by Clint Burgess

There are some stalwart modes of transportation that we humans can depend on. The automobile is by far the greatest development in this saga to get from point A to point B. But before that, there were horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and the ever-popular mode of walking. Another method produced by the need to get somewhere is mass transit. Getting on the bus is as easy as it has ever been, and for many people it's necessity.

Why do people ride the bus? More often than not, hopping on the STA is done for lack of a personal vehicle. Thousands of car-less souls trek to the bus stop everyday and manage to get where they want to go and back again just fine. For the outsider, this can seem like a laborious task not worthy of the proud automobile owner. Consider this: All across the country, millions of people a day rely on public transportation. And in cities like New York, it would be impossible to coordinate all those people in their own cars on the street. On the pilgrimage to the state of low-cost transportation, STA is the way in Spokane.

The downtown plaza is a Mecca for travelers going to and from destinations throughout the country. All have different reasons for riding, but everyone shares the common thread of using public transportation for one reason or another. The past couple of years have been hard on the STA, and the agency has contracted its routes as well as eliminated staff in an effort to continue to stay afloat. While things are improving, the STA is not out of the woods. What the transit system in this town does offer are affordable rates, good coverage of the local interior and an opportunity to leave the car home. As a student, I rode the bus for a year and found that I could get anywhere I needed to be in a relatively short amount of time and have leisure time on the bus to do homework, zone out to some tunes or sleep.

The STA offers service to many outlying areas, too, including Fairchild Air Force Base and Eastern Washington University. Riders can also bring bikes along for the ride (with a bike pass, of course), and there are many flexible plans for students and frequent riders. A student pass is available and rates vary depending on the school, but if you are an EWU student, staff or faculty, you can ride free on any bus just by presenting your Eagle card. (You can always tell the STA you are a student of life, but there's no ID card for that).

Anthony Wilbourne is an SCC student and rides the bus every day. "I ride to and from school as well as to and from work -- about four times a day," he says. Wilbourne likes the flexibility of riding the bus since he doesn't have a car, but there are some drawbacks: "During peak hours, say from 9-5, it works for me. But if I want to stay out late or go to some of the outlying areas, there isn't any service and it can be limiting."

While these are some of the main concerns of riders, the overall sentiment here is that the bus works for a lot of people. Maybe it can work for you.

Publication date: 11/25/04

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