As the city of Spokane begins to remove bus benches because of conflicts with its sign ordinance, a group of volunteers in Coeur d’Alene is hoping to install benches on 88 stops of the free CityLink bus system in Kootenai County.
City code bars advertising on bus benches in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, as it does in Spokane. The Benches for Bus Stops Committee is asking residents and businesses to sponsor benches for $500 apiece. Plaques will be mounted on the benches recognizing the donors, said Craig Wilcox, committee chairman. The committee also is planning a fundraiser in May.
“We have citizens sitting on curbs and snow berms. It’s time to create an amenity for our citizens. It’s time for public transportation to be a more viable way of getting around,” Wilcox said. “This is an opportunity where private individuals can stand up and take of something on our own.”
The project grew out of a public transportation advisory committee set up by the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization, the region’s federally designated planning group, said Ryan Stewart, a senior transportation planner.
Stewart believes placing benches at bus stops will increase ridership. “One is the comfort factor,” he said “The second thing is they serve as an identifier for that bus stop.”
Stewart said the Benches for Bus Stops Committee is working to secure agreements with local municipalities that will permit the benches to be installed.
Jon Ingalls, deputy city administrator for Coeur d’Alene, said the concept will be presented to the city’s public works committee Monday. He said the city’s sign code would allow 25 percent of a bench to be covered with a sponsorship plaque, but wouldn’t allow business phone numbers or addresses.
“It’s going to be subdued, artful and tasteful,” Ingalls said. “Once you get a few, it kind of takes off.”
The CityLink system began in 2004 in rural areas of Kootenai County and northern Benewah County, expanding to urban areas of Kootenai County in 2005, said Alan Eirls, the system manager. Funding for the $2 million-a-year service is split between the Federal Transportation Administration and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.
Ridership increased from about 8,500 passengers a month in mid-2006 to just short of 40,000 people a month in October 2008, Eirls said. The system operates about a dozen buses and has 60 employees.
The system’s plans include a maintenance facility in Worley and small, on-demand buses for elderly or low-income passengers in the rural, southern segment of its service area, Eirls said.
CityLink employees field regular complaints from riders regarding the lack of benches and shelters, Eirls said.
“I think it’s extremely important. The public are asked to be at the stops a little bit early to wait for the buses,” Eirls said. But “there’s no place in some places for them to stand.”
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