An express bus service from Spokane Valley to Coeur d’Alene is among the improvements to service Spokane Transit Authority officials are considering if voters approve a tax increase this spring.
The plan calls for extending routes of some of the freeway express buses that serve Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake so they would continue to Coeur d’Alene.
The service would start as a pilot project with the buses reaching the Lake City hourly during weekdays and once every two hours on nights and weekends.
STA is seeking a 0.3 percent sales tax increase on April 28 to pay for improvements to its system, including a Central City Line from Spokane Community College to Browne’s Addition by way of Gonzaga University and downtown.
Even with voter approval, service extension to Coeur d’Alene would not occur for at least several years and possibly as many as nine years.
The STA improvements would be spread out over a 10-year period so projects can be funded as tax collections come in. About $160 million in capital improvements are expected in the STA’s Moving Forward plan, if the tax is approved.
Karl Otterstrom, planning director for STA, said the agency would focus first on Spokane-area improvements.
But he said public surveys taken as part of the planning for the ballot measure showed strong support for extending bus service to Coeur d’Alene.
“It’s a place people from Spokane want to go,” Otterstrom said. “It’s been in our sights for some time.”
On the Idaho side, the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization has identified transit service from Spokane to North Idaho as a goal in its long-range plans, said Glenn Miles, executive director of the agency.
However, there’s no money to pay for such a project at this time, he said.
“It’s certainly something we’d like to see happen,” Miles said. “It would be interesting to see the particulars.
“There are a lot of people who would want to come over to the lake for the day.”
Expansion into Coeur d’Alene would place an STA route out of the boundary where it collects sales taxes. STA officials said they could partner with agencies or local governments in Kootenai County on the extension.
While big-ticket improvements like the Central City Line in Spokane are getting the most attention, STA also is proposing a range of improvements for neighborhoods and major transit corridors, including expansion of evening and weekend service across the transit service area.
In North Idaho, Citylink Transit currently provides local bus service in Kootenai and Benewah counties and is a cooperative project of local government agencies, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Kootenai Medical Center.
The KMPO public transportation plan in 2012 showed that about 8,200 Kootenai County residents work in Spokane County. About 2,100 Spokane County residents work in Kootenai County. Those numbers were drawn from the 2000 Census.
In Spokane, about 70 percent of residents in a poll supported bus service to Coeur d’Alene, Otterstrom said.
In an online survey, the support was even greater, Otterstrom said. Coeur d’Alene bus service had the highest level of support for all of the projects listed in the survey, at 75 percent.
The Central City Line was the second-highest in support, at 72 percent.
STA officials said the new funding is also needed to prevent future cuts in service. The tax would run for 10 years and would have to be reapproved by voters to continue after 2025.
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