Transit Throwback – 1980 Spokane Transit System Tourmap

On April 10 1979, The Spokesman-Review included a small blurb in the newspaper that day on a new transit map.

A multicolored bus tour map, showing routes and places of interest, will be distributed to passengers by Spokane Transit System drivers, starting today. Basically, the maps show Spokane locations.

What the S-R was referring to was a brand new system map that had been designed by Dick and Marjorie Ingalls of the Tourmap Company, located right in Spokane. Depending on the source, this was actually the first full-system map for a bus company in Spokane, or at least among the very first attempts. The next year, the Tourmap Company published the Spokane Transit System Tourmap again, which saw little to no changes from the 1979 version. Again, the map was distributed to riders aboard STS buses.

Thanks to the Spokane Public Library, a copy of both the 1979 and 1980 maps are preserved to this date, the latter of which you can see below. (Click this link to view full size version.)

1980 Spokane Transit System Tourmap

Those familiar with the present STA system will probably immediately notice the stark differences in the STS system from 1980. Many routes took circuitous trips through city neighborhoods, winding and weaving along narrow streets. Much like the current practice of interlining bus routes at The Plaza in downtown, every bus route was “through-routed” between one side of the city and the other on Riverside Avenue, with the exception of Line 6 and Line 9  (just like the 25 and 90 continue to do today).  Like the streetcars did back in the early part of the century, the main transfer point was at the corner of Howard Street and Riverside Avenue. Many of the line names also used the neighborhood names, like Cable Addition or Hollywood, and not street names, a practice that continued until a major system revision in 1998.

Transit history fans will notice the inclusion of GM New Looks, or “Fishbowls,” on the map as well. Along every line is a bus colored to match the route it’s on. STS did have some GM RTS buses at that time as well, but with 48 New Looks in the fleet, that was the bus that most riders were familiar with. The only one on the map to actually match the appearance of the STS buses is located on Boone Avenue, next to the label for Spokane Transit System and the Lost and Found.

If you look closely at the map, you’ll notice a lot of notable Spokane landmarks included, such as the US Pavilion in Riverfront Park (which notably is show with the old vinyl roof), the clocktower from the former Great Northern Railroad transit station that used to occupy most all of Havermale Island before Expo ’74, and even the now-defunct Spokane Coliseum. As this was designed to be used as a tourmap, other key landmarks located include multiple medical facilities, public parks and swimming pools, and all junior high/high schools and colleges/universities.

Compare it with the current incarnation of the STA system map, and you can see that we’ve come a long way since 1980. For all intents and purposes, this map served its purpose quite well. If nothing else, it was a colorful source of information for STS riders, something that was largely absent in Spokane for a long time. As I mentioned earlier, this map is still preserved thanks to the Spokane Public Library, and so I want to say thank you to SPL and especially the staff of the Northwest Room.

As this map was before my time, I welcome any comments and input on anything related to it. I will also mention that this is not the only historical Spokane transit map in the Transit 509 archives, so keep an eye out for more in the near future!

News Roundup 5/19/14

Ben Franklin Transit & Spokane Transit Authority

Coach Operators Win Big at the APTA Bus Roadeo
Eastern Washington came up big this year at APTA 2014 Bus Roadeo as they took home 1st place victories in both the 35-foot and 40-foot divisions. Gabe Beliz from BFT took 1st place in the 35-foot division, besting 17 other coach operators from across the country. The competition in the 40-foot division was much fiercer, as Gabe Fernos from STA took 1st place while Daniel Schmidt from BFT took 2nd place just 5 points behind amongst a group of 53 coach operators. I’ve said it a few times already, but I’ll say it again: Congratulations, and great job guys!

Valley Transit

Fare-Free Service Coming Back This Summer
For the first time since 2007, Walla Walla and College Place bus riders won’t have to pay bus fares all summer. Running from June 1st to September 1st, all Valley Transit services (except the Job Access service) will be free of charge. The first time Valley Transit did this in 2006, ridership jumped up 57%, with the following year seeing a 25% spike.

Yakima Valley Trolleys

2014 Operating Season Starts 5/24
Summer is in the air, which means that the trolleys are going to be running again in Yakima this season. Trolleys will run on the Pine Street line from 10AM – 3PM on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. The big news for the 2014 Operating Season is the full reintroduction of service on the Selah line, which before the centennial run last operated more than 8 years prior after copper thieves stole the wire along the line. As of now, YVT plans to run service on the Selah line with a trolley powered by a tow-along motor generator, as not all the wire has been replaced on the line. Departures from the trolley barn for the Selah line are tentatively scheduled at 10AM, 12PM, and 2PM. They recommend checking their website to double-check the schedule, as the plans are subject to change. You can also find more information on fares and even membership on their website, or you can always call them at (509) 249-5962.


*Memorial Day Schedules*

In observance of Memorial Day on Monday, May 26, most agencies will not be running service. (If your agency is not listed, information was not available at the time of posting.)

Asotin County Transit: No Service (This includes Lewiston Transit as well.)
Ben Franklin Transit: No Service
Link Transit: No Service
Pullman Transit: Holiday Service (North Route and South Route only from 9AM-4:30PM.)
Spokane Transit Authority: Sunday Schedules
Valley Transit: No Service
Yakima Transit: No Service

Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter Service Modification

After spending the last few months trying to figure out if the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter will continue to run, it seems that Yakima Transit finally has a plan to preserve the service.

On June 5th, there will be a  public hearing at the Public Works facility (2301 Fruitvale Blvd) in Yakima at 5:30PM to take comment on the proposed changes to the service.

  • During the school-year, there will be one less trip daily on the “Seasonal” schedule (7 trips each way Monday to Friday).
  • During non-school days, there will be two less trips daily on the “Off-Seasonal” schedule (6 trips each way Monday to Friday).
  • All service on Federal Holidays is eliminated (New Years Day, MLK Jr. Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas).

If approved, the fares for the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter will also be increased for the second time since the service started, with one-way trips going from $4 to $5 and the monthly pass going from $125 to $150. As it currently does, the one-way tickets will still include a free transfer to any other Yakima Transit route, and the monthly pass still includes unlimited usage on all Yakima Transit routes.

With theses changes, there will also be a new operator coming aboard to run the service. After Hopesource announced they were ending their contract with Yakima Transit effective June 15th, the city had to scramble a bit to find a new operator. That new operator is Central Washington Airporter. In a bit of irony, the owner of CWA was actually one of the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter’s earliest critics, but it would seem that mindset has changed in the last couple years. CWA already has some experience in the intercity transit market, with their popular Airpoter Shuttle service as well as operating contracts for the Grape Line and Gold Line bus routes.

With the alternative being the complete elimination of the service, this proposal seems to be the best option for the continuation of the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter. I highly recommend that any and all riders that want to make sure this service continues go and attend the public hearing on June 5th to make sure that happens.

Transit Throwback – Past Posts on Transit History

(If you follow @transit509 on Twitter, you may have saw that there seems to be an issue with queued posts disappearing from the site this week. I’m not sure what exactly is happening, but I’m hoping it’ll be resolved by next week.)

In lieu of a new Transit Throwback post today, I thought it would be a good time to look back on coverage of transit history from the site’s past. While the Transit Throwback series has only been going for just over two months now, transit history has always been a big focus of this website as you’ll see below.

Transit Throwback – Downtown Yakima Trolley Bus
In the early 1990’s, Yakima tried running a downtown circulator bus. Find out why the service only lasted a few years.

Transit Throwback – Ellensburg Intercity Buses
Intercity bus tickets in Washington State used to be much cheaper than present prices. Find out just how cheap they were, and also learn a little about the history of intercity bus stations in Ellensburg.

Transit Throwback – Spokane Bus Stops
Spokane Transit Authority is currently in the midst of a complete bus stop sign update. Learn about the past of the old bus stop signs, and a few other interesting stories on bus stops in Spokane.

Transit Throwback – BFT #121
Before Ben Franklin Transit began operations in 1982, they had to find some buses. See just how far they had to go to find those buses, and what their fate was when BFT finally got rid of them.

Was “The Plaza” The Right Name?
Now just a blip on the map, Plaza WA was around before Spokane Transit Authority decided to use “The Plaza” as the name for their new downtown transit hub in 1995. The Spokesman-Review explores this further in a mostly satirical piece.

Route 225
A bit of an oddity in the Ben Franklin Transit system, this post looks back at the history of Route 225 and how it ended up in it’s present incarnation.

Walla Walla Valley Traction Company
Written originally by Blair E. Kooistra, this post takes an extensive look at the history of the Walla Walla Valley Traction Company, which includes the city’s former streetcar/interurban system and freight railroad operations.

What Might Have Been
After I-695 made the MVET (Motor Vehicle Excise Tax) illegal in Washington State, most all transit agencies saw a severe decline in their budgets. This post looks at the potential service cuts that Ben Franklin Transit would have made if voters didn’t approve an increase of 0.3% to the transit sales tax in 2002.

1986 Guide to Summer Fun
In the mid to late 1980’s, Ben Franklin Transit partnered with the Parks and Recreation departments in Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland to put out an activity guide each summer. Perhaps of most interest was the complete system map included in each guide, including separate maps for each of the three cities.

“Transit cat grabs attention, mice”
When Ben Franklin Transit moved into their new base facility in the Richland Y area, a female “employee” named Ben came along for the move. Learn more about this unique part of Ben Franklin Transit’s history.

Transit Throwback – Downtown Yakima Trolley Bus

Every now and then, a new proposal for a downtown transit circulator comes up in Yakima. Most recent was the idea of reintroducing streetcar service on Yakima Avenue using the heritage streetcars currently owned by Yakima Valley Trolleys. In the past, there’s even been proposals to add new lines just about everywhere in the city, from the former mill site just northeast of downtown or the SunDome at the Yakima County Fairgrounds, or even a proposal to run a commuter-service along the line between Selah and Yakima. Usually with downtown circulator proposals, most cities propose running them with “replica trolley” buses, and Yakima was no exception to that trend when they tried it in the early 1990’s.

Yakima Trolley Bus Photo Credit: AP/The Spokesman Review (6/8/1991)

Yakima Trolley Bus
Photo Credit: AP/The Spokesman Review (6/8/1991)

Starting operations in the first week of June 1991, the trolleys ran on two routes in Downtown Yakima. One route served Yakima Avenue directly, while the other weaved along side streets in the area connecting riders to the main shopping destinations on Yakima Avenue. To start the service, the city spent $109,000 each on four new “replica trolley” buses, along with an additional $60,000 to promote the service to residents and visitors. Unlike conventional Yakima Transit routes, the bus operators on the trolley service had special uniforms that among other things included a derby hat and a bowtie. The service charged no fares, and riders could hop on and off at multiple stops along Yakima Avenue, along with stops at parking lots near the downtown shopping areas.

Of course, the service was not without controversy. Originally backed with unanimous support from the city council, it quickly became a lightning rod for criticism. Residents questioned why the city was spending nearly $400,000 just to operate the service for the first year when Yakima Transit routes already ran in the area, and merchants outside of downtown were upset about the “favoritism” the city was showing to downtown merchants with the service. Support for the trolley service started to erode soon after that.

Surprisingly, the trolley made it past the first year of operations. In fact, it continued running until the end of 1994, when the city decided to finally pull the plug. Bill Schultz, then the transit manager for the city, said: “Essentially, the decision to drop trolley service was based on this: “Trolleys are not a basic service. They are downtown people movers. This is not an essential.”

It was around this same time that Spokane Transit Authority was getting ready to launch their “replica trolley” service between the newly opened Plaza and the North Bank area just north of downtown. (This is the service that now operates as Route 1.) One local journalist proposed having STA buy the buses from Yakima, but by then they had already secured their own buses for the service. Yakima later sold their buses by sealed bid.

News Roundup 4/21/14

Ben Franklin Transit

General Manager Position Offered to Dennis Solensky
In case you missed my updates on Twitter, the search for a new GM is over as the Board of Directors voted to offer the position to Dennis Solensky at the board meeting this month. As of posting this, contract negotiations are still ongoing, but it seems fairly certain that he will be starting by May 15th at the latest.

Yakima Transit

BYD E-Bus Being Tested in May
After spending March at Spokane Transit Authority and April at Ben Franklin Transit, the BYD E-Bus is continuing its tour of Washington at Yakima Transit. As with STA and BFT, BYD is letting them test out the bus free of charge for the whole month. No word yet on when/where it’ll be running, but as all routes congregate downtown at the Yakima Transit Center, it won’t be hard to find.

BFT Selects New General Manager

After spending two hours interviewing the two finalists and then spending four hours in executive session at the board meeting last night, the Ben Franklin Transit Board of Directors selected Dennis Solensky as the new General Manager.

This concludes a long process for BFT, who started this search late last year after former GM Tim Fredrickson submitted his resignation at the December board meeting. Some 84 applications were received, of which about 35 were given a closer look. After whittling it down to a group of 9 candidates, it was further narrowed down to a final two after holding first interviews on Skype.

Solensky brings a lot of experience in transit to the table for BFT. All his previous work in the industry has been with agencies similarly sized to BFT, and his last job at Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority in particular showed exceptional numbers for boosting ridership and patronage. He also has a MBA from Penn State, and holds a reputation with former employees as a team player and an approachable leader.

While the other candidate, Bill Forsythe, did show excellent qualifications as well, I have to say that I think the Board of Directors has made the right decision in offering Dennis Solensky the job, and I look forward to this new chapter at Ben Franklin Transit.