Dollars and Sense -- The poor STA says it is in such dire straits that they might have to sell the downtown Plaza. But rather than unload this property, they should look to other means of becoming more profitable. To do so, some combination of three things must be done: (1) Revenues must increase. (2) Costs must decrease. (3) Another source, like government funding, as was the case prior to I-395, must be found. Since more of Option 3 is unlikely, let's look at the other two.
The first one is easy. Just raise the fares. But how does that happen without enraging customers? A logical way would be to institute a zone rate, wherein the rider pays more for riding further. If we used a rate of a minimum of 25 cents per mile, one could ride from the Plaza to Browne's Addition or Sacred Heart Hospital for a quarter, Manito Park or Corbin Park for 50 cents, Spokane Community College or Northtown Mall for 75 cents and Spokane Falls C.C. or Lincoln Heights for a buck. For a trip to Liberty Lake or Medical Lake, the cost should be about four or five dollars, respectively, but even if the fare was capped at 2 or 3 bucks, that's not unreasonable, with gas prices of $1.60 or more. The high volume of passengers using shorter routes would supplement the increased revenue from the longer ones.
The second one is a slam-dunk. Even without raising rates, the STA could save a lot by using smaller shuttle buses in times of lower usage. The ones currently used by STA and Laidlaw for transport of disabled and elderly are large enough for little-used routes on nights and weekends. Some even operate on propane.
The STA provides a valuable service to working people and students, and their participation in the countywide system of providing low-cost transportation to the elderly and disabled is admirable. Still, there's no reason that the STA can't continue doing the same while being profitable.
More Music Money -- While your article "Fighting Extinction" (10/9/03) about music downloading was informative, I have to say that I'm very disappointed for being acknowledged and dismissed in the space of a single sentence. To quote that sentence: "Further, 25-to-50-year-old listeners, who were raised on rock 'n' roll, were alienated by the flood of teen-pop recordings."
Excuse me? Apparently the author here is too young to remember that Madonna and Cindy Lauper flourished along with rock. Why is it that no one wants to address the simple fact that music stores have put all their eggs in one basket and are now suffering from bad decisions? You don't have to be a stockbroker to know you need to diversify. Any specialty shop in town will tell you, "While this is our main product, we also deal in this and this..."
I have downloaded music from the Web, yes; however, I haven't downloaded a single thing that I could buy off the shelf if it was available in Spokane. Unless you listen to rap, pop or country, there is no reason to walk into a music store in this area. Am I the only one who remembers music stores having a rock and a metal section? Rock sections themselves should be listed as "Miscellaneous," as it is. (The Meatloaf, Megadeth and Bette Midler M section under "Rock" in one local record store cracks me up; after seeing it, that's the last time I will visit that music section.)
Internet downloads are not the reason for stores closing in Spokane and elsewhere. The fact that I have to drive to Portland or Seattle and search through local "underground" shops for a music selection is.