Bus riders now face longer commutes because Spokane Transit Authority’s new downtown station can’t handle all the buses at once.
Buses used to pull into downtown - and leave - about the same time. The $20.6 million STA Plaza, which opened July 16, can handle only a third of those buses at a time.
The new plaza eliminated the walls of buses that lined Riverside Avenue before there was a station. But some riders who change buses downtown now must wait as long as 30 minutes for their second bus.
And schedules have changed on most of the 31 routes.
That has some riders fuming, although STA officials say they’ve gotten fewer complaints about the route changes and more compliments about the station than they expected.
Student Jim Burney used to arrive at Spokane Falls Community College 25 minutes before his night class started. Now, he gets there an hour early.
“I personally don’t feel the transit center is there for the benefit of bus riders,” said Burney. “It’s there for the benefit of STA, which wanted a big building.”
North Side resident Pearl Schmitt wrote to STA Executive Director Allen Schweim, complaining that one of her knees aches from walking more and riding less. “This is my last bus pass.”
Joseph Paulus said it used to take about 10 minutes to get to the Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center. He’d get off one bus and onto another not far from his Shadle Park home.
Now, the buses miss each other by about 25 minutes. Rather than tax his weak heart by standing at a bus stop, Paulus chooses to sit. He spends an hour riding one bus from his home to the downtown station, then another bus back north to the hospital.
“The (STA) whiz kids on the computers, they probably don’t ride these buses,” said the World War II veteran.
Additional letters to Schweim express similar frustration.
Valley resident Kandy Cameron wrote that her husband must pack their three kids in the car to come pick her up because the bus no longer matches her work schedule.
Monday, the car was rear-ended and her family spent the evening at the hospital. A county sheriff’s deputy took her home.
“I’m not blaming STA for the accident,” Cameron wrote. “I just know that this town is getting so big and … more people (would) take the bus if the schedule was accommodating.”
Kim Stone, STA’s director of operations, said she’s heard fewer complaints than she expected.
“This is the most major change in our operations in 25 years,” she said.
Stone said STA restored a rush-hour bus that was dropped from the Fairwood Limited route after getting complaints from several Nine Mile Falls residents.
But, Stone said, “It’s not a personalized service where you’re going to be able to serve everyone right when and where they want it.”