South Sound News

Some riders finding themselves stranded on Pierce Transit's new routes

TACOMA, Wash. — Terry Staeheli’s first foray on Pierce Transit’s revamped Route 16 turned into a frustrating trip last week.

>>See Pierce Transit's service changes

Staeheli, 72, told The News Tribune she took the route to explore a shopping center near North 26th and Pearl streets in Tacoma.

When she was ready to return home, she discovered there wasn’t a stop nearby for a bus headed in the direction she needed to go.

Staeheli said she got lucky and someone she knew saw her and gave her a ride home.

“Otherwise, I would have had to walk eight to 10 blocks to find a stop,” she said. “I use a cane. That doesn’t really work for me.”

Staeheli’s odyssey was a by-product of Pierce Transit’s desire to get its newly revamped and revitalized service up and running as soon as possible.

That meant launching the service, which includes more-frequent buses and expanded hours on many routes, before some bus stops were ready to be opened, said Rebecca Japhet, Pierce Transit spokeswoman.

The changes went into effect March 12.

“Pierce Transit made changes to more than 500 bus stops throughout the agency’s service area with this service change,” Japhet said. “We are working with the city of Tacoma on 12 stops that are not yet open.”

As of late last week, those were:

▪  Four stops on Route 16, including four on North 26th Street and three on Pearl Street.

▪  Two stops on Route 48, both on South 13th Street.

▪  Three on Route 53, all on South 66th Street.

The main issue appears to be ensuring the stops comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and comport with city regulations.

“Both parties understand the urgency of getting these stops open and are committed to making it happen for Pierce Transit riders,” Japhet said.

Staeheli questioned why Pierce Transit launched its new system without having all of its stops permitted and open.

“It doesn’t do you any good to have more frequent service if you can’t get on or off,” she said. “It’s a major problem.”

Japhet acknowledged the current arrangement is “not ideal.” Pierce Transit had hoped to have all stops permitted before the launch, but it didn’t work out that way, she said.

In the end, agency officials thought it didn’t make sense to hold up the entire system-change because of a dozen stops.

“To delay would have been to delay the entire restructure until September or a later date due to the way the routes connect and are coordinated,” Japhet said.

She said the agency has heard other complaints since the system launched, including from people who have had to walk, in some cases, farther to reach stops.

“This is a tradeoff for having faster service,” Japhet said. “No doubt, there are some riders who might be negatively impacted, but in a change this large, those impacts are, unfortunately, unavoidable.”

Others have praised the new service.

“Pierce Transit’s new 15-minute service corridors in Tacoma are awesome,” Tacoma transit advocate Chris Karnes wrote on Twitter last week. “Wait times competitive with ridesharing in many areas.”

Japhet said the agency would evaluate effects over the coming months with an eye toward adjusting things, if needed, during another change in services scheduled for fall.

“We are monitoring feedback and input from passengers and operators to identify problems that can be addressed in the short term and what might need adjustment with the September service change,” she said.

Good morning! Pierce County Transit is running into some hiccups rolling out its new revamped bus system, the first time in more than 20 years. I will explain the problems riders are running into coming up at 630am on KIRO 7 News ... Also let us know if you are running into any issue over the last week! Thank you!

Posted by Patranya Bhoolsuwan on Monday, March 20, 2017