Thousands of people every day wait for buses outside the Spokane Transit Authority’s downtown station.
By the bitter days of January, 12 of them will have a chance to sit down.
The STA board of directors on Wednesday approved spending $2,500 to buy 12 concrete benches made by inmates at Geiger Correctional Center. Each seats one person.
STA officials call the move an experiment.
Outside seating never was in the plans for the bus station, which opened in July. Police recommended against it, reasoning that if the center weren’t comfortable, it wouldn’t become a gathering place for punks.
Besides, the whole idea of the building was that people would wait for their buses inside, where Burger King and Orange Julius will open next month.
But most riders apparently didn’t read the plans. They stay outside, leaning against the $20.6 million brick building or sprawled on the sidewalk.
Some riders say they don’t trust the airport-style monitors to let them know when their bus is coming. Others don’t want to squash their cigarettes - smoking isn’t allowed inside. The crowd may move inside when the weather turns nasty, but people still waited on the sidewalk during rainstorms Wednesday.
If the 500-pound seats are popular, he said, STA will order more of them. If outside seating causes problems, the seats will be moved inside.
County Commissioner Steve Hasson voted against the purchase, calling the seats “a slap in the face” to bus riders.
“They’re already sitting on concrete (sidewalks),” he said. “I don’t see how this really improves their lives.”
Hasson wants STA to buy wooden seats like those outside the courthouse, which Geiger inmates built for $300 apiece. That’s about $100 more than the concrete seats will cost.
Other board members said fancier seats would only be vandalized or stolen. Hasson said that’s unlikely, because the station is guarded by security cameras, security guards and Spokane police officers, who have a substation inside.
“The STA is just this side of an army camp as far as enforcement,” he said.
It will be about eight weeks before the seats are installed.
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