STA seeking public input on budget cut proposals
Spokane Transit Authority officials are asking for the public’s help in cutting 7 percent from the bus agency’s budget next year.
A recently released list of potential cuts is the starting point for a community discussion about how to trim bus and van services to more closely match STA’s income.
A series of public meetings have already gotten under way so that riders and others can comment on the preliminary proposal. A display is available on the second floor of the STA Plaza downtown, and the proposal is also online at spokanetransit.com.
Nine bus routes would be cut, and more than a dozen others would be reconfigured under the proposal.
The cuts will take effect next September, one year after a smaller list of service reductions was enacted.
“We are facing the unfortunate task of needing to reduce our costs,” said Chief Executive Officer Susan Meyer. “The only way to reduce costs significantly is to reduce service.”
As many as 26 jobs, including 16 driver positions, would be lost under the proposal.
The agency is hoping that retirements and resignations will be sufficient to avoid layoffs.
Proposed for elimination are two routes to Medical Lake, a route serving Latah Valley, and the No. 46 Altamont bus on the South Side, all of which have relatively low ridership.
Two crosstown routes on the North Side – on Garland and Francis avenues – would be cut, although riders would still have east-west service on Wellesley Avenue as well as other reconfigured north-south routes.
One of two Liberty Lake express routes and service in Millwood on route No. 95 would be eliminated.
Agency heads are seeking ways to fill the holes that will be created by the cuts. In some cases, transit users will be encouraged to form vanpools to replace scheduled bus service.
The route cuts will be paired with reductions in paratransit service for disabled riders.
The cuts are being forced by a downturn in sales tax collections, which make up two-thirds of the agency’s $60 million operating budget.
Sales taxes began falling in 2008 and have dropped more than 12 percent from their peak in 2007 before leveling off this year. STA planners say they don’t expect to see a return to 2007 collections until 2016, for a cumulative loss of $81 million over eight years.
After next year’s cuts are implemented, the agency will go back to the drawing board to come up with a third round of cuts in 2012. Those cuts are expected to take another 7 percent out of STA services.
Bus ridership has fallen about 3 percent from a peak of 11 million rides in 2008. The cuts likely will result in a ridership decrease of 6 percent, planners said.
Public comment will continue throughout the fall and will be used to write a draft recommendation to be released in January. The draft will go back out for public comment before final adoption by the STA board in March.
Keller ferry turns 62
Martha S, the small ferry boat that operates on the Columbia River at Keller, Wash., has passed a milestone. She turned 62, having gone into service on Sept. 9, 1948. She is expected to celebrate many more anniversaries after being renovated last summer.
I-90 reduced to one lane
The eastbound Interstate 90 viaduct in downtown Spokane will be reduced to a single lane from 9 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday for repair work on bridge deck joints.
Roads reopen after construction
• Wellesley Avenue at Division Street reopened to traffic last week after being closed for construction of a new concrete-paved intersection. The project was finished six days ahead of schedule. It will be followed next spring by repaving of Division from Francis to Euclid avenues.
• Also reopened is Flora Road at Broadway Avenue, where a major widening project is under way on Broadway.
New signal in Coeur d’Alene
The Harrison Avenue and 15th Street intersection in Coeur d’Alene is closed for the week starting today for installation of new traffic signal equipment.
Repair of a pole base damaged in a recent traffic accident and installation of new equipment is expected to be finished by Friday, and the signal should be operating by Oct. 15, the city said.
Trail links park, sports complex
The city of Spokane has opened a new trail in northwest Spokane to link Riverside State Park and the new Dwight Merkel Sports Complex adjacent to Joe Albi Stadium.
The one-mile, unpaved trail is open for biking, hiking, running or dog walking.
It will eventually connect to a 3.1-mile “life sports” loop that will encircle the Merkel complex and Albi grounds, according to city parks spokeswoman Nancy Goodspeed.