit Team Members
Pierce Transit’s Maintenance Team combines experience and resources to produce top quality technicians and employees. As with many employers across most industries, the agency is currently challenged to maintain its workforce and support the fleet with qualified people.
Through Pierce Transit’s Apprenticeship program, we are building skilled technicians that step up and lead as others transition out of the workforce.
Trades are an important part of any labor community, and it is critical that people with special skillsets share information and help mold eager learners, imparting not only hands-on ability but also pride in ownership. This takes time, training and thoughtful mentoring. The apprenticeship vision requires forward planning and a structured approach to produce highly qualified, well-rounded tradespeople that support the agency with continuity, reliability, and top-quality assets.
The South Sound Connected podcast sat down with our Maintenance Training Coordinator and a recent graduate of our Apprenticeship program to further explain the process and its benefits; you can listen here.
All Aboard For Youth
This year, we built out the educational component of our Free Youth Transit Pass program. Pierce Transit joined with City of Tacoma’s Safe Routes to Schools program at two bike rodeos in 2023, conducted lunch tabling at Stewart Middle School and Baker Middle School, and attended school resource fairs in Puyallup and Lakewood.
Staff promote youth ridership and transit safety as part of Greentrike’s Visionaries Team, a group of community representatives dedicated to making Pierce County the best place to grow up. Team members are committed to child and youth-centered communities. Pierce Transit’s ongoing work with Safe Routes to Schools program has two main goals:
- Work together to create high school and middle school Transportation Options resource(s) with bus and biking tips and routes by 2028.
- Partner to assess implementation of a youth Travel Training program by 2028.
Helpful videos teaching youth how to ride the bus, along with a fun challenge activity, offer a great introduction to riding transit and can be found at PierceTransit.org/YouthRidershipResources.
Transit Is The Road To A Healthier Environment
Keeping Those Buses Fueled And Clean
In June 2023, Pierce Transit opened its new Fuel and Bus Wash facility at our headquarters in Lakewood. The former Fuel and Wash facility was decades old and had limited lanes to run vehicles through, creating waiting lines and staff inefficiencies. The new facility has sped up this process significantly, reducing staff time and making the process more efficient. We can now fuel up to eight vehicles at a time, and we doubled our bus washing capabilities. Each fuel lane is designed to provide everything needed to help our crews clean the buses and give you an enjoyable ride. The new facility also recycles cleaning water, leading to a more environmentally friendly process. Look for those clean, expertly fueled vehicles on a route near you!
Pierce Transit has nine battery electric buses, with three more expected to arrive in 2024. In 2023, the agency unveiled the South Sound’s first on-route electric bus chargers, in the “bus tunnel” at the agency’s Commerce Street Station facility.
Often our electric buses were having to return to the agency’s base to charge between morning and afternoon runs. Having chargers available out in the service area allows these buses to “top off” between runs, allowing them to spend less time driving back and forth to base, and more time getting our neighbors where they need to go. It also helps us protect the environment and give more transit riders that clean, quiet ride they love.
Renewable Fuel, Reduced Emissions
In September, Pierce Transit made the switch from transitional petroleum diesel fuel to using Renewable Diesel (R99). We are already a leader in green transit services, with only about 15 percent of our bus fleet being diesel or diesel-hybrid. Taking this additional step has many benefits, including:
- Environmental sustainability: Renewable diesel is made from renewable feedstocks such as vegetable oils, animal fats, and waste materials. It significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional diesel, making it a more environmentally friendly fuel option.
- Improved air quality: Renewable Diesel produces lower levels of harmful emissions, including particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx), leading to improved air quality and reduced health risks for communities located near diesel-powered vehicles and equipment.
- Extended Engine Life, Lower Maintenance Costs: The change to renewable diesel will positively impact all Pierce Transit’s diesel-powered vehicles and equipment that “fill up” at our facility.
- Compatibility: Renewable diesel can be used in existing diesel engines without any modifications. It can be blended with conventional diesel fuel or used as a drop-in replacement, making it a convenient and accessible alternative.
Transit Is Responsive
New And Improved Bus Service
Over the past several years Pierce Transit has been planning a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line along Pacific Avenue between downtown Tacoma and Spanaway. Due to rising costs spurred by inflation, increased project requirements and an extended timeline, the Pierce Transit Board voted to pause the BRT project for now, requesting the agency move forward with Enhanced Bus service along this important corridor.
Enhanced Bus service is essentially a limited-stop bus option that offers a faster and more direct service to commuters looking to make a more direct trip. Pivoting the agency’s focus to this service will benefit our community in many ways. It will be offered in addition to the existing Route 1 that already runs along this corridor, which will provide commuters with another option on weekday mornings and afternoons. Enhanced Bus service can use existing bus stops and buses, which lends to a more affordable service. It will include a new feature that signals a traffic light to stay green when a bus is approaching, contributing to a faster trip. Enhanced Bus service will also provide a new and vital connection to Tacoma Dome Station, creating new transit connections not currently available via Route 1. And, importantly, this new bus service will be available starting in March 2024, years ahead of what was planned for BRT service. Watch for more details in early 2024 about the Enhanced Bus service coming soon.
Upping Our Game With Pierce Transit Runner
Pierce Transit recognizes the need to provide everyday transportation in areas that lack extensive bus service. That’s why in 2020 we introduced a new service called “Runner,” an affordable, on-demand neighborhood transit service that picks you up and drops you off in certain locations where a bus can’t take you. Runner offers a convenient, reliable, safe way to get to work, school, appointments, recreation, and other activities. It also provides quick and seamless connections with existing bus and train service.
In 2023, Pierce Transit launched a new Runner zone in the Puyallup area, and trips can be booked on a new, dedicated Runner app. The zone includes Puyallup Station, South Hill Park & Ride, and South Hill Mall Transit Center, where riders can make transit connections to local and regional transportation. The Puyallup Runner is available seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Costs to ride are the same as bus fares.
The new Puyallup zone joins Pierce Transit’s existing Runner zones in Parkland/Spanaway/Midland, Ruston, Tideflats/Port of Tacoma, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Starting in January 2024, we will add existing Tideflats, Ruston and Spanaway Runner zones to the new app. For more details, visit PierceTransit.org/Runner.
Planning For Service Recovery And Future Growth
Many things have changed over the past few years, including people’s travel patterns and transportation needs. In order to reallocate resources where the public needs them most, in 2023 Pierce Transit launched a Bus System Recovery Plan to help us strategically restore and increase transit service. The agency invited riders and the community at large to voice their priorities for the future of local transit by completing a survey and attending in-person and virtual open houses and drop-in opportunities. Results were compiled and presented to the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners for approval, with the initial changes taking effect in March 2024.
The Recovery Plan has helped Pierce Transit better understand customers’ current transportation needs, including recommendations for service options that can help improve mobility for all residents, current riders, and future riders.
Caring Employees Helping Our Community
Pierce Transit employees are also members of our community and have a heart for the people of Pierce County. That’s why each year our team members volunteer their off-work time and resources to support their neighbors. For example, each year we support our community by participating in the United Way of Pierce County (UWPC) workplace campaign. Employees raise funds in a variety of ways, including payroll deductions, silent auctions and holiday-themed events. In 2023, Pierce Transit’s United Way campaign coordinator was named United Way of Pierce County’s 2022/23 Campaign Coordinator of the Year for her great work in supporting our employees in this endeavor. Also in 2023, Pierce Transit CEO Mike Griffus co-chaired the United Way of Pierce County’s 2023/24 countywide campaign, engaging with hundreds of companies across Pierce County to assist them in supporting this important work.
This is just one example of the many ways Pierce Transit employees support our community. In 2023 our team also volunteered to assist with:
- Several “food repacks” at the Emergency Food Network
- Supporting the Northwest Furniture Bank with furniture builds
- Cleaning up South Tacoma Way near our headquarters through the Adopt-a-Street program
- Donating school supplies for local school children
- Raising funds for and participating in the American Heart Association’s Heart and Stroke Walk.
While our employees are dedicated to providing transportation services to our neighbors, we are honored to help them in other ways, too.
Transit Is Fun
Get Out There!
Riding Pierce Transit is a great way to get to local parks, beaches, trails and other recreational facilities. There are maps available at PierceTransit.org/TrailsAndTransit to help you plan your adventure. Check out our interactive map showing bus stops near trails, as well as the "Get Up, Get Out and Get Around" poster available for download showing outdoorsy destinations in Pierce Transit’s service area. Photo courtesy of @PNWTransit
To celebrate Ride Transit Month, Pierce Transit held its second-annual Transit Trivia event at a local pizza restaurant on June 1. There were 35 participants who formed teams and answered a variety of transportation-related questions. The winning team was made up of young transit enthusiasts who impressed other attendees with their breadth of public transportation knowledge. Photo courtesy of Downtown On the Go
Fare Free Days
Pierce Transit offers several days each year when services are fare free, to encourage community members to try transit and draw attention to significant occasions. Four days were designated as fare free in 2023: on Transit Equity Day in February; on Earth Day in April in conjunction with the City of Tacoma’s Sustainability Expo; on June 1 to kick off Ride Transit Month; and on the Friday after Thanksgiving to encourage community members to ride transit as they do their holiday shopping, in support of local businesses. Photo courtesy of @formabletransit6011
2023 Pierce Transit Operators Of The Month
Pierce Transit would like to recognize the 2023 Operators of the Month for their outstanding service to the community. Each month, one operator is selected for this award based on their exceptional safety record, stellar customer service and exemplary attendance.
GovernancePierce Transit is governed by a nine-member Board of Commissioners that represent communities in the agency’s service area. Our Commissioners are (pictured from left to right above):
Pierce County Council
Tacoma City Council
Fircrest City Council: Represents Cities of
University Place and Fircrest
Jason Whalen, Vice Chair
Mayor of Lakewood
Tacoma City Council
Kristina Walker, Chair
Tacoma City Council
Mayor of Edgewood:
Represents Cities of Edgewood and Puyallup
Represents Cities of Fife, Milton, Pacific, Auburn, Ruston, Steilacoom and Gig Harbor
Pierce County Council