Removal of the smoking area at the downtown Spokane bus Plaza has officially been declared a failure.
Work will start today on a $70,000 contract to restore the smoking area on the east side of the Plaza where smokers had previously been allowed to congregate.
The new smoking area on Wall Street should alleviate a problem of loitering by smokers in front of nearby businesses and at the Spokane Regional Business Center at Riverside Avenue and Post Street.
Susan Meyer, CEO of the Spokane Transit Authority, said the agency felt compelled to rebuild the smoking area because of the problems created by smokers hanging out on sidewalks near the Plaza.
“Obviously, we encouraged them to do it,” said Rich Hadley, president and CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated, the region’s Chamber of Commerce. The group is located next to one of the areas on Post Street where smokers have been congregating.
Hadley said he hopes smokers return to the designated smoking area at the Plaza once it reopens.
“I think it will be beneficial to us, the Post Street Ale House and the business across the street (on Post),” Hadley said.
The old smoking area along Wall Street was closed in August 2012 as part of a larger project to improve Wall and create a new loading zone for Paratransit riders.
Since then, STA security officers as well as private security guards have been policing the loitering problem associated with smoking.
Paratransit service will now use bus loading zone No. 1 on Riverside just west of the Plaza.
In addition, Paratransit riders will have a dedicated waiting area with seating adjacent to the north entrance to the Plaza. New signs mark two metal benches where those riders will wait for pickups.
Meyer said she had hoped the smoking area closure would not become a problem for nearby businesses, but smoking and loitering have persisted.
Enforcement has mainly involved keeping smokers at least 25 feet away from building entrances as required by state law.
Moving the Paratransit loading area will displace two regular routes.
The No. 27 Hillyard bus will move from loading zone No. 1 to loading zone No. 4 on weekdays from 6:20 a.m. to 5:50 p.m. The Hillyard bus will arrive and depart from loading zone No. 1 on weeknights, weekends and holidays.
Bus No. 173 Valley Express will move from loading zone No. 1 to loading zone No. 2.