Time to Move Forward

In case you missed it, the Spokane Transit Authority Board of Directors officially voted to approve the “STA Moving Forward” plan last Thursday. Along with a vote to approve The Plaza renovation, the board also voted 6-3 to go to the ballot in April for a 3/10th’s increase in the local sales tax to help fund this plan as well as sustain/preserve current service levels.

The vote is still some 4 months away, but the campaign is already starting. Expect to see more posts here on Transit 509 in the coming weeks as we get closer to April. You can also stay up to date by following @transit509 on Twitter.


Transit Throwback – Spokane Monorail

A GN freight train carries the front car of a monorail through Spokane in route to Seattle. Photo Credit: Spokane Daily Chronicle (2/17/62)

A GN freight train carries the front car of a monorail through Spokane in route to Seattle.
Photo Credit: Spokane Daily Chronicle (2/17/62)

After Spokane hosted Expo ’74, the concept of futurism was a constant thought in the city. At the same time, there was a continued demand for better transit service, the city having gone through decreases in service in the decade prior with Spokane City Lines before the city took over the franchise themselves.

On the other side of the state, Seattle was running a short one-mile monorail system that ran from the Westlake area of downtown to Seattle Center (home to Key Arena and EMP) in Lower Queen Anne. Perhaps in another example of “Seattle-envy,” local politicians looked at the Seattle monorail and tried to see if the same could be done in Spokane.

“Monorail View Told” John Craig, Spokane Daily Chronicle 6/29/1977

A monorail is in Spokane’s future – at least in the “wild dream” Commissioner Jack H. Bell outlined for the Spokane Transit Commission yesterday.

The commission took no action on Bell’s idea, but approved the “concept” of spending up toe $300,000 for “novelty-type” transportation in Riverfront Park. No funds are available, however transit manager Robert W. Harder said.

The commission also ordered 30-minute intervals between buses on all routes and confirmed plans for experimental, cross-town service

Bell said a monorail would be one way of providing the “novelty-type” transportation the commission is considering to serve the Opera House-Convention Center and Riverfront Park. But he admitted a monorail may not be practical.

“It’s a very, very long-range plan of mine,” he said.

The commission is studying ways to transport persons to the park and the Opera House from the Coliseum parking lot to alleviate the parking shortage on the south side of the Spokane River. Among others things, Disneyland-type trains are being considered.

“I think the expense of a monorail would be terrific,” Bell said, “but it would be a terrific people mover.”

He said he envisions a monorail that would loop through the park with stops at the YMCA building, the Opera House, the entertainment center in the former U.S. Expo Pavilion and possibly at Wall and Spokane Falls Boulevard.

“Phase II” of the monorail could extend service to a satellite parking lot near Francis and Division and from there to Joe Albi Stadium, he said.

If “Phase II” were successful, “Phase III” might extend a line from the park to the South Hill, perhaps to a satellite lot near Fifty-seventh and Regal.

“Phase IV” might be a line to the Spokane Valley, Bell speculated.

“People could get downtown in 10 minutes on a monorail,” Bell said.

Harder said the 30-minute intervals between buses the commission ordered will make schedules easier to understand and will reduce anxieties about missing a bus. Intervals now range up to 55 minutes during non-peak hours, he said.

Also, the commission decided to have all layovers occur downtown. Harder said some patrons had been frustrated to board a bus near the end of its line and experience a layover before continuing to the downtown area.

The new schedules have buses leaving the central business district and arriving at 15 minutes before and after each hour.

The experimental, cross-town route is to be used from Oct. 1 to the end of the year, commissioners noted. The estimated $95,000 cost is to be paid largely by the U.S. Urban Mass Transit Administration.

Two buses are to cover a six-mile, “figure-8” route between Francis and Wellesley, Market and Assembly. Riders may transfer to north-south routes.

Obviously, a monorail system was never brought to Spokane. In later years, discussions of light rail, a more proven technology, started to pop up (though we also know how that ended). Many other metros likely thought about starting their own monorail systems as well, but presently only 3 cities in the US have any operating: Seattle, Las Vegas, and Jacksonville. There are also smaller operations at zoos, shopping malls, and amusement parks, most notably among them Disneyland and Disney World (the first monorail in the US).

 


Temporary Dayton Street Transit Center Closure

Beginning tomorrow, June 17th, Dayton Street Transit Center will be temporarily closed as the City of Kennewick begins work to build a new Dayton Street Bridge over the canal. Buses will not be able to run on Dayton Street while construction is going on, so there will be a temporary transfer point located just to the east on Auburn Street, next to the Kennewick Senior Center (at the east end of Keewaydin Park). This temporary closure is schedule to run through the end of August, but there is a possibility it could run a couple of weeks into September if construction crews have any delays.

Below, I’ve made a made showing the temporary route detours for all routes that normally serve Dayton TC and how they will serve the transfer point on Auburn Street. (Note that Route 810 is not shown.)

Photo Credit: Zachary Ziegler Satellite Imagery: Google Maps

Photo Credit: Zachary Ziegler
Satellite Imagery: Google Maps

To further explain the details in the map above, I’ll list the detours for each route and the stops that’ll be missed as a result.

Route 41

Route: Heading inbound (eastbound), the bus will follow the regular route via 3rd Ave, Washington Street, 2nd Ave, and Auburn Street before stopping at the temporary transfer point. Heading outbound (westbound), the bus will continue south on Auburn Street, east on 7th Ave, north on Washington Street, and east on 3rd Ave to resume the regular route.

Stops: Heading inbound (eastbound), the bus will not serve the stops at 6th Ave/Auburn Street (former Kennewick School District offices, across from fire station) and 6th Ave/Dayton Street (city pool, across from Kennewick High School). Heading outbound (westbound), the bus will not serve the stops at 1st Ave/Auburn Street (Basin Department Store) and Washington Street/1st Ave (Circle K, across from Domino’s).

Route 42

Route: Heading inbound (eastbound), the bus will head east on 4th Ave and follow it down as it becomes Vineyard Drive and then 1st Ave, bypassing the usual turn onto Garfield Street. Continuing east on 1st Ave, the bus will turn right and head south on Auburn Street before stopping at the temporary transfer point. Heading outbound (westbound), the bus will continue south on Auburn Street, west on 6th Ave, north on Garfield Street, and west on Vineyard Drive to resume the regular route.

Stops: Heading inbound (eastbound), the bus will not serve the stops at Garfield Street/5th Ave (St. Joseph’s Church) and 6th Ave/Dayton Street (Kennewick High School). Heading outbound (westbound), the bus will not serve the stop at 1st Ave/Everett Street.

Route 47

Route: Heading inbound (eastbound), the bus will keep heading north on Garfield and follow it down to the corner of Vineyard Drive, bypassing the usual turn onto 6th Ave. Turning eastbound onto Vineyard Drive – 1st Ave, the bus will turn right and head south on Auburn Street before stopping at the temporary transfer point. Heading outbound (westbound), the bus will continue south on Auburn Street, west on 6th Ave, and then south on Garfield Street to resume the regular route.

Stops: Heading inbound (eastbound), the bus will not serve the stop at 6th Ave/Dayton Street (Kennewick High School). Heading outbound (westbound), the bus will not serve the stops at 1st Ave/Everett Street and Garfield Street/5th Ave (St. Joseph’s Church).

Route 48

Route: Heading inbound (eastbound), the bus will turn north from 10th Ave onto Garfield Street, then head north to the corner of Vineyard Drive. Turning eastbound onto Vineyard Drive – 1st Ave, the bus will turn right and head south on Auburn Street before stopping at the temporary transfer point. Heading outbound (westbound) the bus will continue south on Auburn Street and follow the regular route.

Stops: Heading inbound (eastbound), the bus will not serve the stop at Dayton Street/8th Ave (Columbia Industries, behind Trios Hospital). No stops are missed when heading outbound (westbound).

Route 160 Eastbound

Route: Heading inbound (from Three Rivers TC), the bus will keep heading east on Kennewick Ave and follow it down to the corner of Dayton Street, bypassing the usual turn onto Carmichael Drive. On Dayton Street, the bus will head south, then turn east onto 1st Ave, then turn south onto Auburn Street and follow it down to the temporary transfer point. Heading outbound (to Pasco), the bus will continue south on Auburn Street, east on 7th Ave, and north on Washington Street where it will resume the regular route north of 1st Ave.

Stops: Heading inbound (from Three Rivers TC), the bus will miss the stops at Garfield Street/5th Ave (St. Joseph’s Church) and 6th Ave/Dayton Street (Kennewick High School). Heading outbound (to Pasco), the bus will miss the stop at 1st Ave/Auburn Street (Basin Department Store), though it will still be served by the bus when heading inbound.

Route 160 Westbound

Route: Heading inbound (from Pasco), the bus will turn west from Washington Street onto 3rd Ave, then head south on Auburn Street to the temporary transfer point. Heading outbound (to Three Rivers TC), the bus will continue south on Auburn Street, west on 6th Ave, north on Garfield Street and continuing onto Carmichael Drive, and then west on Kennewick Ave to resume the regular route.

Stops: Heading inbound (from Pasco), the bus will miss the stops at Washington Street/1st Ave (Circle K, across from Domino’s) and Washington Street/5th Ave (former Washington Street Deli) and 6th Ave/Auburn Street (former Kennewick School District offices, across from fire station), though the last one will still be served by the bus when heading outbound. Heading outbound, the bus will miss the stops at Kennewick Ave/Dayton Street (across from Kennewick First United Methodist Church) and Kennewick Ave/Fruitland Street (across from Kennewick Flower Shop).

———————————————————————————————————————

Please note that any of these detours are subject to change.

For more information, please call Ben Franklin Transit at (509) 735-5100.


News Roundup 6/16/14

Ben Franklin Transit

Dayton Street TC Temporarily Closed For The Summer
Beginning tomorrow, June 17th, the transit center on Dayton Street will be temporarily closed through the end of August as the City of Kennewick works on replacing the bridge over the canal. The temporary transfer point will be located on the west side of Auburn Street next to the Kennewick Senior Center, just northwest of the Kennewick Post Office. All routes serving Dayton TC (41, 42, 47, 48, 160, and 810) will be detoured to serve the temporary transfer point. The detours and related temporary stop closures will be explained in further detail in a post to be uploaded later today. (Link will be active at 1:00PM PST.)

Spokane Transit Authority

Jefferson Lot Temporarily Closed This Week
The parking lot under I-90 will be closed for the week between June 16th and June 21st as STA is going to be repainting the parking spaces, though there will be limited parking available on the west end of the lot. Later in the week, they’ll also be holding the annual Bus and Van Roadeo (operator skills competition) in the lot. Route 62, 66, and 165 will all be detoured when heading outbound from The Plaza. On 2nd Ave, buses will go past the normal turn at Jefferson Street and continue to Cedar Street, turning left and then continuing down to make a right onto 4th Ave, and then heading towards Maple Street and resuming the regular route onto I-90. A temporary bus stop will be set up at 4th and Cedar. Inbound buses will follow the regular route.

(Editor’s Note: There was a high-profile incident last week that occurred at The Plaza in Downtown Spokane, but the view of this website is that it was not a transit-related story. Therefore, there will be no coverage on the story here.) 

Yakima Transit

New Schedule And Fares For Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter
Starting today, a new schedule and an fare increase for one-way tickets and monthly passes go into effect. As part of the deal to preserve the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter,  the schedule has eliminated one round-trip on school days and two round-trips on non-school days. The fares also go up from $4 to $5 for a one-way and from $125 to $150 for a monthly pass. Today is also the first day that new operator Central Washington Airporter will be running the route, taking over for Hopesource who dropped out of the contract after a dispute arose during discussions on the future of the service. CWA will be using buses they own to run the route, so the buses may be labelled with that name and/or “Bellair Charters.”


Spokane Transit Meet-Up

Make some room on your calendar! On July 1st, there’s going to be a Transit Meet-Up in Spokane.

Being put together by Karl Otterstrom (STA’s Director of Planning), it’ll start at 6:30PM and will be held at Chairs Public House, located at 1305 Hamilton Street in the Logan neighborhood. Whether you consider yourself an advocate, transit nerd, or just a regular bus rider, anyone and everyone is welcome to attend. Chairs Public House is an all-ages venue, so there is no age restriction.

Chairs STA StopGetting there is quite easy, as STA has a bus stop right at the front door. Both Route 26 and Route 28 serve Hamilton Street through the Logan neighborhood. If you’re coming from The Plaza, your best bet is to catch the 26 at 6:20PM and disembark the bus across the street in front of the Tesoro gas station at the corner of Sharp Ave (the 2nd bus stop heading north on Hamilton). You can also catch the 26 at 6:05PM heading south from the Northside Shopping Center and disembark in front of Chairs just a little past 6:30PM. From Spokane Community College, you can catch the 39 at 5:42PM or 6:42PM and disembark at Hamilton and Mission, then walk two block south to Chairs and arrive at about 5:50PM or 6:50PM.

To help give a rough head count for how many people are attending, please either leave a comment below or send a tweet to Karl (@pedestrianman) or myself (@transit509). Both of us will be there, and for myself I look forward to meeting everyone who comes!


Transit Throwback – Token Sense

In the late 1980’s, merchants in Downtown Spokane were trying to find a way to lure shoppers to the area. A long standing complaint back then (and even now) was that there was not enough parking in Downtown, or that the parking that was available was too expensive.

That’s where “Token Sense” came in.

Advertisement for Token Sense Photo Credit: Spokane Chronicle (12/8/1988)

Advertisement for Token Sense
Photo Credit: Spokane Chronicle (12/8/1988)

Part of an effort to help market the central business district, Token Sense was launched as a collaboration between the Spokane Central Business Association (later renamed the Downtown Spokane Association) and Spokane Transit Authority. By making a minimum purchase of $25 or more at participating retailers, shoppers would receive a gold Token Sense token, which was then redeemable for 75¢ of parking at participating lots/garages, or for a one-way trip on any Spokane Transit Authority bus.

One of the "Token Sense" tokens. Photo Credit: Zachary Ziegler

One of the “Token Sense” tokens.
Photo Credit: Zachary Ziegler

Officially started on October 31st 1988, the program was quite popular from the start. Through November 1988, more than 40,000 tokens were issued with 28,750 of them being redeemed at parking lots/garages and on STA buses. December 1988 saw continued growth, with an estimated 35,000 tokens being redeemed. In comparison, Seattle’s “Easy Streets” program, which Token Sense was largely based upon, saw token redemption peak at 21,000 in December 1987. Starting with 52,000 tokens, the program became overwhelmed with demand for more tokens early on and so 50,000 more tokens were ordered just a week after it started.

The Token Sense program continued to run for several more years, with multiple ads promoting the program seen in local papers through the early 1990’s. In 1996, the program was discontinued for good and replaced with the “Easy Pass” program, which involved more downtown retailers and parking lots/garages while still maintaining a free one-way ride on STA. (Presently it doesn’t appear that STA participates in this program anymore, though it’s still listed on the Downtown Spokane Partnership‘s website.)

Around the same time that the Token Sense program began to wind down, STA began running some trolley replica buses downtown. After years of proposals to run a trolley bus circulator system downtown, 3 trolley replica buses were purchased in 1994 and began running on the Plaza/Arena Shuttle (which ran as Route 27 back then, and now runs as Route 1). The current Plaza/Arena Shuttle service continues STA’s involvement in a collaborative parking program with the “CityTicket,” which is run with the Spokane Public Facilities District. Costing just $30 a month, it allows people to park at the Spokane Arena and catch Route 1 to and from Downtown every weekday.


News Roundup 6/2/2014

Pullman Transit

Transit Supervisor Rod Thornton Retiring
After 30 years at the helm, Rob Thornton is finally retiring from Pullman Transit. Thornton started working for the agency 35 years ago, when Pullman Transit was first established, as a bus operator but quickly moved up the ranks into management. In talking with the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Thornton was humble and refused to take credit for any of the agency’s successes, though other staff were more than happy to give him his due credit. Though a small agency with just 19 buses operating on a $3.8 million budget, the agency has the highest farebox recovery in all of Washington (largely due to WSU students who ride) and is among the most efficient in the country. Replacing Thornton will be Michael Wagner, who has previously spent 8 years working at Pullman Transit. More recently, he was the operations supervisor at RiverCities Transit (Longview/Kelso WA), and also spent two years as a supervisor at Grant Transit Authority in Moses Lake.

Spokane Transit Authority

A conceptual plan for the 1st Floor of The Plaza. Photo Credit: Spokane Transit Authority

A conceptual plan for the 1st Floor of The Plaza.
Photo Credit: Spokane Transit Authority

The Plaza To Be Renovated For $4.7 Million
A project that has been in the planning for a few years now is finally happening. The Board of Directors has approved the expenditure of $4.7 million to renovate The Plaza, which will bring significant changes to the building inside and out. Included in the plans are 4 new retail outlets located on the west end of the 1st floor, along with the relocation of the Customer Service office and public restrooms to the 1st floor. A fifth retail outlet would be placed in the rotunda at the NE corner of the 1st floor, with the option for exterior cafe-style seating. The waterfall between the escalators, perhaps among the best known features of The Plaza, would be removed (though the cougars would be retained and placed in a new location). A new passenger waiting area would be placed just west of the Sprague Ave doors to give riders the option to watch for their bus while remaining inside, something that has never been possible with the lack of windows on that side of The Plaza (largely due to the parking ramp). Security and other STA offices would be moved up to the 2nd floor, along with a designated meeting space taking over the spaces where the current retail outlets are. The rotunda on the 2nd floor would become an exhibit space, though a potential tenant has not been found yet (though STA has been in talks with the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture).

Yakima Transit

Transit Manager Ken Mehin Resigns
After spending twelve years in the position, transit manager Ken Mehin has resigned from his job to become the new General Manager for Grays Harbor Transit. In the meantime, Yakima Public Works Director Scott Schafer has appointed City Irrigation Supervisor Alvie Maxey, who has no transit experience in 25 years with the city, as acting transit manager. Schafer has indicated that the next few months will be used to determine if Maxey will take the position permanently, or if they will seek new applicants. Some reports indicate that Mehin’s resignation was a bit of a surprise to the Public Works department, though others suggest that Mehin informed his superiors of his intentions as early as last year.


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