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Central City Line Background

Project Description

The Central City Line (CCL) is a new six-mile route through Spokane’s historic Browne’s Addition to Spokane Community College, connecting through Downtown Spokane, the University District and Gonzaga University. The project is the Spokane region’s response to a community desire for a streetcar and a circulator in the urban core. The vehicle will be a modern, rubber-tired, battery electric vehicle with zero-emissions, rechargeable through inductive or conductive charging. The CCL will improve mobility by connecting urban neighborhoods to major destinations and moving more people without more cars. It is a major component of the High Performance Transit Network, a new standard for transit service quality, frequency and ease of use. The CCL will have many of the benefits of a streetcar or light rail in terms of potential economic development, but at a significantly lower cost. STA and the City of Spokane are also developing a Strategic Overlay Plan to identify potential land use and parking policy changes that help ensure successful implementation of the CCL. Visit the Strategic Overlay Planning section of this page.

Project Fact Sheet

Central City Line Fact Sheet

Additional Background

The idea for a central city circulator began in 1999 with the completion of the “Plan For a New Downtown” for the City of Spokane. This plan identified a desire for a streetcar circulator through the downtown area. In 2006, the “Spokane Streetcar Feasibility Study” was completed to analyze the effectiveness of a streetcar system as a transportation and development tool that could help revitalize the vision for Downtown Spokane. In 2008, the City of Spokane adopted the “2008 fast Forward Spokane: Downtown Plan Update” which confirmed the need for greater transit service in Spokane’s downtown area. In 2010, STA adopted “Connect Spokane: A Comprehensive Plan for Public Transportation” which established a framework for Spokane’s High Performance Transit Network, which includes the Central City Line as a major component of the new service which envisioned to include premium, frequent, all-day transit service to connect activity, employment and educational centers throughout the region. Connect Spokane was later updated in 2013.

In June 2010, STA and the City of Spokane commissioned a study to evaluate eleven (11) route/alignment options and eight (8) propulsion methods for the CCL. The purpose of this evaluation was to recommend a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) for the future alignment and mode. In 2011, both STA and the City of Spokane adopted a LPA after a lengthy analysis process which included the creation of a Technical Advisory Group, Stakeholder Groups and Sounding Board and the completion of a comprehensive public outreach process. The preferred LPA included a rubber-tired zero-emissions Modern Electric Trolley (MET) vehicle using conductive charging through overhead catenary wires. The general alignment extended from Browne’s Addition to Gonzaga University. In 2012 a final Alternatives Analysis was completed confirming the MET mode and alignment.

In July of 2012, work began to further refine the project and to study the projects potential rating against performance criteria under the Small Starts Grant project criteria. Since the adoption of the preferred LPA in 2012, vehicle technology progressed to the extent that the objectives of the MET mode - an electric zero emission vehicle, high performance service, a sense of permanence with easy to locate stations, and comfort and convenience – can be provided through an electric vehicle that runs partially on battery power. This finding, combined with the analysis of costs and maintenance considerations of the overhead wire system and the difficulty of identifying a U.S. manufacturer that makes electric trolley vehicles with overhead wires, led to a staff recommendation of a variation on the vehicle technology for the LPA’s preferred mode. In 2013, a study was prepared which evaluated the potential to extend the CCL route. Through this refinement process it was determined that an alignment extension to Spokane Community College would be both cost effective and increase the project’s success under the Small Starts criteria. So, in July 2014, both the STA Board and City of Spokane approved resolutions amending the LPA to include the extension of the alignment to Spokane Community College and to consider alternative electrification modes to include both inductive and conductive charging of onboard batteries.

After the final adoption of the preferred LPA by both STA and City of Spokane, STA prepared and submitted a written request to enter into Project Development, the first phase of the Small Starts process. In June of 2015, the FTA approved the request. STA is currently working with a team of consultants to begin the preliminary engineering and environmental review process for the project. It is anticipated that a formal application for a Small Starts grant will be submitted in July 2016, with preliminary engineering tasks completed near the end of 2016. (see project timeline)


In addition to the growth in ridership and a positive economic impact, the CCL will include other benefits like significant streetscape and road improvements, distinctly branded and permanent stations, and innovative electric charging infrastructure. Combined, these elements provide a sense of permanence that indicate a long-term commitment to mobility and economic development along the corridor. Additionally, the CCL’s zero emissions propulsion system will provide an ongoing environmental benefit through cleaner air and quieter buses. An economic study completed in 2014 estimates, over a 20-year period the projected increase to surrounding land and improvements values will increase by $175 million.

Project Cost and Funding

The estimated project cost is $72 million (2019 dollars), including vehicles, design, construction management and other support services. STA has received $3.575 million in State and Federal funding to complete planning and engineering services for the project. In June of 2015, the Washington State Legislature and Governor approved $15 million for construction, which represents the total local share of the construction costs for the project.

Project Capital Costs (2019 dollars)

Planning & Design $7.6 million
Construction $25.2 million
Vehicles $14.2 million
Contingency/Escalation/Taxes $25 million
TOTAL $72 million



State Grant Funding $2.2 million
Federal Grant Funding $1.375 million
Washington State Transportation Funding $15 million
Small Starts Grant (Proposed) $53.43 million
STA Local Funds $0
TOTAL $72 million

Stakeholder Outreach

In cooperation with the City of Spokane, a Steering Committee is being formed to provide policy level support to the STA Board and the City of Spokane at key milestones in the implementation of the Central City Line and the development of supportive land use and economic development policy. Neighborhood and business groups who are impacted by the project will also be an integral part of the project implementation. These groups will be updated regularly on the project status. Finally, the project website will be a great resource for the public to learn about the project and provide input and ideas for implementation.

What’s Next?

Now that the project has received approval from FTA to move into Project Development, engineering design and environmental work will begin. The project team will begin working with partner agencies to refine the project’s alignment, develop cross section designs, determine potential station/stop locations and prepare the necessary information required by the Small Starts Grant process. The team will also begin working with the City of Spokane to refine land use policies to support the project and increase the projects chances to receive federal funding. In addition, the team will complete the NEPA environmental documentation and complete studies necessary to apply for a Small Starts Grant for the project. STA has been coordinating with FTA throughout the planning phase and plans to submit for Small Starts funding in July 2016.

Questions or Comments?

Email STA's Customer & Community Relations Manager, Brandon Rapez-Betty, at, or by phone at (509) 344-1879.

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