Transit Throwback – Spokane Bus StopsPosted: March 27, 2014
Earlier this week, Spokane Transit Authority made the official announcement that they would be starting work on replacing all the old bus stop signs in the area with a completely brand new design. In that announcement, it was mentioned that the bus stops haven’t seen any sort of major update in more than 30 years. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to take a look back through those past 30 years and even beyond.
Before STA was established, the city directly ran the predecessor agency Spokane Transit System. The STS name has been gone for more than 30 years now, but a trained eye can catch a couple of remnants from that era in Downtown Spokane, as seen at left.
Before STA took over in 1982, STS made a major change to downtown bus stops in 1980 by instituting a new color-coding system. (“New bus fare hikes, stop changes approved” Spokane Daily Chronicle November 25, 1980) Rather than having every single bus stop every block, STS created a sort of interchange hub in the middle of downtown, where every bus would have their main loading zone next to other routes, which made it easier to transfer between routes. 9 different colors were used to differentiate the different bus stops. It’s unclear how long this system lasted though. However, it is worth noting that a small remnant remains today with the current color-coding system used for individual route schedules.
When STA finally did take over, a lot of new routes to destinations previously unserved began as well. One of those connections included a route running from the South Hill to East Central. To denote the launch of that new connection in May 1983, STA made the new bus stops much more visible by tying blue, green, and white balloons (the same colors of the livery) to them. (“Balloons to mark bus route” Spokane Chronicle May 12, 1983)
It was around that same time in 1983 that the plain blue bus stop signs we’re so familiar with started to pop up. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact timeline on this, but an old blurb from March that year in The Spokesman-Review mentions the installation of these new signs on East Sprague between Division and Havana as part of an effort to ease traffic congestion.
The bus stops signs didn’t get much mention in the press for the next several years. In fact, it wasn’t until 1998 that bus stops became a major talking issue in the Spokane area, as that was when STA initiated a major service revision and moved most routes off neighborhood streets and on to major arterials. Many riders complained that they would now have to walk farther to catch their bus, not just because it was running down the arterial but because the stops were further apart as well. (Most stops were now spaced about every 2-3 blocks at this time.) One letter to the editor even went so far as to denounce the new stops as “perilous.”
It was also in 1998 that STA put out a bid for new bus stop signs, as noted in the legal section of The Spokesman-Review in the April 24th paper. Having never been to Spokane myself back in that time, I’m left to assume that these were for replacement signs and not for a new design. (Any long time Spokane residents and/or riders, please feel free to correct me or add any input to this.)
Finally, we come back to the new bus stop signs.
There’s still some blue on the signs, but it’s not very much. Instead, these new signs use the same colors as STA’s livery, incorporating the same distinguishable swooping design. It’s a clever move on STA’s part, as no other entity uses colors or graphics close to their design. The white base alone makes the signs so much more noticeable, especially from afar. You may also notice a bus stop number on the sign, which is a new feature for STA bus stops. That number will be used in the near future when STA debuts their real-time bus tracking system. A specific timeline for finishing the installation of these new bus stop signs hasn’t been mentioned, but given how fast the signs are popping up already, I think it’d be fair to say all signs should be in place by the start of summer.