Regarding Nick Deshais’ April 3 Spokesman-Review article (“New bus stops designed for faster loading being blamed for traffic woes”), I am a property owner on East Sprague. I am a past president and former member of the East Spokane Business Association (ESBA). I am a bus rider and a bike rider. I support keeping the bus stops at Napa and Helena.
As president of ESBA, I and others worked with the city of Spokane and the East Central Neighborhood Council (ECNC) to try an experiment. Based on traffic patterns discovered by having the city of Spokane Streets Department plow snow to the center of Sprague Avenue to clear parking, we advocated moving from four narrow lanes of traffic back to three lanes, as it was in the 1950s.
We concluded that the “road diet,” as it was nicknamed, was a success. Before the road diet, we saw vehicles traveling at 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. After the changes, cars were slowing down through the district. Vehicle mirrors were no longer being clipped on a seemingly daily basis. One could confidently cross Sprague in this area without feeling as if they were playing a real-life version of Namco’s “Frogger.”
With my history in implementing the “road diet,” I became an active participant in the planning of the redevelopment of this area. When Councilmember Ben Stuckart formulated the plan for the targeted investment plan, ESBA and the ECNC petitioned to have what is now the Sprague Union District be the pilot project. Fellow business and property owners spent months working with the city of Spokane and Spokane Transit Authority in the design of East Sprague Avenue. We talked about stormwater drainage, pedestrian refuges, traffic signals and including left turn signals. We discussed lighting, and in the interim implemented a neighborhood-wide lighting program with Avista and Spokane police. We discussed STA’s vision for the build-out of a High-Performance Transit line running from downtown Spokane to Liberty Lake over the next decade. The engineering of the street design was built on multiple case studies of similar road designs and bus stop designs in several cities, where such a configuration is succeeding. We formulated a Business Improvement District to maintain the new infrastructure.
Before the redesign, we saw vehicles traveling at 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. After the changes, vehicles are now going at 32 mph in a 30 mph zone. This makes the street safer for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists. This makes for a more walkable district. The area is being revitalized. More people are enjoying events like Art of the Avenue.
Unfortunately, the East Spokane Business Association does not represent all businesses in the East Central Neighborhood. I am a past president of ESBA, but no longer a member. In recent years, ESBA has turned into a politically motivated organization being used to fulfill the will of a handful of wealthy property owners in East Central. The attacks are by a select few members of ESBA who think public transit is for poor people, and would rather not have the bus run down Sprague. These same individuals fought hard against the road diet, only to later sing high praise for the increased pedestrian and parking safety after its implementation.
Now, these same individuals are blaming buses over the impatient drivers and lack of traffic enforcement. This is a much larger issue than a bus that stops for 13 seconds. This is a campaign to eliminate bus service to the area. This is an issue with drivers unaware of the law not to pass buses and not block intersections.
Moving the stops will take up more parking space, and most likely continue potential blockage, as the buses can rarely pull all the way out of the lane of travel. I hope STA defends their data and the City Council sees fit to take a holistic view of the perceived problem instead of just blaming STA.
I remain in full support of the initial re-striping to three lanes, redesign and the inclusion of the HPT bus stops. These stops should not be moved, and other solutions should be found, including traffic enforcement for vehicles driving in an unsafe manner.
Jack-Daniyel Strong is president of Strong Solutions, specializing in Apple business consulting, management, speaking and training.
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