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Sta Plaza Rolls In New Era For City

When commuters arrive by bus in downtown Spokane this morning, they’ll launch a new era for mass transit and the downtown business district.

The long-awaited, long-debated downtown transit center is open. It culminates an effort that began eight years ago, when business leaders sat down with officials at the Spokane Transit Authority to discuss a mutual concern: A wall of buses, stretched for blocks along Riverside and Howard, was damaging the city’s center. The buses and the crowds of waiting riders clogged streets and sidewalks, hindering access to ground-floor businesses. Added to other stresses on the core, the bus problems were a factor as storefronts along bus parking spots went vacant.

Was there a better way? Could it also improve the transit system?

Yes.

It’s the transit center, an architectural gem with potential to become a downtown crossroads.

The building and its broad sidewalks will take the crowds of commuters off nearby blocks, opening the door to their recovery. The first sign of success has arrived already: across from the new terminal, a banner announces Sta-Fit this fall will move a new exercise facility into a long-vacant store.

The terminal itself includes several attractive retail spaces. Among the first to open, this fall, will be a Burger King. The building boasts a new local landmark - a cougar-and-waterfall sculpture (the cougars, still being perfected by the artist, will be installed next month). It includes two beautiful indoor exhibition spaces, one for displays and one for performances, possibly to include a grand piano for drop-in musicians. Strong vertical access to the skywalk system - via staircase, escalator and glassed elevators, meets a long-standing need for convenient, attractive connections between downtown’s street and skywalk levels. In keeping with STA’s mission to prevent air pollution and encourage alternative transportation, the terminal includes 32 public bicycle lockers in its basement.

Along with its benefits for the downtown environment, the building offers new, snappier service to transit riders. No longer will commuters have to cross streets to change buses. They just walk through the terminal. Instead of parking downtown, buses will stop there briefly at set times, as they do in outlying neighborhoods. STA’s customer services are consolidated at the handier downtown location. STA’s new rubber-tired trolleys also will stop there.

The goals - more ridership, a more attractive and functional downtown, better bus service, elimination of the adverse effects on downtown business - all are within this building’s reach.

There will, of course, be a shakedown period. That’s to be expected.

One large issue remains: The terminal must be a safe environment. STA knows that. So, a new police substation is located there, along with provision for STA’s own guards. Laws are on the books to enforce a code of conduct that will keep riders feeling secure. Those laws must be enforced aggressively. The terminal can help lead the way in the firm preservation of a safe atmosphere in Spokane’s core.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Webster/For the editorial board


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