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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bus service expanding in Spokane as STA opens new transit center

The Spokane Transit Authority is getting its first electric bus soon. It likely will run along the North Monroe Street to South Regal Street high performance transit line, which will provide frequent, all-day service beginning September 2019 and have stops similar to this one on East Sprague Avenue. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Spokane Transit Authority is getting its first electric bus soon. It likely will run along the North Monroe Street to South Regal Street high performance transit line, which will provide frequent, all-day service beginning September 2019 and have stops similar to this one on East Sprague Avenue. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A number of changes are coming to Spokane Transit Authority’s system, most notably with the opening of the West Plains Transit Center on Tuesday.

Other big changes, which take effect Sunday, include a new express route between the STA Plaza in downtown Spokane and the Valley Transit Center, a simplified bus loop in Cheney, expanded service to the Indian Trail neighborhood, bigger buses running on North Division Street and more frequent bus service on West Broadway Avenue.

The expansion in service should encourage more people to take transit, STA officials said.

“We’re going to show how these specific transit improvements are overcoming barriers to why somebody may not have used transit before,” said Brandon Rapez-Betty, STA spokesman.

For instance, transit service to Indian Trail currently ends about 6 p.m. on weekdays, and STA provides no service to the far-flung area on weekends. With the new schedule, riders can take the bus to the northwest neighborhood until after 10 p.m. any day of the week.

Another line, North Division Street’s Route 25, is the one of system’s busiest with more than 1 million rides a year. Prepare to see the agency’s largest vehicles on that route. At 60 feet long, articulated buses didn’t quite fit at the STA Plaza until recently, when the agency consolidated some zone stops there.

In the Valley, a new express route will connect the transfer center there to the city core via Appleway Boulevard and I-90. Previously, the express route traveled on University Road and Mission Avenue to the interstate. The new route will shave off some minutes, and the previous route will remain in service.

In Spokane’s West Central neighborhood, Broadway Avenue’s Route 21 will provide some of the most frequent service in town.

“I think this is really exciting because 21 has so much ridership today and potential for the future,” said Karl Otterstrom, director of planning and development at STA. “And as it diversifies economically with Kendall Yards, we’ll still have a base of transit ridership.”

The bus from East Sprague will continue to West Central on Broadway, and service will be provided every 15 minutes every day. “Just as frequent as most rail lines” in Portland, Otterstrom said.

The increase in frequency will make the transit stop at Monroe Street and Broadway near the Spokane County Courthouse among the busiest and most reliable in town. With routes 22, 23 and 24, the stop will see a bus headed downtown every seven minutes.

“It’ll be a pretty consistent flow,” Otterstrom said. “You just show up and go.”

Perhaps the biggest change affects riders in the West Plains, with the new $9 million transit center.

Before the changes, transit users in Medical Lake heading to Eastern Washington University had to ride all the way to the Plaza, transfer to a new bus and then head back west to Cheney, with a total travel time of an hour and a half. With the new transit center, where those riders can transfer, that same trip will take just 38 minutes.

But EWU students from any part of the region will also see some benefits. With a 200-space park-and-ride at the new transit center, students and others can get on the bus there and avoid the last few miles to campus, where traffic can be the worst.

With fall coming, and local colleges beginning classes, the transit agency expects to see a bump in ridership, and hopes its new services and changes will convince people to give the bus a try.

“There’s a lot of people in the fall who don’t want to drive in the dark, they don’t want to drive in the snow,” Otterstrom said. “So this is a new opportunity for them to get on the bus and try something new.”

There are still more changes, including new zone assignments at the Plaza. This is the third year of regional transit projects, changes and expansions since voters approved funding for the 10-year “STA Moving Forward” plan in 2016. STA has received more than $11 million in additional funding due to the voter-approved sales tax.

For more information, visit SpokaneTransit.com/change.

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