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Monday, February 17, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

A century before the era of Uber, Spokane was trying to deal with a new and unlicensed form of public transportation – the jitney bus.

The jitneys were essentially small, gasoline-powered buses operated by private companies. They undoubtedly performed a service that people found useful. They were operating on well-used routes, including one to St. Luke’s Hospital.

The problem was, they were unregulated and they threatened the city’s established streetcar system.

The Spokane Chamber of Commerce began an inquiry into whether the jitney buses “should be made to pay a license tax for the upkeep of the streets.”

A spokesman for Washington Water Power, which operated the city’s main streetcar routes, pointed out they had to pay a 17 to 18 percent franchise tax for street paving, grading and bridges – in addition to their regular taxes. 

He implied that jitneys were getting a free ride. They were stealing business on the most congested routes and were under no obligation to provide service to more sparsely settled districts, as did the streetcar lines.

Meanwhile, one of the proprietors of a new jitney bus service said business was so good he planned to put more buses in service and add a new route up North Monroe Street.

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