STA tax ballot can improve bus routes

STA Proposition No. 1 promises improve bus services, extended hours in Spokane and Cheney

STA tax ballot can improve bus routes

Graphic by Joseph Weeden

By Katie Dunn, Staff Writer

Spokane Transit Authority is looking to make changes to their bus system through Proposition No. 1 on the April 28 ballot.

According to the ballot, the purpose of the proposition is to improve and maintain the transit system by extending services and hours for popular routes, expanding to new areas, exploring a variety of new routes and enhancing the transit center through general improvements.

If the proposition is approved, it would implement an increase in sales and use tax by one percent. According to the ballot, this tax would expire Dec. 31, 2025.

Everyone who frequently rides the STA bus system will be affected whether or not the proposition passes.

If the ballot is rejected, the STA Board of Directors may consider reducing services in 2017, according to the information on the ballot released by STA.

Karl Otterstrom, director of planning for STA, said the the big issue for bus routes like the one between Cheney and Spokane is not so much frequency but capacity.

Otterstrom said STA wants to buy double-decker buses, which would increase seating from 60 to 80. He said these larger buses would also handle the snow better.

The STA plans to redesign the Jefferson parking lot, to make it easier to load and unload passengers and plans to build a West Plains Transit Center at exit 272 on I-90 that would also provide a park and ride for commuters.

According to Otterstrom, this center would connect local areas such as Cheney, Airway Heights and Medical Lake without the requirement of first traveling to downtown Spokane to transfer to another bus.

Otterstrom said STA wants to improve the waiting environment in routes like the Jefferson, West Plains and Cheney park and rides by improving shelters, creating better connections and keeping riders informed.

“The stops will have real-time information signs, and we’ll soon have the ability [for you to] see on your smartphone the actual time the bus is coming,” said Otterstrom. “But the signs help people who don’t have that.”

Later weekend services would also be offered.

Otterstrom said the Monday through Saturday service from downtown Spokane would be extended from 10:35 to 11:20 p.m., allowing for students to catch a late movie or to attend a late-night event.

“It’s not just for students, it’s all routes, it’s across the system and I think who it really helps are people who work later shifts downtown, not just people going to events,” said Otterstrom. “And that will definitely help attract more riders to use the bus service, not just to get to and from class, but to use it on the weekends.”

According to Otterstrom, if the ballot is passed, taxes will not take effect until Oct. 1 and the money will not reach STA until late December, but they will begin making changes to the schedule in September in time for incoming students.

Changes like the new vehicles, better shelters, the West Plains Transit Center and the redesign of the Jefferson parking lot will take longer.

According to STA Moving Forward, some of these projects could take four or more years.