Seventy percent of the system's budget comes from sales tax, which has meant continuous deep cuts every year since the recession took hold.
Pierce Transit had already cut routes, jobs and salaries in an effort to balance the books, but on Monday the board decided more needed to be done.
"On those days that they cut the service early, I can either walk or ride my bike. The strong survive on the bus system," said bus rider Al Brown.
Transit chief Lynne Griffin received a no-confidence vote from bus drivers after she sought out a massive raise. Instead, she got a boost to her retirement package.
All transit systems are facing tough times, but not all are making such drastic cuts. King County voters approved more funding to counter the recession, but Pierce County voters rejected a similar tax increase in November.
Fewer bus riders means more traffic congestion, more pollution and more wear and tear on local roads.
Some riders seem to have given up fighting.
"Don't get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for Pierce Transit," said Valerie Morton. "We live in a country that's hurting. Everyone's hurting. I just hope it turns around for the better."
The service reductions will take effect in late September.
The forecast doesn't look much better in the near future. Pierce Transit authorities expect revenue to remain flat through 2016.