October 21, 1997 in City

Sta Is Trying To Meet A Variety Of Needs, Expectations

Robert Allen Schweim Special To Roundtable
 

Over the past months, Spokane Transit Authority (STA) has been seeking community input on a service proposal. This is a direct result of STA’s first-ever operations performance review.

A number of questions and misconceptions have been raised in the media about this proposal, including in The Spokesman-Review. I hope the following comments help answer some of these concerns.

Why did STA conduct this study?

First, we needed to assess the use and productivity of the entire existing system after many years of incremental additions and adjustments. Second, based upon the use, or lack of use of services - the so-called empty bus problem - STA wants to increase riders and productivity using its existing level of resources. Third, STA needs to try to address the breadth of requests and suggestions it has received in many recent surveys. Fourth, STA’s current operating facilities are full. Rather than expanding to make room for more fleet, facilities and staff, STA wanted to first look at rearranging its current resources.

Is this really just a proposal?

Yes, there has been no decision about what combination of services will be approved.

How can riders comment on the proposal?

The public has been invited to numerous meetings and, to date, more than 2,000 written comments have been received. For those who still want to comment, a public hearing will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Lewis and Clark High School’s auditorium.

Comments also may be forwarded to STA for inclusion in the project’s public record.

Will expressing our concerns even matter?

STA leadership cannot promise that each individual concern will be resolved. For example, some citizen requests may conflict with others.

Will bus drivers lose their jobs?

Under the proposed plan there are virtually the same number of hours of service as there are now and a driver is needed for every hour a bus is operated.

Do the people making these proposals ride the bus?

Perhaps, in their own communities. More importantly, these people make their living by helping communities with the exact type of issues now facing Spokane. Spokane’s problems are not unique, but when STA decided on this review, it also decided to have it conducted by qualified persons outside STA. By doing so, STA maintained objectivity. Many of the basic ideas in this proposal originally came from comments received in STA rider surveys taken in recent years.

If STA has reserves, why not add routes?

In personal or professional business, do you spend your savings just because they’re there? As a taxpayer, do you want accountability from your government for what it is spending now, before the spending is simply increased? STA undertook this review to be responsible and to understand how it might do better before doing more. Current service must be balanced with taxpayer concerns and the financial long-term ability to serve riders. That makes for a particularly difficult decision.

Who is STA accountable to?

STA is accountable to the people who pay the bills - our region’s taxpayers - and to our bus riders. Sometimes, these groups have conflicting ideas and do not see things exactly the same way. Our board of directors is comprised of elected officials from the various jurisdictions we serve. They will make the final policy decisions.

When will changes go into effect?

After the STA board makes a decision and gives direction to staff, it could take about a year for full implementation.

Spokane Transit has an important role to play in our community’s future. Buses are part of the solution to provide a balance of transportation services and resources where they best fit the region and its citizenry. The proposed service plan from STA’s comprehensive operational analysis suggest some different ways to distribute existing bus service resources.

Our responsibilities are to look, listen and then to act. We value the public’s input in this complex and difficult process.

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