Route 4 doesn’t sound like much.
It doesn’t have the historic ring of Route 66, or the descriptive and alliterative nature of the Central City Line. But Route 4 is a sign of things to come in Spokane.
Route 4 launched Sunday as the first crosstown transit line in Spokane since the old Hillyard-to-Manito streetcar line ran through Gonzaga University. Perhaps the Spokane Transit Authority should call it the Five Mile-to-Moran line. Or the Monroe-Regal line. Or the north-south “fare”-way.
Whatever STA calls it, it’s the “first in-seat, cross-town connection between the north and south sides,” according to the transit agency. It will combine various other routes that plied 57th and 29th avenues, Regal Street and Grand Boulevard on the south side before “a very short two-minute layover at the Plaza,” after which it will head north on Monroe Street to Francis and on to Five Mile. It’ll run every 15 minutes on weekdays, and every 30 minutes on nights and weekends.
Route 4’s creation is the first of what will soon be Spokane’s growing collection of speedy and frequent bus lines.
In coming years, high-performance transit lines will run from Spokane to Cheney, on East Sprague, to Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene, along with the 6-mile Central City Line that will run between Browne’s Addition and Spokane Community College.
These won’t be slick streetcars like you see in Seattle or Portland, or bus rapid transit lines that get their own exclusive lane of travel. Instead, in the near future, they’ll be long, articulated electric buses ferrying commuters all over the region.
The creation of Route 4 is part of the annual September slate of service changes, and is joined by minor schedule adjustments to a few other existing lines.
Also this go-around, the new Route 144 – the South Commuter Express – goes into service. During peak commute time, the line will run every 15 minutes from Moran Station, at 57th and Palouse Highway, to downtown. The 24-minute ride has a total of six stops, including Moran Station and the Plaza.
Route 63 will also begin running, connecting Airway Heights to the West Plains Transit Center. The line will allow West Plains residents to travel between the three cities there – Airway Heights, Cheney and Medical Lake – without coming to downtown Spokane to transfer buses at the Plaza, like they’ve had to do in the past. This route will also serve Geiger Boulevard and the new Amazon distribution center once construction on the Interstate 90 exit 272 is complete.
Spokane traffic jams: 45 hours a year
Spokane commuters are delayed by 45 hours a year, and waste 26 gallons of gas in traffic congestion, according to the 2019 Urban Mobility Report.
That’s not great, but it puts the city way down in the 55th spot for the nation’s worst traffic – far below the top five of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. L.A., of course, ranks first, with commuters there sitting in traffic jams for 119 hours a year. Seattle is in seventh place, with drivers there delayed 78 hours a year, on average. Portland comes in at 14th. And Boise is somehow tied at 55th with Spokane.
The report, published by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and traffic analytics company INRIX, analyzes traffic congestion and its costs. It has a bevy of unshocking facts that all point to the same unshocking conclusion: Traffic is getting worse, which is costing Americans more and more.
The unshocking horror.
Nearly as quickly as the report came out, transportation experts began panning it, calling it a “throwback to an earlier age” that was biased toward a “transport system that is more automobile-dependent, costly, dangerous and polluting than residents want.”
Those words are from Todd Litman, of the Canadian Victoria Transport Policy Institute, published in Streetsblog USA. As that article illustrated, Litman wasn’t alone. Writers for CityLab, Strong Towns and City Observatory criticized the report for overestimating the cost of congestion and not recognizing an economic theory called “induced demand,” which describes the phenomenon of how increasing supply of something leads people to want more of it. Like when a lane is added to a highway but does little to relieve congestion.
The report also largely disregarded commuters who don’t drive to work. Considering that more than three-quarters of Americans drive alone to work every day, that’s another one of those unshocking revelations of the report.
But as the report says, things are getting worse and something has to change. What that change should be, however, is up for debate.
“Almost every solution strategy works somewhere in some situation and almost every strategy is the wrong treatment in some places and times. Anyone who tells you there is a single solution that can solve congestion, be supported and implemented everywhere (or even in most locations) is exaggerating the effect of their idea,” the authors wrote in the report.
Still, they had recommendations:
Use existing roadways and infrastructure to the fullest. “ ‘Get the best bang for the buck’ is the theme here. Many low-cost improvements have broad public support and can be rapidly deployed,” the report says.
Add capacity in critical corridors. “Important corridors or growing regions can benefit from more street and highway lanes, new or expanded public transportation facilities, and larger bus and rail fleets.”
Diversify development patterns. “The market is diverse for the same reasons as the U.S. culture, economy and society is varied,” the report says, adding that it “includes denser developments with a mix of jobs, shops and homes (so that more people can walk, bike or take transit to more, and closer, destinations), urban residential patterns of moderate density single-family and multi-family buildings, and suburban residential and commercial developments.”
Help shape the north-south freeway
The Washington State Department of Transportation is holding a community workshop to discuss the segment of the North Spokane Corridor that will pass over the Spokane River and Spokane Community College, between Mission and Carlisle avenues.
At issue is the north-south freeway and the adjacent Children of the Sun Trail. All are welcome, including families with children, while WSDOT seeks input on lighting and landscaping features under the elevated “skyway” highway viaduct, architectural features on the elevated highway’s columns, and the trail’s “iconic” pedestrian bridge that will span the river.
The workshop will be held tomorrow in the college’s Lair Student Center, 1810 N. Greene St., from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. A formal presentation will be given at 5:30 p.m. For more information, visit NSCPlace.com
In the city
Normandie Street will be closed from Central Avenue and north beginning Monday for a $995,000 project to upgrade the Central Avenue well station.
Improvement of the Francis Avenue and Alberta Street intersection starts Sept. 21. The $241,000 project will rebuild the southwest corner to allow easier turning for transit buses.
The $20 million project building a massive stormwater tank and plaza near the downtown Spokane Public Library continues to have major traffic impacts on Spokane Falls Boulevard. Motorists can expect single lane closures between Post and Monroe streets all week.
Northbound Jefferson Street between Third and Fifth avenues will be closed until Wednesday for Quanta telecommunications work.
Hatch between 28th and 29th avenues, and the westbound curb lane of 29th between Scott Street and Grand Boulevard, will be closed until Sept. 23 for Bacon Concrete work.
The northbound curb lane of Regal Street between 44th and Thurston Avenue will be closed until Sept. 23 for CenturyLink work.
The right travel lane of Ash Street between Augusta and Spofford will be closed until Sept. 27 for Avista work.
The left lane of Stevens-Ninth Avenue between Seventh Avenue and McClellan Street, near Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, will be closed until Sept. 27 for Sefnco Communications work.
Bernard Street heading south will be closed between 24th and 29th avenues until Sept. 30 for CenturyLink work.
The leftmost travel lane of Stevens Street between First and Third avenues until Sept. 30 for Quanta work.
Some Spokane streets are being sealed by “microsurfacing,” a type of slurry seal that is applied curb to curb and dries in four hours. The streets will be fully closed during the work between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
On Tuesday, Wall Street between Wellesley and Francis avenues will be microsurfaced.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Washington Street between Indiana and Buckeye avenues will be microsurfaced.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Bernard Street between 14th and 29th avenues will be microsurfaced.