Complaints over two Spokane Transit Authority buses that were re-routed through Browne’s Addition in September continue to come in.
Mike Maurer, who lives on Coeur d’Alene Street, was one of the first to complain to STA, and he’s now joined by former City Council member Steve Eugster and his neighbor Karl Fleming, both of whom live on West Pacific Avenue.
In his latest letter to STA and the city, Eugster makes the argument that STA has turned Browne’s Addition neighborhood streets into arterials by bringing buses, which formerly ran on the Sunset Highway and U.S. Highway 2, through the historic neighborhood.
“Under the comprehensive plan we have to have an arterial street plan; these streets are not arterials,” Eugster said. “By running these buses down residential streets, STA has converted them to arterials. You can’t just do that.” Establishing a new arterial requires a change in the land-use code, Eugster added.
He had no problem with the original Browne’s Addition bus – route 40 – which would come into the neighborhood, pick people up and go back downtown at a lesser frequency.
“These new buses connect Browne’s Addition to the casino in Airway Heights and to the airport,” Eugster said.
In September, route 40 was eliminated and replaced by routes 60 and 61, which means Browne’s Addition now has 15-minute service into Spokane and 30 minutes to the airport.
During peak hours, as many as eight buses run past Eugster’s and Maurer’s homes every hour.
Fleming and Eugster conducted a comparison study of bus frequency in Browne’s Addition and other residential neighborhoods, finding that Browne’s Addition gets more through buses than any other residential neighborhood in Spokane.
That, said STA chief executive officer E. Susan Meyer, is simply not true.
“They left one neighborhood out of their study and that’s the area around Gonzaga, the Logan and Nevada-Lidgerwood neighborhoods,” said Meyer. “That neighborhood has the same level of service.”
Eugster also contends that the route 60 and 61 buses are larger than the route 40 bus.
Meyer said the buses are the same size.
“Occasionally, there could have been a smaller bus on route 40, but it was a 40-foot bus,” Meyer said, adding that the change in bus routes and the increase in service are meant to be a good thing.
“The neighborhood now has 15-minute service into Spokane and 30-minute service to the airport,” Meyer said. “Prior to this change, we only had hourly service to the airport.”
Meyer added that Browne’s Addition has the highest-density residential zoning, allowing for 15 units of apartment and single-family housing per acre.
“It’s a prime location for folks to like to have public transit,” Meyer said. “Mr. Eugster makes it sound like it’s unusual that the neighborhood is now connected to other areas. It always has been. Historically, as early as back in the ’30s when the streetcars came out, there was a lot more service than there is today.”
STA has scheduled two additional public meetings in late January to continue the conversation with Browne’s Addition residents about the bus service.
“We can keep the service as it is, or go back to the way it was before,” Meyer said. “Or we can move one segment of the routes off Coeur d’Alene Street and onto Spruce Street, but that would require getting rid of on-street parking on Spruce.”
Eugster calls the meetings irrelevant.
“If I am correct and this is a violation of the land-use code, then public opinion is not going to change the law,” Eugster said.
Meyer explained that STA would like to continue the conversation with residents in Browne’s Addition.
“We have heard from a lot of people who have called us, and their opinions range from ‘This is great’ to ‘I don’t want this on my street.’ Neighbors don’t always have the same interests in mind.”
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