A SCARCE RESOURCE
A refreshing, constructively critical and hopeful in-depth piece by Josh Kelety on the state and future of transit in Spokane ("The Road Forward," 3/5/20).
It is immensely refreshing to see the extent of effort by Kelety to take a customer's take, not just for a photo op ride. He didn't disclose to us at the Spokane Transit Authority that he was now a regular rider. His take is authentic. I respect that immensely.
While the article dregs up past light rail dreams, the dominant message is that the future should be frequent. This is a take politicians or journalists don't grasp unless they travel transit at a variety of times and places to experience long waits mid-journey.
The criticism of long waits was contextualized yet unabashed: Frequency should mean all hours of travel. People need to travel on weekends. Many of those riding the bus on weekends have very little time to complete errands or get to work. Frequency reduces travel time.
The tensions between ridership and coverage, service investment and fares were fairly conveyed. The article suggests the desirability of greater connectivity without out of travel direction. This is where it gets tougher. ... We have some great concepts for stronger, more frequent connections in Spokane. The response from customers, however, is mixed. They support the grid as long as there is still a bus straight downtown from their neighborhood. Hard tradeoffs come to the forefront.
The easy answer (have both routes!) comes at the expense of frequency, because transit is a scarce resource. There will be important choices ahead to ensure frequency is preserved/improved while we increase network connectivity.
Karl Otterstrom, @pedestrianman
STA director of planning and development
Readers respond to the Inlander's cover story about the state of the Spokane Transit Authority ("The Road Forward," 3/5/20):
Rayna Ehrgott: STA needs to realize that Spokane is no longer a small city, and it continues to grow. They should be looking into 24-hour bussing, and get rid of the 1-hour crap on the weekends. Sundays are not dead days anymore, people have to work on Sunday because not all jobs are 9-5 Monday-Friday. Also, there are people like myself who work graveyard shifts or late into the night.
Anne Perkins: The people who need the bus the most work on Sundays and late at night. They are your service workers, your janitors, and your health care workers. The STA is a barely viable bus system that doesn't provide the service needed.
Sarajoy Van Boven: Thanks for this article! I recently moved into town and work downtown and so I take the bus to save on parking and I like it. It should be free for all. Free for the working poor who are just trying to get to their minimum-wage jobs. And free for car owners who'd prefer to take the bus and avoid parking fees but don't have four $1 bills in their pocket. Free for everyone. It's not like it's some fancy luxury to be withheld as a reward for those who work "hard enough" and only those with an extra $60 a month per person should have access to. ♦