The wait at area bus stops will become a little more comfortable for Citylink riders if a Coeur d’Alene committee has its way.
As part of the bus bench program, the volunteer group is attempting to find sponsors for about 140 benches to be built and installed on both sides of the street at the 90 stops along the 200-plus miles of Citylink bus routes.
The public transportation system, which was formed in 2005 and serves much of Kootenai County and part of Benewah County, has seen its ridership steadily increase over the last year alongside the increasingly anemic economy, serving about 40,000 riders a month and more than 500,000 round trips in 2008.
And sometimes, especially during winter months, those riders have to stand in the open, facing the elements for a long time.
“This is something we can do as private citizens to take care of our community,” said Craig Wilcox, a financial planner with D.A. Davidson and Co. who also serves as a public transportation advisory group member of the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is dedicated to ensuring continuous, cooperative and coordinated transportation planning for Kootenai County. “People are just standing around waiting for the bus. And if we want to be proactive about the growth in the area and containing urban sprawl and reducing traffic problems, this is a part of that.”
While most cities have codes prohibiting displays at bus stops, including Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, the KMPO subcommittee benches won’t have any sort of advertisements such as phone numbers or Web sites listed. Instead, the sponsor’s name or business will be engraved on an approximately one-foot-square plaque and placed on the bench back. So far, the city of Coeur d’Alene has approved the donor-funded benches, which will be manufactured locally, and installation by Kiwanis Club members could begin this spring.
“We tried to make them as visually appealing as possible,” Wilcox explained. “This is a public service, this is not an advertisement. It’s a sponsorship and that’s our little loophole.”
Five-year bench sponsorships are available for $600 to $1,000 depending on the location, and will be available in a variety of color schemes, said Andrew Murphy, assistant manager with Citylink Transit. As soon as the subcommittee has 30 sponsors sign up, the local manufacturer will go into production, he said. “It is hoped to install a bench at each of the 90 Citylink bus stops starting in April 2009,” he said, adding that Citylink is not a part of the Coeur d’Alene Casino, which is a common misconception, but is a public transportation company.
“We hope to provide better amenities for all public transportation riders in the community. This is the first step in that direction,” he offered. The next phase in improving the bus route could see shelters built at some stops in the future, Murphy said.
While younger riders such as Cassandra Weller, who stood waiting at the Riverstone stop, would gladly take a seat on the benches between stops, she said there are plenty of elderly passengers who need them more. “Yeah, I would use them, and I know a lot of other people who would use them too,” she said.
Citylink’s Murphy reiterated the bench’s benefits for older passengers. “If you are an elderly person waiting with a shopping bag, 10 minutes can feel like an eternity. So we really feel this will be a benefit to our elderly riders,” he said.
For bus driver Chuck Wasileski, he said it can be hard to watch people stand out in North Idaho’s harshest elements, especially given the last few winters. “The majority of stops around town need benches,” he said. “It can be kind of dangerous. Our hearts really went out to them with the weather being so severe this year.”