A Spokane Trolley?

Transit officials are lined up behind an electric trolley. Now it's City Hall's turn.

A computer model of what Spokane's trolley could look like
A computer model of what Spokane's trolley could look like

The Spokane Transit Authority helped design its final route and it’s part of the downtown plan, but an electric trolley in Spokane is still years from reality.

Still, this Monday the Spokane City Council will debate — and vote on — whether an electric trolley bus is the best option for a downtown commuter line.

City and transportation officials initially compared three systems for a trolley from Browne’s Addition to Gonzaga: 1. An enhanced bus system (more diesel or hybrid buses on more routes). 2. An electric trolley bus (runs on overhead electrical cables, but uses diesel or battery power off the cables). 3. A streetcar system (a tram that gets power from overhead electrical cables, but runs on tracks — think Seattle and Portland).

Officials ultimately favored the electric trolley bus — permanent and efficient, but not the most expensive of the three — and now want the City Council to get onboard, says Amber Waldref, a council member who also sits on the STA board of directors.

Proponents hope the trolley would encourage more development downtown. But Chris Cargill, of the nonprofit Washington Policy Center, says there’s no clear evidence trolleys bring growth, but it’s clear they’re expensive. Planners say this one will cost about $36 million.

Considering multiple options gives Spokane a better shot at getting federal money for a trolley, Waldref says, but it’s still just one of many downtown dreams.

“I want it to move forward, but I want to be realistic about it,” she says. “We only have so much money, time and energy.”

The Spokane City Council will meet Monday at 6 pm in City Hall’s Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.