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Doug Clark: So much more than just mass transportation

On Friday I decided to stop procrastinating and vote whether or not to continue pouring my tax dollars down the city bus sinkhole.

Proposition 1, they’re calling it.

Spokane Transit Authority moochers want us to continue giving them the sales tax handout we approved four years ago.

There are plenty of reasons to tell the bus barons to go take a hike.

The main one being that Spokane Transit Authority has a long history of being run by a pack of fiscally irresponsible nincompoops.

But perhaps I was being too hasty. Before marking my ballot yea or nay, I vowed to give the city bus system one more chance to impress me.

And so I set off to spend part of my day with the STA.

10:35 a.m. – I head out the door. Couldn’t find a schedule, but, hey, life’s a gamble. How long can catching a bus take?

10:38 a.m. – At the bus stop. Forgot my laptop. (When he was mayor, I bet nobody ever heard Jim West utter those words.)

10:45 a.m. – Back at bus stop.

10:47 a.m. – Watch squirrel cross street. That fool didn’t bring a bus schedule, either.

10:52 a.m. – Low rumbling noise in distance. Is it the bus?

10:52:30 a.m. – Naw. It’s just my stomach from missing breakfast.

11:00 a.m. – The bus! The bus! The machine eats my dollar. Hey, I’m the only passenger. The bus driver’s name is Rob.

11:01 a.m. – This bus clatters like a buckboard crossing the Great Plains. Maybe the STA will use the sales taxes for better shocks.

11:02 a.m. – Or Spokane could just fix the streets. Yeah, right. Like that’ll happen.

11:03 a.m. – We pick up our first passenger, a woman. Drat. There goes my privacy.

11:05 a.m. – A sign on the bus shows a kid with a guitar around his neck taking a wide-armed stage bow. “9.4 million rides in 2007,” boasts the text. Yeah? I’d like to see that kid try to play his guitar on a bus. They’d throw that punk off in a New York second.

11:12 a.m. – I’d ride the bus more if they put video screens on the backs of the seats and let us watch movies like they do on airplanes. A good one would be “Speed,” that Keanu Reeves flick about the bomb on the bus.

11:13 a.m. – With my luck they’d show “The Lake House,” the Keanu Reeves movie that was a bomb and a bust.

11:14 a.m. – Another woman comes aboard. This passenger recognizes me. She says her name is Julie. There’s no hostility in her voice. She must not be related to any cops.

11:26 a.m. – End of the line. I get off and walk to the downtown bus plaza, the $20.6 million monument to stupidity and wasted space I like to call the Garage Mahal.

11:27 a.m. – Three steps into the Plaza I narrowly miss stepping on a wad of gum some infidel dropped.

11:30 a.m. – It’s been a while since I’ve been in the Plaza. Has anything changed?

11:31 a.m. – A woman walks past me wearing a bizarre leopard-print outfit and faux cat ears. Her large bare belly hangs out of her shirt. Nope. Nothing’s changed.

11:35 a.m. – I ride the escalator upstairs past the $75,000 waterfall with bronze cougars. I see coins in the water. Some critics think this is all the revenue stream the STA deserves.

11:37 a.m. – I sit down and soak up the Plaza ambience. Imported marble tiles. Circular second-floor performance area. Plaza designers envisioned this as a hub of culture and commerce.

11:38 a.m. – Kooks and crackpots is more like it.

12:20 p.m. – Lunch was tasty. The City Perk espresso is a peaceful oasis.

12:21 p.m. – For all the luxury touches, Plaza builders didn’t give a hoot about acoustics. It doesn’t take much of a crowd before the noise in this yammering din begins to make your ears bleed.

12:22 p.m. – I settle into a metal bench on the first floor.

12:25 p.m. – I flee the metal bench due to overpowering smells emanating from one of my neighbors.

1 p.m. – Back upstairs. The second floor commerce includes a pizza-by-the-slice joint, a mini-mart, a discount luggage shop and someone selling lotions at a table.

1:30 p.m. – Garage Mahal is good. But is Loser Park Square better?

1:40 p.m. – Why do so many young, tough-looking punks come to the Plaza hang out? They could be learning a useful trade like lock picking or joining the Rotary.

1:45 p.m. – I begin to reminisce. Once on a bus ride home I sat behind two middle school kids who took turns sniffing each other’s armpits.

1:46 p.m. – This jogs another bus memory: I was headed to work one day when this wigged-out loon got on and started yelling “Tax-ee! Tax-eee!!” at the top of his lungs.

1:47 p.m. – Smiling, I take out my ballot. I blacken in the “approved” circle on Proposition No. 1.

1:48 p.m. – I get up and head for the newspaper. Give the STA bus barons their money. I know. They’ll probably blow it. But to me it’s a no-brainer. We must keep the buses rolling and the bus Plaza going.

I can’t afford to lose the material.


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