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Spokane Transit Celebrates 35th Anniversary

March 10 marks three-­‐and-­‐a-­‐half decades of connecting the region

SPOKANE, WA—March 10, 2016: From horse-­‐drawn streetcars in 1888 to planning for bus rapid transit in 2016, public transportation in the Spokane region has come a long way.

One of the most innovative changes came 35 years ago, today. On March 10, 1981, Spokane County voters overwhelmingly passed a sales tax to fund a regional bus system through the creation of Spokane Transit Agency (STA) to sustain and expand transit service to residents outside Spokane, and provide cross-­‐town service, new routes, more buses and longer hours.  The public transportation system had previously been owned and operated by the City of Spokane since 1968.

While most people in the City of Spokane lived within six blocks of a bus route in 1981, that was not true for residents outside the City of Spokane. In fact, before the creation of STA, the 90,000 people who lived in Spokane Valley were served by only two bus routes. For comparison, today there are eight routes that serve Spokane Valley, with hundreds of scheduled trips each day.

Through the vote, STA was able to:

  • Bring bus service within a quarter mile of most homes within the Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA), serving 90% of Spokane County residents.
  • Expand service from Cheney and Medical Lake to the East.
  • Add four community transfer stations, lessening the need for every bus to connect through Spokane’s downtown core.
  • Provide new service to areas not previously served, such as Spokane Valley and Moran Prairie.
  • Expand service hours, with buses starting earlier and running later.
  • Establish a pre-­‐cursor to today’s Paratransit service.

The support for the sales tax measure that created STA was diverse, with regional organizations helping to lead the charge, including the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce.

Within just a few years after the Public Transportation Benefit Area was created, ridership had increased by 18%, and STA was selected by the US Department of Transportation to receive the 1983 Administrator’s Award for Outstanding Public Service for its contributions to improving the productivity and effectiveness of mass transportation.

“Congratulations to Spokane Transit on this special anniversary” said Mike Brewer, long time community leader and recipient of Spokane Transit’s 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award. “Public transportation is such an important part of the history of the Spokane region. In fact, my father worked as a transit operator in Spokane from 1926 to 1968, and I remember riding the streetcars as a child. When I was 16, I worked in maintenance and washed the buses”. Mike later served STA in multiple capacities, as STA Board Chair/Chair Pro Tempore for seven terms, and on several STA committees from 2000 – 2014.

As STA looks to the future and the next 35 years, the agency will continue to stay dedicated to providing safe, accessible, convenient and efficient public transportation services to the Spokane region’s neighborhoods, business and employment centers. STA will also continue to play a vital role in the community’s social fabric, economic infrastructure and overall quality of life.

“It’s an honor to lead an organization with a rich history of providing this valuable public service to the region, and I’m thankful we’ve had strong community partnerships to guide us along the way,” said E. Susan Meyer, STA’s CEO. “As I look back on Spokane Transit’s 35-­‐year history, I’m proud of the many efficiencies and innovations we’ve pioneered to keep transit accessible and affordable, and I’m excited about the community’s vision for the future.”

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