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Pierce Transit to Pause Bus Rapid Transit Project, Provide Enhanced Bus Service as Interim Measure
August 15, 2023
At an Aug. 14 study session, the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners reviewed the agency’s Pacific Avenue/State Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plans and voted unanimously to pause the project for now, requesting that agency staff move forward instead with Enhanced Bus service along the Pacific Avenue/SR-7 corridor.
Since the BRT project’s inception, estimated project costs have risen significantly due to several factors, including inflation, and the number of impacted properties and project requirements rose significantly throughout the planning process. Due to these issues and the increased time required to address them, the timeline to deliver the original BRT project had been moved out to at least 2028.
Over the past several months the agency has thoughtfully reevaluated its approach to best meeting the needs of transit riders along this busy corridor while also ensuring sound financial management, minimizing impacts to property owners and businesses, and delivering a much-needed enhanced transit service as soon as possible. Pivoting the agency’s focus to an Enhanced Bus service will meet these goals. This new service will offer several benefits, including:
- Will be offered in addition to the existing Route 1, providing another option on weekday mornings and afternoons for commuters looking to make a more direct trip
- It can be implemented as soon as March 2024, at least four years sooner than even a simplified BRT service
- It is more affordable than the BRT and will not require additional grant funding
- Significantly reduces impacts on property owners and businesses
- Stops only at 14 major bus stops, saving 28 minutes of round-trip travel time between Spanaway and Tacoma Dome Station
- Uses existing bus stops and existing 40-foot buses
- Includes Transit Signal Priority, which signals the traffic light to stay green longer so the bus can get through the intersection, contributing to a faster trip for both Enhanced Bus service and regular Route 1 service
- Will provide a new and vital connection to Tacoma Dome Station, including timed connections with Sounder trains
Pausing the BRT project will also allow for a more coordinated approach to planning improvements along the Pacific Avenue/SR-7 corridor. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is planning safety and connectivity-focused improvements involving SR-7, as well State Routes 507 and 512, which connect to this transit corridor. In addition, the City of Tacoma is conducting its Picture Pac Ave project, creating a long-term vision and plan for growth and development along Pacific Avenue. Pausing the BRT project will give state and local governments time to complete their plans and undertake corridor improvements, allowing BRT to be an integrated part of the overall vision for this critical Pierce County roadway. This coordinated approach will also ensure the work is complimentary and avoid duplicative construction-related disruptions, benefiting taxpayers and people living along, and traveling through, the corridor.
“Delivering fast, reliable service remains the Board’s priority and Enhanced Bus service along Pacific Avenue can be delivered quickly. With the Board’s decision at its August 14 study session, staff can get to work to deliver the service this community deserves at a cost that is within budget,” said Pierce Transit Board Chair Kristina Walker. “Our long-term vision remains implementation of a full-service Bus Rapid Transit project that can address the needs of our rapidly growing community, but we know riders deserve high-quality transit now.”
“We know that pausing the BRT project was not an easy decision for the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners, but it was a decision that is in line with Pierce Transit’s commitments to fiscal responsibility and doing the right thing for the taxpayers of Pierce County,” said Linda Moran, Community Transit Advisory Group (CTAG) Chair. “We are thrilled for the planning of Enhanced Bus service along this corridor to start. It’s exciting to know that a faster, reliable, and convenient transit option for transit customers can potentially be up and running by next Spring.”