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Spokane Transit Authority hosts teletown hall tonight

Central City Line. To move or not to move Downtown Plaza. Now's the time to engage with the Spokane Transit Authority (STA). They are moving towards the final stage of gathering public input on a draft plan called STA Moving Forward which consists of about two dozen transit projects to be implemented over a 10-year period.

“The goal of this plan is twofold: to sustain existing service levels and prepare for the public transportation needs identified by our community when additional revenue is available,” said E. Susan Meyer, STA CEO.

As part of ongoing efforts, you can provide feedback tonight at 6:30 p.m., when STA hosts a Telephone Town Hall meeting. Participants in the telephone-based event will have the opportunity to speak with an STA board member and agency officials to ask questions and provide feedback on the plan. Nearly 55,000 residents from communities within STA service will be invited to participate via the automated phone dialing system or you can join in by calling toll-free 877-353-4701 during the live event.

 

STA wins high-profile fan

We may have found a spokesman for a Spokane Transit Authority ad campaign.

Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander has been flying to Spokane every couple weeks in the last few months to serve as one of the Spokane's five Use of Force commissioners.

After he disembarks from his plane at Spokane International Airport, he takes a Spokane Transit Authority bus downtown.

"I really enjoy that bus ride," Alexander said. "It's really a handy way to get in from the Airport."

(This praise for the bus was unsolicited when I asked him a few questions after Thursday's Use of Force Commission meeting.)

Alexander is reimbursed for his plane trip and often a meal when he's in Spokane. He usually flies in the morning and flies out after the meeting

He does not bother getting reimbursed for the $1.50 bus ride.

Spokane Transit Apologizes To Youths

Three young people talking about bisexuality were kicked off a Spokane Transit Authority bus last month, and now STA officials said the driver made a mistake in booting them. Two women in their 20s and a teenage boy were talking among themselves about a friend’s sexual orientation during a bus ride on Oct. 20. After other passengers got off the bus, the young people got into a dispute with the driver about whether they could continue their discussion. The bus driver told them the topic bothered her and she ordered them off the bus midway between stops and more than a mile from their destination, said Carla Savalli, executive director of Odyssey Youth Center. The Spokane center provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth/Mike Prager, SR. More here. (Pacific Northwest Inlander photo by Young Kwak: Jessica Jahn, left, and Mat Kellogg didn't have a great trip on an STA bus)

Question: Did STA do the right thing by apologizing to three young people kicked off bus?

STA route changes start Sunday

An STA bus travels through Cheney in March 2010. SR file photo.

If you are still not sure how the Spokane Transit Authority route changes will affect you, check out reporter Mike Prager's story today that lays out what is being cut and what changes are being made. The No. 95 Millwood route is being eliminated and several others are changing.

The No. 90 Sprague bus will now turn around at the Valley Tranit Center on University Road. The No. 174 Liberty Lake Express will now stop at the Mirabeau Park and Ride lot. Several other routes in Spokane Valley and being redesigned.

One sign you live in a jerkwater town

Everyone you know believes mass transportation is a Commie conspiracy.

That's seldom the case here in Spokane, of course. Right?

Wednesday is STA Rider Appreciation Day. Sure it's an obvious PR move coming days before some service reductions. But a few early riders will receive trinkets.

Snyder booted from STA board

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Shogan and Snyder face off on budget

Even without newly elected officials on the Spokane City Council, power appears to be shifting in the New Year.

One year after the council removed Nancy McLaughlin from the board overseeing the Spokane Transit Authority, the Spokane City Council voted to reappoint McLaughlin — the council's only self-described conservative — to the seat. The move booted Councilman Jon Snyder from the position.

City Council President Shogan, who proposed the change, said reappointing McLaughlin to the seat is "strictly a matter of representation."

The city has three seats on the STA board. Spokane's other two members are Amber Waldref, who represents Northeast Spokane and Richard Rush, who represents South Spokane. Snyder also serves South Spokane. Shogan said he supported the change because the city should have an STA representative from Northwest Spokane.

Waldref, who along with Rush and Snyder voted against McLaughlin's appointment, noted that having representatives from each council district is not a requirement and isn't routine for other boards on which council members sit.

Asked why he supported adding McLaughlin back to the transit board after he supported her removal from it last year, Shogan said that last year he "had a different concern."

He declined to explain what that concern was.

Shogan and Snyder have had a few contentious debates in the last couple months. Shogan led the effort to create a tab tax - a proposal that failed later on Monday largely because Snyder voted against it. But the most public and ugly argument between the two was over the proposal to defund a vacant deptuy fire chief position (audio of that debate from Dec. 20 is above).

More live TV coming to Spokane’s CityCable 5

Spokane's local government cable TV station is improving its live offerings.

Starting on Jan. 19, CityCable 5 will begin airing live the monthly meetings of the Spokane Transit Authority board.

The transit board has some big votes in the coming months, including deciding which routes and services will scaled back to deal with budget problems.

Spokane's Communication Director Marlene Feist, who oversees CityCable 5, said City Councilwoman Amber Waldref, an STA board member, requested the live coverage.

STA is the fourth governing board that the station will carry live on a regular basis. The others are the Spokane County Commission, Spokane City Council and the Spokane Park Board. The channel occassionally carries Spokane Plan Commission meetings live.

STA's meetings are at 5:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.

John Olsen

A message written by John Olsen that needs to be heard…

Clear DayGood Morning folks,
I have been out of town for two months during the transition to the new schedules and service changes for our transit system.  I recognize the budget need to reduce service on selected routes, and to extend intervals between bus runs on weekends and late nights.  Those are all pretty much “quantifiable”  and can be determined in a linear and fair manner.  I don’t think anyone can quarrel much with that part of the plan.

What I am appalled at is the removal of many of the stops on most of the routes.  That decision is unkind, not service oriented and complicates many people’s lives while also putting them at physical risk.  The climate in Spokane is just fine from April through May,  and from September till the end of October.   The other 8 months are viscious to those of us that spend time out of doors waiting for our nicely air conditioned and heated bus to arrive.

I am a regular bus rider,  and am still quite physically and emotionally capable.  A very high percentage of people that ride the bus with me are encumbered in some one way or another…  grossly over weight, travelling with children, carrying two or three bags of groceries, without proper clothing for the weather, mentally ill, physically disabled, and on and on….  They are ALL uniformly grateful and thank the drivers for the rides they recieve.  

Transportation is a peace and justice issue,  that impacts many if not most of the people I am called to be with as a Christian. They are not being “served” well by the ludicrous increase in the distances between transit stops.  Busses all run late because they are a “service”  that includes stopping for up to four or five wheel chairs at one time… no on who rides the bus can or likely is on a tight time line..  Therefore “honing” time on routes by reducing the number of times the bus stops does not help any of my friends and community of other.  

It is clear to me from talking to several of my regular drivers that they find the changes in stops not to be condusive to any increased efficiency, and have observed the increased hardships placed on the riders by having to walk, or wheelchair, or carry their groceries or kids an extra 200 yards up hill.  On my ride this morning up Division there were two stops removed on the Division hill,  so your choice is at Foothills Blvd… or Bridgeport..   feels like more than a half mile up hill to me.  

I know the “process” whereby these changes in stops were made was open to comment,  buy my friends don’t write letters to the editor or blog or send email to folks like you.   I am doing that in their stead,  and am asking that before winter comes and someone dies falling down in the snow walking an extra 250 yards to their bus stop it be changed back.  

Come ride the bus and see how it is…    

I await your response.    

                                      Respectfully  
                                     John A. Olsen/ Volunteer Chef  Shalom Ministries
                                     Central Methodist Church  

 ChefGus

“When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist.”
Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara

Early sales tax numbers show continued rough times for local governments

 Early numbers aren’t looking good for Spokane and other local governments hoping to avoid more budget gloom.

Sales tax distributions for the first two months of 2010 were the lowest since 2005 for Spokane, Spokane County, Spokane Valley and the Spokane Transit Authority.

Because of the increased cost of doing business, largely from of salary increases and the spiking costs of health insurance, local governments usually need rising tax revenue to maintain services with the same number of employees.

Sales taxes are only one source of revenue, but they are a signficant one, especially for STA, which doesn’t have property or utility taxes.

Bad day for STA

If the allegations are to believed, Spokane Transit Authority had a bad day yesterday.

Two men appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on felony charges related to two altercations involving STA buses that occurred two hours apart Tuesday evening.

Michael W. Maltos, 47, is charged with third-degree assault after a bus driver said he spit on him after the driver asked Maltos to leave. 

Maltos was arrested in the area of Indiana and cedar and said “maybe some spit came out of my mouth when I was yelling,” according to a probable cause affidavit. 

Maltos, who has 10 felony and 15 misdemeanor convictions, is being held on $3,000 bond.

Garion D. Herrold, 18, is charged with second-degree malicious mischief for an alleged incident about 5:30 p.m. near North Mayfair Road and West Hasting Road.

Herrold broke two windows on the bus after the driver refused to wait, according to a probable cause affidavit. 

Herrold was released on his own recognizance.

Spokesman-Review story roundup

Photobucket Photo courtesy of Greater Spokane. STA budget dilemma might include raising fares. The Spokane Transit Authority has a problem: While ridership has increased, revenue is falling since more than 70 percent of their funding comes from sales taxes. According to the S-R, the $79 million budget for 2009 calls for delaying purchases of some buses, postponing high-tech innovations and slightly reducing the number of jobs. As for the fare increase, the citizen advisory committee will brainstorm ideas and then take their suggestions to the public for comment before the STA makes a decision. (A 25-cent increase is expected.) Full story here. Energy assistance. A federal program called Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has increased its funds due to high heating oil and natural gas prices this winter. The program is administered through community service agencies in each state (like SNAP) but unlike state funds, this money can’t be held back or withdrawn due to budget deficits. Full story here. From Rebecca Nappi, below are some instructions for local energy assistance: •In-person appointments are required to receive non-emergency energy assistance. Spokane County residents should call SNAP’s appointment line – (509) 242-2376 – Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A limited number of appointments can be scheduled at www.snapwa.org on Wednesdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. •In Kootenai County, energy assistance is given through Community Action Partnership in Coeur d’Alene, which can be reached at (208) 664-8757. If residents have a shut-off notice or are dangerously low of their heating source material, they should call as soon as the notice appears or the emergency arises. If they are current with their bill, they should call for an appointment the first week of January, because all December appointments are booked. •SNAP and Community Action Partnership urge low-income residents to let their utility company know that they are trying to schedule – or have scheduled – appointments for energy assistance so that their heating supplies will not be shut off.