Monday, December 7, 2009

Spokesman Review: Spokane Transit Authority to study downtown trolley's and streetcars

The Spokesman Review reports today that Spokane Transit Authority (STA) is utilizing 360,000$ of federal and state grant funds to study trolley's and streetcars in their downtown. It sounds like a lot of exciting action in the transit world in Spokane surely we'll keep our eyes peeled as things develop.

From today's article:
Talk of developing a trolley or streetcar system in downtown Spokane is being re-energized this month.

Spokane Transit Authority and city officials are teaming up to study alternatives for downtown mass transit.

The public is invited to join a “sounding board” to advise local officials on the best transit alternatives and routes.

Electric trolley buses with overhead wiring are a possibility. Streetcars on rails will be considered, too, along with conventional buses.

The idea is to get the Spokane area in line for federal grants that may become available for transit.

“Federal funding is going to be spent somewhere,” said Susan Meyer, chief executive officer for STA, and a good place may be Spokane.

Guided by local officials and citizens, the Downtown Transit Alternatives Analysis will employ a consultant. STA is using $360,000 in federal and state grant funds to pay for the analysis, which should take about 15 months.

The idea of trolley service in Spokane dates back at least 15 years, when STA bought replica trolleys to shuttle through downtown to the Spokane Arena. Those trolleys are being replaced with new hybrid diesel-electric buses next Monday.

Meyer said that downtown-area businesses and institutions have pointed to the need for greater transit connections in the University District including Gonzaga, hospital facilities, county government buildings, the convention center and inner-city neighborhoods.

The study area is bounded by Mission Avenue to the north, Perry Street to the east, 14th Avenue to the south and Latah Creek to the west.

Mayor Mary Verner is joining Meyer in co-chairing the effort.

In a press release, Verner said “to be a vibrant city we must promote multiple modes of transportation.”

One arm of the study will include a stakeholders group, which will include representatives from Avista, the Downtown Spokane Partnership, Washington State University, the Public Facilities District and Spokane Regional Transportation Council.

Residents interested in serving on the sounding board are asked to apply at or by calling (509) 343-1653 to request application materials.

Results of the study are to be incorporated into STA’s long-range plan for a high-performance rapid transit network across the metro area.

A similar alternatives analysis is expected in about a year for the south Spokane Valley corridor with an eye toward finding a less costly alternative to light rail.

Along with other alternatives, Meyer wants the agency to study the possibility of electric rapid transit on separated traffic alignment, which can be accomplished for about 15 percent of the cost of light rail. That Spokane Valley corridor study would update work previously done for a light rail project.

On another note Seattle Transit blog picked up our legislative preview from our last newsletter, read it here.

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