PLU has major transportation problems. Pierce County Transit has major budget problems. More communication between the two organizations could solve issues for students and Pierce county commuters.
Pierce County Transit lost an initiative on the ballot last November that would have given more taxes to its transportation system. Because of the loss, many weekend and evening routes were cancelled. Currently on the Pierce County Transit homepage, users can add their input as the county plans weekday reductions. The county’s most popular route, identified as Route 1, runs from 6th Avenue to the end of Pacific Avenue. Route 1 is used by many PLU students to travel in either direction on Pacific Avenue. Route 1 currently makes 611 trips during the five weekdays. Come September, when the budget cuts and route modifications will take effect, the number of trips will drop to 519, almost a 100 trip decrease. Pierce County Transit says this decrease will not affect the frequency of the bus. There is currently a 20 minute wait between Route 1 busses.
Meanwhile at PLU, transportation is a disaster. Finding room in the student parking lots is difficult. Students pay $40 a year for a parking decal that allows them to park on school lots. Campus safety’s “Parking and tickets” webpage discourages students from driving to school. They remind students that “parking at PLU is tight” and recommend “instead of bringing a car to campus, consider bringing your bike.”
Our top security problem in the last year is bike thefts. Car thefts continue to be on the rise. Four cars were stolen from campus property last school year. PLU campus safety has not yet released this year’s annual disclosure of safety statistics.
PLU’s only current offer for lengthy trips is their Zipcar rental service. Zipcars cost a minimum of $8 an hour or $66 per day. PLU vans can be rented for $15 a day, plus sixty-seven cents for every mile driven. Students much purchase their own gas and are penalized if they do not return the vehicle with a full tank.
Other campuses around the country have seen the solution to the problem at hand. The university pays their local transportation system a large lump sum and in return the students are given bus passes at a discounted price. Some universities are able to give away bus passes free of charge, others include the cost in tuition.
Pierce County Transit has a resource called the ORCA smart card. An ORCA card is $5 per adult- persons between 19 and 64- and would cut students’ transportation fees in half. Students load up their ORCA card much like a credit card and scan the card at the front of the bus instead of depositing cash. After the initial $5 purchase, a $5.50 bus ride to King County becomes $3.50. The money saved would serve as an incentive for students to choose public transportation more often.
If PLU were to pair up with Pierce County Transit, PLU would have less overcrowded parking lots and Pierce County Transit would be better funded. As a student who has had to pass on day trips to Tacoma or Seattle because of a lack of bus change, I am in full support of exploring the idea of implementing ORCA cards into campus life. Traveling home to Federal Way or visiting friends in Seattle is already becoming a longer and more expensive journey. The PLU community can help save the Pierce county transportation system. The implementation of an ORCA card would also benefit Pierce county. Many of my friends feel “stuck” on campus: most students are without cars and cannot afford the current bus fares. A relationship with the county transit system could give students a better opportunity to explore Pierce county.