Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Hafner: “only resolution to it will be to move the plaza”

Some of Spokane's political insiders are abuzz with an Inlander blog item reporting that former STA Chairman Chuck Hafner is refuting The Spokesman-Review's characterization of his comments regarding the future of the downtown transit plaza in Sunday's paper.

But here's a portion of the briefing last week that Hafner gave to the Spokane Valley City Council in which he expresses frustration over the inability to satisfy the complaints of downtown business interests and predicts that they will succeed in getting it moved, saying: “Mark my words … the only resolution to it will be to move the plaza.”

The full briefing can be found on the city of Spokane Valley's website.

Hafner, in an interview with the SR last week following the council briefing, said he hopes his prediction is wrong and explained that the STA board has spent years trying to appease downtown businesses — unsuccessfully — but that it's never good enough.

City Hall Scoop: Plazas and Trolleys

The Spokane Transit Authority is its own government entity, but it got a good going over at last night's Spokane City Council meeting.

Two items passed by the council dealt with public conveyance: a resolution supporting the $5.8 million renovation of the STA Plaza, the downtown hub for public transportation; and a resolution supporting a trolley-like electric bus connecting Browne's Addition to Spokane Community College.

Both items had supporters, and both items found an enemy in George McGrath, who speaks at almost every council meeting during almost every public testimony. 

Read more after the jump.

It’s always the other guy

A poster inside STA buses lately urges passengers to be ready to pay when they step aboard.

You know, have your card ready to swipe or have the cash already in your hand. That kind of thing.

Always reminds me of observational comedians of 30 years ago going off on people in grocery checkout aisles who apparently had not considered in advance that they might actually have to pay for the stuff in their carts.

There are a few bus riders like that, certainly. But something tells me they don't picture themselves if they happen to see that poster.

They probably glance at it and think, “Yeah, what's WITH those people?” 

A mass transit, double-decker bus in Spokane?

At last week’s Planning, Community and Economic Development committee meeting, Spokane city planning director Scott Chesney was discussing the Larry H. Miller empire and its request to temporarily shut down some streets while the car dealer did some re-arrangement.

Not exciting stuff.

Then, off-handedly, Chesney told committee members that it was important to keep the Jefferson Street viaduct open during this work because it was the only railroad bridge tall enough to accommodate the double-decker bus that the Spokane Transit Authority was thinking about bringing into its fleet.

Wait. What?

With visions of those huge, red buses that ply the streets of London dancing through our heads, we called up STA.

“They were looking at it for the EWU route because ridership has skyrocketed,” said Molly Myers, STA’s spokeswoman. “It was just an idea to be able to double capacity. That is a suggestion that came up during our planning process during brainstorming. It never got to that level of specificity.”

So we let it lie. Until Monday, when we saw this.

Another reason some would hate the bus

When you take the STA to work in the morning you sometimes hear passengers speaking languages other than English. 

When we left our story last time…

Took the first downtown-bound No. 43 this morning and was surprised to discover a different cast of characters (fellow riders) than when I last rode the bus seven or eight months ago.

I had sort of expected to see all the same faces. Wrong.

I keep forgetting that people sometimes tweak their schedules and make other changes in their lives without consulting with me first. 

Advice for bus riders

Walked over to the STA Plaza to pick up some fresh bus schedules.

Want to be ready with my Plan B for the day when an overnight “weather event” interrupts my bike commuting.

(Yes, I walked to work for years and droned on about it in print. But since I got on the bike in 2008, my patience with how long it takes to walk downtown has pretty much evaporated. Maybe that will change one day. I sort of hope so. There's much to be said for walking.)

Upon unfolding a schedule for the No. 43, I saw a “Make Sure We Stop for You” heading.

Beneath that, “Some tips to make sure you get noticed.”

So, OK. Let's review.

“Be at the stop as the bus approaches.”

Can't argue with the wisdom of that. Sound advice.

“Face the bus and nod your head 'yes' or wave to the driver.”

Not sure about that waving thing. You might appear to be someone who has availed himself of a mood-altering substance or look like a politician.

“Hold up your pass.”

I don't use a pass. Maybe I could hold up a Juan Marichal baseball card.

“Wear light colored clothing or use a flashlight at night.”

I'll go out on a limb and guess that this gets ignored.

“If you're in a shelter, walk to the stop as the bus approaches.”

Unless, of course, you expect to be carried to the bus.

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.

Pep talk

I have a bus driver friend whose current afternoon STA route overlaps part of my bike ride home.

Sometimes, when he overtakes me slowly going up a hill, he opens the bus doors and asks, “Need a ride?”

Yesterday afternoon, I was on my way home and heard a bus coming up from behind.

When my friend opened the doors and smiled, I asked him how he always managed to encounter me when I was going my slowest. I suggested it was if he is my personal trainer or something.

He said he liked that idea. Then his face grew serious and he said “Let's pick up the pace a little.”

Wednesday’s Slice question

On which STA route are you apt to overhear passengers speaking the greatest number of languages?

Spokane wildlife

He might have been over 6 feet tall, but the thing you noticed was what he had on his head.

It was a furry, face-covering hat/mask that was supposed to look like a fox or something. It was sort of like this young man had his own head inside the head of an extra-large plush toy. And he was carrying a painting or something.

I was behind him as he boarded the 1:50 No. 43 downtown.

The driver, a friend of mine named Scott, looked at this fellow ahead of me and calmly asked a question.

“Are you a service animal?”

 “Yes,” he said.

Scott said that was good to hear, because otherwise he would have to ride in a cage.

As service animals tend to do, the fox-head kid minded his own business and rode all the way to the Albertson's at 37th and Grand.

Blame game

The 1:50 No. 43 bus going up the South Hill was Third World full.

So I stood and held on to a strap up near the front. How urban.

I didn't mind my position because the driver is a friend and my proximity allowed me to visit with him a little.

Then, near the end of my ride, things took an odd turn.

With the bus heading east on 37th, an elderly woman pulled the cord for a stop. She then marched up to the front and complained to the driver that she had requested a stop at Arthur, which we had now passed. The driver politely informed her that her tug on the cord had come too late for that stop and that the next one was at Perry.

She continued grousing, and the driver calmly pulled over and offered to let her off between stops. She still wasn't happy but said she would go ahead to the stop at Perry.

And at some point she gestured toward me and said “I couldn't see because of this man.”

The driver, in a joking tone, said, “Oh, yeah, THIS guy…”

Only she didn't realize he was kidding, and she continued to go on about how I was obscuring the view from where she had been sitting, et cetera.

I have some experience with being patient with elderly ladies. But I came close to offering her my own frank analysis of how we had arrived at this state of affairs. I didn't, though.

All I need is for some other passenger to then go around telling people that he or she had seen Paul Turner yelling at an old lady on the bus.   

The rider had a familiar face

I boarded the bus a little before 6 this morning.

And it was about 1:20 when I got on to go home. Same bus. Same driver.

He said, “When I start seeing people I took to work in the morning, I know it's about time to call it a day.”

It was, in fact, his final run. 

A ride home complete with commentary

The personality-plus guy driving the STA bus I took to go home this afternoon provided a running play-by-play on the snowy trip.

It was pretty entertaining.

Maybe that's because it wasn't just one long harangue. Sure, he questioned the thinking abilities of some pedestrians who stepped in front of the bus as he was about to pull out and go through a green light to start our journey. And, yes, he did suggest that some drivers were not up to dealing with today's conditions.

But at other times he praised motorists. “Well done, white Subaru” — when the driver of said vehicle pulled up behind a car dead in the water (or snow anyway) on an incline and then went around it, allowing the flow of traffic to continue.

Among his other observations:

“Two-wheel drive trucks are useless. Why would anybody buy one? I learned that the hard way.”

“That's right, pull out in front me so I have to practically come to a stop going up this hill.”

“I'm guessing those are not excellent tires.” (Re: a vehicle being pushed but getting nowhere.)

“Worst intersection in town. Somebody's going to get killed. But nobody does anything about it.” (As he waited on 37th to cross Grand.)

“Sorry, lady. Sometimes that's the way life is.” (When a woman in an SUV had to slow down a little on Grand when he finally had a semi-opening to go through that intersection.)

When I disembarked, I thanked him for the narration.

Face time

The 2:20 No. 43 bus was crowded this afternoon.

I was aware that someone had sat down next to me. But I wasn't in the mood to visit, so I kept reading a news story on my phone.

Eventually, I looked up and realized my seatmate was someone I know slightly — Richard Rush, the former Spokane city councilman.

We didn't talk much about his close loss in the recent election. And to the extent that we did, he didn't seem bitter. Though it's always hard to tell about these things. I know I would find it difficult to be gracious.

Mostly we talked about Spokane's late-arriving winter, walking vs. riding a bike and about the South, where both of us have extended family.

I know there are people who can't stand Rush. Once on a www.spokesman.com story about a bicyclist being killed in a traffic accident, a classy anonymous commenter said it was too bad Rush hadn't been the victim.

But I admire someone who gets involved in public life and doesn't just sit around pissing and moaning with his friends.

There are all kinds of losers in our society. But not winning an election doesn't necessarily make you one of them. 

The odds were in his favor

A little boy waiting outside the STA Plaza said “There's our bus” every time one approached or went by.

“No, not yet,” said a woman I assumed to be his mother. Over and over.

Eventually, though, he was going to be right.  

Today’s reason why…

…most of us wouldn't last as STA drivers.

The joys of arguing with riders about which kind of coffee containers are allowed on the bus and which aren't. 

Spokane, Washington 2:41 p.m.

She didn't seem like someone who would turn heads.

She had on a silly amount of makeup. And it did not appear that her eyes were ablaze with the sparks of a special personality. But she was a young woman who seemed fit.

So when she asked a route related question, to no one in particular, these two guys sitting near her on the No. 43 bus lurched into action.

They were not together. I'm tempted to call them Dumpy Guy and the Knit Hat Man. But that sounds demeaning. So I won't.

Let's just say they both know their STA route schedules. And they were happy, delighted even, to share their knowledge of the timetable with her.

They were, in fact, showing off.

Hey, it's what a lot of guys do.

I don't think I had ever seen exhaustive knowledge of the bus schedule used in an attempt to impress a woman. But I have now.

And though a bit obvious because of the feverish presentations, it was not obnoxious.

One of those guys got off at her stop, but my window was too grime-caked for me to see anything.

Mom accused of fracturing baby’s skull

A woman accused of fracturing her baby's skull at a Spokane bus station last summer is wanted on a felony warrant.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of Whitney A. Manges, 25, who a witness said was “swaying and staggering” when she picked her 7-month-old son after dropping him while trying to board a bus on Aug. 9.

The boy cried and appeared lethargic after the incident at the STA station in the 1300 block of East Sprague Avenue outside the Union Gospel Mission women's shelter. Police contacted Manges as she sat on a bench at the STA Plaza, where she said she was on Xanax and another drug she couldn't identify, according to court documents.

Police said the baby was filthy but in good physical health, but Manges was not capable of properly caring for him so he was taken by Child Protective Services. Police were called to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center two days later after the boy's foster parents noticed a lump on his head that an emergency room doctor said was a skull fracture.

Detectives seized Manges' medical records, and prosecutors charged her last months with assault of a child in the third-degree and reckless endangerment, both felonies. The last charge alleges she was intoxicated or under the influence of a controlled substance when the assault occurred.

A $15,000 warrant was issued for Manges' arrest on Nov. 7. Anyone with information on her location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

What was that again?

Walked out to the street in front of my house this morning shortly after 4:30.The pavement was covered with that fuzzy frost you sometimes see on car windshields.

Not ideal conditions for predawn bike riding. So I took the bus.

Today's driver, a friendly and competent woman, is kind enough to call out some of the intersections as we approach. The thing is, it is impossible to understand her.

It is easy to pretend that you are on a bus in some distant land, listening to a driver speaking a language other than English.

I blame the microphone and speakers. Because that driver is often comprehensible one-on-one.

But a couple of today's intersections were “Sabbatha and ConCon” and “LinkedIn and Fortesque.”

Or at least that's how it sounded.

Maybe my ears are the problem.

The mass transportation experience

Rode the bus this morning for the first time since last winter.

Three observations.

1. The Old 43 was right on time, as always.

2. Glad I got a flu shot.

3. Looks like the Niko's space at Post and Riverside is now Rex's Burgers & Brews. Say what you will about Spokane, pretentious we're not.    

Mother probed for baby’s skull fracture

Spokane police are investigating a mother for possible assault charges after her baby suffered a skull fracture when she dropped him while boarding an STA bus.

A bus passenger saw the woman drop the 7-month-old boy as she tried to board in the 1300 block of East Sprague Avenue outside the Union Gospel Mission women's shelter on Aug. 9.

The witness said the boy cried a little bit and appeared lethargic as his mother picked up him and got on the bus and was “swaying and staggering,” according to a search warrant filed recently to obtain the woman's medical records.

The witness thought the woman was on drugs and said the boy was filthy, according to the warrant.

Police contacted the woman as she sat on a bench at the STA Plaza, where she said she was on Xanax and another drug she couldn't identify. The officer was “extremely concerned about her ability to care for the baby,” whom he said didn't appear to have been washed for some time.

“The baby appeared to be in good health other than the poor hygiene,” according to the search warrant.

The woman was arrested on a warrant for driving while suspended while the child was taken by Child Protective Services.

The baby's foster mother alerted police two days later to a lump on the boy's head, which an emergency room doctor said was a skull fracture. Police investigating possible assault charges have seized the mother's medical records to try to determine her level of impairment when she dropped the boy.

Spokane Transit To Run Atheist Ads

The ad is simple in nature, a statement in white letters with a blue sky background and clouds that read: “Are you good without God? Millions are.” That's the advertisement set to appear on the sides of Spokane Transit Authority (STA) buses starting August 29. The ad was created by the Spokane Coalition of Reason, a local group of atheists, humanists, secularists and members of free thought societies. They are part of a larger, national organization called the United Coalition of Reason or UCoR/KHQ. More here w/video.

Question: Why are atheists becoming more aggressive in proselytizing their view that God doesn't exist?

Snyder booted from STA board

Get Adobe Flash player
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.

Transit bench battle continues

Mayor Mary Verner announced today she’ll create a  citizens committee to study ways to place appropriate transit benches at city bus stops in a way that best serves the riders.  The City Council is scheduled tonight to take up an ordinance that would allow benches with advertising on city sidewalks.

There’s been lots of conversation about whether bus benches should be removed under the existing sign ordinance, but what do you think will be gained by a new citizens committee?

 

 

Not to butt in on benches, but

Let me get this straight.

The Spokane Transit Authority wants benches at its bus stops.

A company that sells advertising has benches at many of those bus stops, where it rents the bench backs as signs for its ad customers.

The city doesn’t like signs on the backs of benches because they offend the aesthetic sensibilities of some city officials and residents. It has essentially made such signs illegal and told the ad company to remove the benches.

After the city makes the advertising company remove its benches, STA will spend $87,000 to put up new benches.

Who wins here?