November 2, 2009 in City

End of the Spokane trolley line

Known for their looks, not their comfort, streetcar buses will soon make way for cleaner hybrids
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

An STA trolley car named Desire heads north on Howard Street last week as it travels its downtown loop. The trolley is one of three that will be replaced with hybrid diesel coaches that will use a third less fuel.
(Full-size photo)

The green trolley-replica buses that have been shuttling people across downtown for 15 years are going to the barn. Spokane Transit Authority is taking them out of service at the start of next year.

Purchased in 1994 to dress up downtown Spokane, the trolleys have been more workhorses than tourist attractions, carrying commuters from the STA Plaza on West Riverside Avenue to a park-and-ride lot at the Spokane Arena.

STA is buying three new 29-foot electric-diesel hybrids with low-floor chassis to replace them. The hybrids will operate on about a third less fuel, said Susan Meyer, chief executive officer of STA.

“They are quieter. They are the perfect downtown commuter vehicle,” she said.

They also fit in with a broader effort to make Spokane green.

The three trolley buses were difficult for drivers to maneuver in tight spaces. They were mounted onto truck chassis, making the ride stiff and jolting.

“They are just not real comfortable,” said one rider getting off a trolley last week. “They are bumpy.”

The hybrids from Gillig Corp. will get a new downtown promotional advertising wrap to make them distinctive and to distinguish them from other STA vehicles.

While the old trolleys cost $127,000 apiece, the new hybrids are considerably more expensive, at more than $500,000 each.

The fare for the shuttle is 50 cents, half the cost of a regular fare.

Leaf cleanup starting

Spokane city leaf collection starts Tuesday and will continue into December depending on the weather. As in past years, the pickups will begin in northwest Spokane and move south and east.

Crews are collecting leaves that fall into the streets. Residents are not supposed to rake or blow leaves from their lawns into the streets, although the practice is common.

Leaves are accepted at the city-county incinerator and recycling facility as well as solid-waste transfer stations. The first 100 pounds are free.

The Spokane Regional Solid Waste System recommends composting leaves rather than throwing them out.

STA workshops

Spokane Transit Authority officials are planning two workshop sessions with members of the public on a plan to maintain bus service levels in the face of declining tax revenue.

The sessions, on the second floor of the STA Plaza, 701 W. Riverside Ave., will be held Wednesday from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. and Thursday from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

The STA board is expected to approve a 2010 budget this fall.

Street closure planned

In Spokane Valley, Park Road just south of Trent Avenue will be closed Wednesday and Thursday for railroad crossing work. The crossing should reopen by 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

Alert system upgrade

The Washington Department of Transportation is upgrading its online travel alert system today at noon. The system will be unavailable for about an hour. The work will also shut down the statewide 511 travel information phone line.

I-90 work wraps up

Repaving work should be finished now on Interstate 90 between Easton and Cle Elum. The project has created delays of several hours along the interstate, especially on weekends. The job in the westbound lanes involved 4 1/2 miles of new concrete pavement for the right-hand lane and shoulder.

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