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A passenger sits in a Pierce Transit bus shelter with a 590 bus approaching

Navigating your commute after the March service change bus cuts

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As part of the March 2024 service change, we made the difficult decision to reduce 10% of our Pierce Transit-operated bus service and significantly reduce the frequency on Route 590 between Downtown Tacoma and Seattle. These cuts have worsened the passenger experience for riders on these routes, including crowding in the morning on routes 590 and 595. And for that, we are sorry. 

We are looking at ways to help alleviate the overcrowding in the morning, but there are no simple solutions to this problem. 

We do recommend passengers consider the Sounder S Line as an alternative. You might find riding the Sounder a better option for your morning commute. Below is a walking map that shows how passengers can walk from the transit center to the Tacoma Dome Station.

Tacoma Dome Station Map Image

To help you understand just how we got to this point, below are answers to some common questions about the current situation.

Q: Why are South Sound ST Express routes being temporarily reduced? 

A: Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a shortage of bus operators nationwide, including in the Puget Sound region. Pierce Transit, which operates ST Express routes in the south Sound, continues to face challenges in hiring and retaining critical staff. In late 2023, they informed Sound Transit that they would not have enough personnel to continue 2023 service levels into 2024. Pierce Transit requested that Sound Transit temporarily reduce its service by approximately 8-10% at the March 2024 service changes to match the staffing available and provide more reliable service. 

Q: What does Pierce Transit staffing have to do with ST Express service? 

A: Sound Transit relies on our local partners at King County Metro, Community Transit, and Pierce Transit to operate our ST Express bus service. Through agreements with each agency, Sound Transit provides funding for local agencies to run their facilities throughout the region. ST Express routes in Pierce County are operated by Pierce Transit. Pierce Transit operators drive these routes, and the buses are maintained at Pierce Transit’s bus base in Lakewood. 

Q: What is being done to help address the operator shortage? 

A: All our ST Express partners are actively recruiting operators and mechanics. Pierce Transit is participating in regional job fairs, offering signing bonuses for these positions. If you know someone interested in a bus operator or mechanic position, please visit the Pierce Transit website. 

Q: If operator staffing improves, how soon could these cuts be restored? 

A: Sound Transit will restore ST Express service when staffing allows. In the coming months, Sound Transit will continue collaborating with Pierce Transit and our other regional partners to monitor service quality and critical staffing levels. In late 2024, Sound Transit staff will propose the 2025 Service Plan to the Sound Transit Board for their consideration and adoption. 

Q: Are there are alternatives to Downtown Tacoma routes that are being cut or reduced? 

A: Yes, the T Line light rail travels from downtown to Tacoma Dome Station. In the early morning, Pierce Transit routes 1 and 500 are just a couple of several routes that provide service to nearby stops. Passengers may also try the S Line, which offers reliable service during weekday rush hours and select weekend service for events.

Q: What is the cost of taking the S Line from Tacoma to Seattle?

The adult fare on the S Line between Tacoma and Seattle is $5.25; however, there are several different kinds of ORCA fare programs that passengers may qualify for. From youth and seniors to riders with disabilities and lower incomes, there’s an ORCA card for every budget. For ORCA LIFT qualified passengers, taking the Sounder train is the same price as ST Express ($1). Additionally, many employer-covered passes will work on Sounder. Learn more about the fare program that meets your needs here

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