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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Getting There: Spokane City Line stations getting public art reflecting neighborhoods, history along its 6-mile route

By Nwannediya Kalu and Mathew Callaghan The Spokesman-Review

With the new Spokane City Line coming a little less than a year now, Spokanites will soon see abstract art at nearby bus stations that instill “neighborhood pride.”

Spokane Arts organized the public art project along with the Spokane Transit Authority. The nonprofit organization selected nine artists to portray stories of the history in certain Spokane areas at the rapid bus transit line’s new stations.

Spokane Arts was formed a decade ago and focuses on arts programming, public art, poetry and more.

Melissa Huggins, director of Spokane Arts, joined in 2016 and started working on the plans in 2017. Huggins wants each neighborhood’s qualities to be properly reflected in the art work at each station.

“There was a year-and-a-half of community engagement by doing surveys, open houses, presentations and reports for STA,” Huggins said.

The stations are divided throughout the city and demonstrate different story lines. The 6-mile route through the heart of downtown Spokane will have 28 stations in all.

“The east end of downtown Spokane was a Chinatown, so historically the east end of Main (Avenue) was inhabited by many Chinese and other immigrants of other ethnicities,” Huggins said. “So one of the designs depicts women dying indigo fabric, and the method has been passed down through particular cultures. It shows the women who would have been living in the East during that time.”

Alongside representing culture, the project represents parts of the city’s automotive past.

“The West End has a plaza that has two gateway sculptures that are big bright wheels because the area used to be an automotive district,” Huggins said. “So the artist came up with the concept of gears to reflect history.”

While Huggins has dealt with the artistic side of the project, Brandon Rapez-Betty, chief operations officer at Spokane Transit, oversees the day-to-day operations of three separate transportation routes, including the new proposed bus route.

Rapez-Betty has been with STA since the start of the project and is excited to unveil the City Line, planned for July 15, 2023.

“The idea of a downtown connector goes back to the 1999 downtown plan,” Rapez-Betty said. “The idea has been around for well over 20 years.”

For bus riders concerned about fares increasing, Rapez-Betty said people won’t have to worry. Fares will remain at $2 per ride for the time being.

“We did just also implement fare-capping, so that’s going to create financial savings for customers,” Rapez-Betty said. “Instead of buying the $60 monthly pass, now they’ll have fare-capping which basically means that if they don’t ride enough to justify a $60 monthly pass, they’re only going to pay for what they use, and not what they don’t use.”

Rapez-Betty said the new City Line may increase the property value of houses along the route. For those who don’t want to own a car, being close to the city transit line may be an incentive to buy a house next to a station.

“We know that increased access to public transit means increased access to education, health care, jobs and just everyday quality of life,” Rapez-Betty said.

The environmental benefit of an all-electric city line is important to both Spokane Arts and STA. Huggins said that getting more people to ride the bus will cut down on the amount of gas being used because fewer people will be in their car.

“The City Line is planned to be an all-electric bus, so there will be zero greenhouse emissions from it. That achieves the environmental benefit of cleaner air in the community, which is better for everyone,” Rapez-Betty said.

Rapez-Betty enjoyed working with Spokane Arts and has high praise for the work they’ve done .

“Working with Spokane Arts was fantastic,” Rapez- Betty said. “They really helped us infuse an element of art that reflects the neighborhoods around the stations into the physical stations. So as people are at the station they are able to see the creativity and the area that inspired it.”

Rapez-Betty said a virtual portal attached to each station will give riders information about the artist.

“On the City Line stations, there’s going to be a QR code on the back, and that QR code is going to take people to the website that talks about that specific artist, and what their inspiration was for the art work that’s displayed at the station,” Rapez-Betty said. “That way, there’s kind of an interaction element to get to know the artist for all of the passengers.”

With the City Line staring to run next summer, both Rapez-Betty and Huggins are excited to give the community something they can appreciate. The environmentally friendly buses that will stop at each uniquely designed station are aimed to give residents a sense of neighborhood pride, Huggins said.

“As you’re hopping on and off the line, you can tell you’re in a different place,” Huggins said. “We’re telling one story at one stop and a different story at the next.”

Work to watch for

Replacement of a sewer main will close a residential street in the North Indian Trail neighborhood beginning Monday.

Comanche Drive between Ridgecrest Drive and Shawnee Avenue will close Monday for a $525,000 replacement project.

On the other side of Indian Trail Road, Shawnee Avenue between Seminole Drive and Loganberry Court will see a 50% closure beginning Wednesday.

The northbound curb lane of Regal Street between 42nd and 39th avenues will be closed Wednesday through Friday.

The southbound curb lane of Bernard Street will be closed between 22nd and 29th avenues starting Wednesday for the next month.

The Inland Northwest Car Club Council will hold its downtown car show on Thursday, from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Downtown travelers should expect to avoid Spokane Falls Boulevard between Stevens and Post streets, Main Avenue between Lincoln and Stevens streets, Wall and Howard streets between Riverside Avenue and Spokane Falls Boulevard and Post Street between Riverside and Main avenues.

The Hatch Road bridge reopened Friday to through traffic following a deck replacement that has closed the span since late March.

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