It could be the end of the line for some Spokane Valley bus routes next year. However, there is still time for the public to weigh in on the proposal.
Officials with Spokane Transit Authority went before county commissioners on Tuesday morning to make their case in cutting 7 percent – or about $3.5 million – from the budget next year. The Valley cuts – which also include revisions in the Millwood and Liberty Lake areas – are just some of the total list that would encompass STA’s entire service area. Nine routes would be cut in total, and several others would be reconfigured.
“Commissioners, this is a very unpleasant task,” Susan Meyer, CEO of STA, said. “We’d do almost anything if we had another choice.”
A drop in sales tax has been the primary cause of STA’s woes. The amount collected has dropped since 2008, Meyer said, and the number isn’t expected to return to 2007 levels until 2016 – a total loss of $81 million over eight years.
Meyer said that bus ridership has fallen about 3 percent from a total high of 11 million “rides” in 2008. Ridership will decrease by about 6 percent under the proposal, Meyer said.
Included in the reductions, one of two of Liberty Lake’s express routes is in jeopardy, and Millwood’s route No. 95 would be eliminated under the plan, which would take effect in September 2011.
Still, nothing yet is written in stone. Meyer said the proposal will go before the STA board of directors in March for final approval, and a series of public presentations have been made since the beginning of September. Four meetings – including presentations to the Spokane Valley, Millwood and Liberty Lake city councils – are slated for November.
There are also 26 jobs that will be cut under the proposal, Meyer said, including 16 driver positions. When asked by county Commissioner Todd Mielke if any of those jobs were any of the 40 administrative positions at STA, Meyer said no.
“We’re confident there isn’t any fat in that group,” she said.
Meyer, instead, said that she hopes that enough jobs will be reduced through attrition – resignations and retirements – rather than resort to layoffs.
Paratransit service for disabled riders are also amount the proposed cuts to service.
There are, however, some potential bright spots. For example Route No. 32, Trent/Indiana, could be modified to serve Buckeye between Vista and Argonne roads to help mitigate the loss of the Millwood route. And the No. 96 Pines route could be expanded to serve the East Valley area but eliminate service through Spokane Industrial Park, where ridership is low.
The Sprague Avenue No. 90 route could be expanded east of the Valley Transit Center, and a new route could be opened up to Greenacres in order to improve schedule reliability.
Still, whatever happens, more cuts – about 7 percent overall -- are expected in 2012, Meyer said.
Want to know more?
STA officials will address:
- The Millwood City Council on Monday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. at Millwood City Hall, 9103 E. Frederick.
- The Spokane Valley City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague.
- The public at an open house at Valley Hospital and Medical Center in the Education Center, 12606 E. Mission, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8.
- The Liberty Lake City Council at Liberty Lake City Hall, 23123 E. Mission Ave., on Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m.
A display of the proposed bus route changes can also be seen on the second floor of the STA Plaza, 701 W. Riverside, in downtown Spokane. For more information, visit www.spokanetransit.com.